India fans do not deserve Moeen

20140911-010934 PM.jpg
Photo copyright of AFP

I am an India fan. When I go to watch India play I do so wearing an India shirt, and carrying an India flag that when not accompanying me to cricket grounds hangs on my bedroom wall. Probably the greatest day of my life to date was on April 2 2011, when I sat with my father in the upper tier of the Sunil Gavaskar Stand of Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium and watched the country of his birth and my blood lift the World Cup. I still have the ticket stub from that never-to-be-forgotten night.

In almost all other respects, I am English. I was born, raised and educated in England. English is the only language I speak, much to the dismay of my extended family and the detriment of my CV. I would far rather wear a dinner jacket than a kurta to a wedding, and would choose apple crumble over gulab jamun every time. I do not subscribe to either of the religions that informed so much of my parents’ early lives, nor any other, and for what it’s worth largely view religious faith with a mixture of amused incredulity and horrified fascination (the works of Richard Dawkins and particularly Christopher Hitchens battle for space on my rather bookshelves). My support of the Indian cricket team is the only substantive expression of my subcontinental heritage.

For all of these reasons and more, I am embarrassed, disgusted and frankly baffled that so many of my fellow Indian so-called supporters continue to boo Moeen Ali, a humble yet obviously determined man who has fast become one of the most objectively likeable cricketers of his generation. The explanation that seems to have become the accepted narrative is that Moeen is a self-professed practising Muslim of Pakistani extraction and is therefore somehow fair game.

If we take this deeply bigoted position at face value, there are some glaring inconsistencies with it. Mohammed Shami has a Muslim name but escapes the attention of these baying morons, as did Zaheer Khan and the more expressly devout Pathan brothers Irfan and Yusuf (who were raised by their muezzin father literally in a mosque and were in fact raised to become Islamic scholars, which puts Moeen having a long beard into perspective) before him. True, they played for India, but anyone who was present on the final day of the Oval Test as I was will tell you that England-based India fans are far from averse to barracking their own team.

As for Moeen being of Pakistani heritage, as his father has taken great pains to point out Moeen is in fact the third generation of his immediate family to be born not just in England but in Birmingham, where the abuse was at its most vitriolic. His cousin Kabir Ali, who was also born in the city, played 3 ODIs for England in India and drew practically no attention of any kind from the home crowd, certainly nothing close to what we have heard this summer. So in the face of the facts, nationalistic fervour holds no water at all as a justification for singling out Moeen.

But here’s the important point, and one that cannot be stressed enough. Even if he had been born in Pakistan and come to England as a child, as for example Owais Shah and Usman Afzaal did; or if like Imran Tahir or Fawad Ahmed he had only moved from Pakistan for political and/or cricketing reasons (which in Pakistan are so often the same thing); or if he had actually changed his cricketing nationality in the manner of Kepler Wessels or, perhaps more pertinently given the circumstances, Eoin Morgan; even if any of these things were true and Moeen Ali were a Pakistani who plays cricket for England rather than an English cricketer who happens to have Pakistani heritage, that would still not justify him being booed simply for being who he is. Nor, by, the way, does his mildly expressed preference for British Asian cricket fans to pass what used to be known as the Tebbit Test. Such parochial boneheadedness gives English-raised Indian fans such as I a bad name, one we will have to work hard to shake off.

Just as football fans have largely learned to self-police racist abuse, we who profess to love cricket should have been more proactive in challenging these idiots who engage their mouths before their brains, and in doing so disgrace cricket fans of all allegiances. The same goes for their apologists in the written press. It is our responsibility to do so in future whenever we get the chance. I am truly sorry, Moeen Ali, this summer we have failed you. We must not do so again.

One final note: MS Dhoni’s refusal to speak out over the abuse in his post-game press conference was a cowardly act unbefitting one who holds the position of Indian captain. For what he did on April 2 2011, I will always love him, but after his evasion on Sunday I’m not sure right now whether or not I like him.

You Don’t Want To Hear About My Dreams…

But I’m going to tell you anyway.

About once a month or so I dream about my own funeral. I dream about it in so much detail that I could paint it for you (or at least commission someone to do it for me, I paint even worse than I write).

It’s a graveyard on a hill. It’s cold, windy and rainy, which probably speaks more to my sense of genre than anything else. The number of mourners changes from dream to dream, but it’s never exactly a crowd scene. Sometimes both my parents are still alive, sometimes just one. Occasionally I have survived them both, but not very often.

Like most young people (at least those that I know), I have always had trouble imagining myself as an old man. But realising that my subconscious has placed a covering bet on me not even making it that far was quite the unwelcome epiphany. Clearly, some part of my mind is worried and wants the other parts to know it. Which begs the question: how do I think I’ll go?

Let’s talk lifestyle factors. I’m not a smoker. I drink, but the fact that anyone’s turning up to my imaginary funeral at all militates against me having slipped away passed out in a gutter somewhere. Plus my fear of addiction has always been slightly stronger than my tendency towards it, which explains the non-smoker thing and the fact that I’ve never taken any illegal drugs. I exercise reasonably often, which one would think might count for something.

