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Headingley massacre won't fade quickly, but there's still all to play for

Who'll be the happier captain after the fourth Test? (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
31st August, 2019
5

Let’s jump back to the era of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden in Australia’s armoury.

Under their watch back then Australia suffered defeats that were hard to digest. However, the odds in the subsequent games seldom seemed to drop; they always had a team that could rock back despite soul-crushing losses.

But how do Tim Paine’s men explain the debacle at Headingley? How did that all happen? Will Australia be the same side when they land at Old Trafford despite Steve Smith’s likely comeback? Such was the day at Leeds, where the game kept fluctuating back and forth in ridiculous fashion from one side to another. It had moments one couldn’t have envisioned that could go down in the penultimate day of the Test.

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Australia failed to seize a catalogue of opportunities that could have put them 2-0 ahead in the series heading to Manchester. However, it’s hard to tell which failed chance was the bitterest pill to swallow. Was it the botched run-out chance off Nathan Lyon? Maybe allowing Ben Stokes to rotate the strike in a rather more comfortable way and to let him scamper for twos whenever required? How about a sheer misuse of the decision review system on a delivery that clearly pitched outside leg instead of the one that sharply turned to hit middle and leg?

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It keeps on piling in a loop and ceases to end on something other than a disappointing note.

Nevertheless, as much as Australia let England off the hook, the root of their downfall was their batting. The prediction made by coach Justin Langer that the best-batting side makes the difference is key now because if a team fails to cash in big on a lead of more than 100 after bowling the hosts for double figures, there must be grave concerns.

The good news from Australia’s perspective is that they have been doing most things right. They have unexpectedly appeared closer than ever in their past three attempts in England and seem on track to retain the urn. They cannot afford to lose their way. Marnus Labuschagne’s ever-developing skills in daunting conditions combined with Smith’s potential return in Manchester further keeps them in good stead.

The game was engulfed by moments that made you fall in love with red-ball cricket all over again, but it also reminded everyone that sport is unquestionably cruel. Despite Australia’s foozle, let’s not forget that this Ashes is very much alive for both sides.

But Tim Paine’s men must conquer their demons and prepare psychologically to better handle a slowly resurgent England centres on one man.

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