A few times this winter staying up all night seems pointless, like trying to convince a Remoaner that Brexit is a good idea, or a Brextremist that the EU is a country of milk and honey. You just get nowhere and end up tearing your hair out. Everyone involved is very angry.
However, last night was different. Australia’s batsmen were sloppy and England’s two senior batsmen prevailed. Suddenly, everything in the world is better. It’s like Jacob Rees Mogg and Chuka Umunna cuddling around a Woodstock campfire, lighting pot and singing Kumbaya.
England could screw things up – we’ve seen that a million times – so let’s stop testing fate. I suggest we just enjoy it. Finally, today is the day Steve Smith realizes what it’s like to be Jorut. He delivered a toothless bowling attack on a lifeless surface – Jackson Bird looked like Darren Stevens compared to Mitchell Stark – and Australia couldn’t buy wickets with love or money.
If there ever was a day when the real speed of the Australian wicket could prove worthwhile, it would be today. Australia just didn’t look the same without Starc’s thunderbolts, who looked utterly lacking in pace and impact when Pat Cummins went off with a stomach ailment. Nathan Lyon did his best to equalize but barely turned around. Getting anything out of this sluggish turd requires a wrist spinner.
With Australia on low fire for the first time in the series, Alastair Cook once again showed his impressive ability to make big bucks on a pitch that lacked speed and movement to reveal his technical weaknesses. We predicted Cook would run in that game – and with Stark’s absence, Cummins’ illness and the almost subcontinental nature of the pitch, everything worked in his favor – and England’s most experienced batsman delivered as expected.
Before that game, there were rumors that Cook’s career might be nearing its end. I’ve always been skeptical about it. Alastair just turned 33, and he’s not giving up. He was stubborn when they came, and I have no doubt he wants to climb the ladder of all-time scorers — he passed Mahela Jayawardene yesterday. I also think (if his reaction to being dropped as ODI captain is anything) that he wants to end his career and choose the time to retire. Cook is more focused than ever. Don’t be fooled by his modest cuts earlier in the series.
I’m amazed how many people on social media are desperate to move from Cooke to Perth. I can understand Stuart Broad’s talk, but not those who want to see the back of England’s leading run scorer. When it comes down to it, Cook’s two-hundred-point run against the Wendy’s at Edgbaston last summer shows he’s still capable of scoring when the conditions are right. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Cook may be limited to some extent, and more supporters may have begun to acknowledge his imperfections, but an opener capable of crushing opponents is an extremely valuable asset. Hitters don’t need to hit in all conditions and against all opponents to be worthy of their spot on the team. Will Haseeb Hameed really be better against Australia’s wild walkers in the first three Tests? I strongly doubt it.
All in all, Cook has assembled his team very well. The bowlers also deserve credit – although Australia’s batsman crumbled before England could do anything special. Three crucial wickets fell for long jumps – and the slowness of the pitch led to unsightly delays. Firing Steve Smith, in particular, was a horrible and clumsy attempt.
No doubt some will argue that England’s outstanding performance on the day was too little too late – and I’m sure Australian fans will be quick to point out that the series is over – but we have at least regained some pride. Yes, Australia’s batting implosion showed flaws in both teams and England could and should have been more competitive in their first three games, but at this point I’m only concerned with avoiding whitewashing. England are currently in a good position to do so.