Heart disease is the world’s biggest killer, and cancer can never be discounted. But they’re so commonplace that I can’t think why my mind would be so worried about them as to keep bothering me while I’m trying to sleep. Plus it’s not as though I’m dreaming about cardiac arrests or ineffective chemotherapy. No, if these dreams mean anything at all it’s that my brain is expecting, or rather fearing, something a bit more…sudden.

Suicide is the UK’s single largest cause of death for people between 20 and 34. I have a past, present and quite probably future history of depression. The odds are shortening at an alarming rate (this is one morbid bookmaker). But somehow I just don’t see it, or won’t let myself see it.

Medical literature and anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that most depression sufferers think or have thought about suicide in a sort of casual, uninterested way, as though daydreaming. Even those with no recognised symptoms of mental illness report these kinds of suicide fantasies. I do this a fair bit, particularly when I’m in my low periods or simply bored, and I do it in a perversely organised manner. I work out heights, angles, timing; it’s like I’m planning a bank heist or a particularly involved snooker trick shot. But I do dispassionately and on autopilot.

Even at absolute rock bottom, when the darkness was so absolute as to be utterly impenetrable, I have only ever once seriously thought that ending my life would be preferable to living it. I took no steps to act on it (how could I, my malfunctioning mind had sent my body into near shutdown mode) and once the depression took the pillow off my face a little I was so terrified by this mental impostor that I haven’t let myself even think about thinking like that since.

Perhaps that’s it. We often dream about doing things we would never consider thinking, let alone doing, in waking life. I’ve managed to ignore my suicidal thoughts to the extent that, unless things go more wrong than I’m comfortable with or capable of imagining, I’m never likely to act on them. But once thought, a thought cannot be fully suppressed and must find expression somehow. Therefore, about once a month or so I dream about my own funeral.

PS – I actually sometimes have that dream when I’m feeling OK. Except then it’s a Viking funeral followed by the most lavish Irish wake the world has ever seen. I’m putting it in my will that you’re all invited.

——-

‘To all, to each, a fair good-night / And pleasing dreams, and slumbers light!’ – Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, ‘L’Envoy’

Save Your Apology, Mr. Vaughan

Jonathan  TrottJudging by his Twitter feed, Michael Vaughan suffers not only from selective amnesia but astonishing tone-deafness. Here was his unprompted, unasked-for reaction to Friday’s news that Jonathan Trott still feels playing cricket is harming his health:

Yes, Michael, it is very sad. It is very sad that you think you can use your position as a former England captain, newspaper columnist and broadcaster to get away with accusing a current professional of colluding with his employer to fake a mental illness.

It is very sad that you wilfully misinterpreted the ECB’s statements in the immediate wake of Trott’s return home to suit your own narrative – the board were very careful not to mention depression, or to be seen to be diagnosing their stricken employee in any way. Andrew McGlashan’s interview with Dr Brett Morrissey for ESPNCricinfo is worth reading and re-reading on this point.

Incidentally, on your secondary point: that Trott sought to wear his troubles lightly in his Sky Sports interview is understandable. To construe that as him having ‘completely disrespected anybody who has gone through depression and mental illness’, as you put it, is absurd.

It is very sad that you made these cowardly allegations not just in your own name but in that of the rest of the England team, and that not one of them has called you out on it. You are not in the England dressing room, and only Ian Bell remains from when you were. How dare you presume to speak for them on anything, still less something as serious as this?

In response to your disingenuous platitude, many have asked you in deservedly contemptuous tones whether you would apologise for your column. I will not be joining them. It’s very clear what you think of Jonathan Trott, and what you think we as cricket lovers want to hear. H.L. Mencken’s oft-misquoted line that ‘no one is this world…has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the…people’ was not supposed to be a columnists’ manual. We deserve better than callous appeals to our worse nature from our journalists, and journalism deserves better representatives than you. So save your apology, Mr. Vaughan; and in any case, who would believe it?

It’s Quiet. Too Quiet…

While My City Gently Sleeps
It’s quiet in the town beneath the shadow of the tower.
It’s not the calm before the storm.
It’s the sullent petulant silence of a sulking child.

The people of the town beneath the shadow of the tower
Have melted away into the dark grey
Half-day
That is a summer’s street in winter.

The tower blinks.
Stretches.
Yawns.
And the empty quiet town beneath the shadow of the tower
Rolls over and goes back to sleep
Wherein to await the coming of spring.

——-

“If my mind and my city were the same thing then I was losing my mind.” – Aleksandar Hemon, The Book of My Lives

Why Jonathan Trott Matters More Than Cricket

Australia won at the Gabba, but we knew that was going to happen two days before they actually did. Mitchell Johnson, about whom I collected a lot of very interesting stats which suddenly seem irrelevant, bowled fast and mouthed off, but we knew that was going to happen two months two months before it actually did.

