England are screwed.
Let’s not dance around that fact.
Having worked so hard to get to 304-4 within a day and a half, England then found it in themselves to collapse to a still-seemingly-large 404, with the last six wickets producing just 100 runs. Yet, finally some confidence seemed to have spread into the England ranks – Dawid Malan’s fine maiden 100 a fitting example – and some optimism begun to spread through the Barmy Army.
‘What if?’ They thought – ‘What if we can win this thing?’
The real question was ‘what if’ Steve Smith, who is still the No.1 ranked batsman in the world, systematically destroys every bowler who would step up to him. During his marathon 239, he took 77 off Craig Overton, 64 off James Anderson, and 65 off Stuart Broad. Mitchell Marsh took his 181 off the same bowlers – in an innings boasting 29 fours and a strike rate above 70. The two combined to create a Triple-Century partnership for the fifth wicket.
Within two days, England fans had gone from an opening day of hope back to the horrid realisation that the whole thing could be over by Boxing Day.
The last time a ‘What if’ moment was around it was in the Second Test, when England required 354 to win the match. The outcome? Root was out without adding anything to his 67 and England’s hope diminished with every wicket falling.
Austrailia would win by 120 runs.
With England still requiring another 127 just to avoid a Innings defeat, what can be done to avoid the inevitable – to possibly save the match?
The simplest escape road for England would be rain, which brought a premature end to Day 4 at the WACA, and perhaps spared any more English wickets from falling. Perhaps thankfully for England, there is a fair chance of rain through the morning session which would most likley ease up around 2pm local time – perhaps giving England just one afternoon to survive.
However, even without rain, England have a history of pulling a draw from the clutches of a loss. The last time Austrailia scored over 660 in one Innings was during the 2009 Ashes – in the first test at Cardiff – a game that was then quite heroically saved by the No.10 & 11 pairing of James Anderson and Monty Panesar.
However, that Cardiff effort was propped up by an excruciatingly slow 74 by Paul Collingwood – made from 245 balls. To even have a chance at surviving Day 5 – either Dawid Malan, Johnny Bairstow or Moeen Ali will have to stay in it for the long haul – something which will only begin to look increasingley likley once portions of the day have gone by.
Overall, England are screwed. But they’re screwed in the sense that despite the impending sense of doom, they might, just possibly, still be able to salvage something.