What no-one knew was going to happen was that Jonathan Trott would go home with what the England management described as a ‘stress-related illness’. While this phrase might seem like another piece of ECB management mumbo-jumbo, as Dr. Brett Morrissey explained in an interview on Cricinfo it is actually to protect Trott’s privacy. Mental illness, at least while someone is in the midst of it, is an intensely private and personal thing, and until Trott has made a full recovery and is ready to talk about it as the estimable Marcus Trescothick has to such good effect the public do not need to know what precisely has gone wrong in his head.

I have suffered from depression. There are days when I still suffer from it. It took me a year or more to reconcile myself to the idea that I was ill and seek help, a month or so of CBT to be able to function in any meaningful way and all of the 13 months since to pick up the pieces, a process which has still not finished and might never do so. Many of my friends still don’t know what happened, and most of those who do have no idea of the specifics of my illness. I don’t dare think about what might have happened to me if my every up, every down, every therapy session and every empty black rage had been splashed across the back pages, talked about, written about and dissected in minute detail.

I’ve had run-ins (thankfully not very many) with a few of the ‘man up’ brigade – those troglodytes who still see mental illness as a personal failing or lack of effort rather than a medical issue necessitating treatment. I don’t dare think about what might have happened to me if the effect of that ignorance had been multiplied by the ‘take one for the team’ ethos of professional sport, laudable and thrilling to watch as that normally is, and the burden of wrongly thinking I’d let my team-mates down.

I know you’ll probably never read this, Jonathan, and I know you’ll be told what I’m about to say many times by people you love and trust. But I’m going to say it anyway: you don’t owe anything to anyone. Your only obligation is to yourself, to fix your mind and get on with your life in whatever way you see fit. Those of us who love cricket will hope that’s with the England team, but if not, so be it. Just get well very, very soon.

Test Match Review, Australia v England 2013/14, First Test, The Gabba – Day Three

Ashes

England 136 (Johnson 4-61) and 24/2 (Cook 11*, Pietersen 3*) need 537 runs to beat Australia 295 (Haddin 94, Johnson 64, Broad 6-81) and 401/7 declared (Warner 124, Clarke 113)

Trott the f…??

Warner and Clarke butcher England at the Gabbatoir
Michael Clarke loves the Gabba. He now has more runs here than anyone expect Ricky Ponting, more hundreds here than anyone expect Greg Chappell with whom he is tied, and assuming at least 5 innings (there’s a distinguished list of higher averaging one-hit-Gabba-wonders, which includes Aravinda de Silva, Sourav Ganguly and, erm, Dean Brownlie) a higher average here than anyone expect Chappell or one D.G. Bradman. In the process of securing his place on the honours board here once more, he became the highest run-scorer of 2013, although that will change if Ian Bell scores at least 68, Alastair Cook a further 153 (a big ask, but not beyond the realms of possibility) or Stuart Broad 586 – and wouldn’t we all love to be a fly on the wall of the Courier Mail newsroom if that happened?

During their partnership of 158 Warner and Clarke appeared to be playing on an entirely different pitch to the rest of the top order of both sides. Clarke insouciantly pulled his first Broad short ball in front of square, gave Chris Tremlett such a hiding that viewers were at times reminded of 2005-era Jason Gillespie (the stats don’t look too bad, but when a 6’ 8” fast bowler on the third day at the Gabba is driven on the up , and then to an almost identical ball pulled off the front foot in front of square, something is definitely wrong) and milked Graeme Swann to all parts of the increasingly scattered field. He hit 40 off as many balls against England’s newest member of the 250 wicket club, including only one four and one six.

v Bowler

0s

1s

2s

3s

4s

5s

6s

7+

Dismissal

Runs

Balls

SR

JM Anderson 10 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 11 18 61.11
SCJ Broad 13 3 0 0 5 0 0 0 23 21 109.52
CT Tremlett 18 3 2 0 2 0 0 0 15 25 60.00
GP Swann 18 12 6 2 1 0 1 0 bowled 40 40 100.00
JE Root 14 6 2 2 2 0 0 0 24 26 92.30

Warner at the other end merrily drove, pulled and cut his way to his first Ashes century, his fourth overall and his first for just over a year. He played well in the first innings before he gave it away and has laid down a marker for the rest of the series. If the pitches stay this true (which other than at Perth is far from guaranteed) England may be seeing rather a lot of him.

Good ball, bad shot

Chris Rogers, c Carberry b Broad 16, 67-1: A good opening stand, admittedly dominated by Warner, came to an end with an error in both judgement and execution, the second of the match from a player supposedly in the team by virtue of his even temperament and tight technique. Was it a cut? Was it a slash? No, it was just rubbish.

Shane Watson, c Broad b Tremlett 6, 75-2: Another poor performance with the bat for Watson, albeit one that no-one will remember in six days let alone the six weeks between now and the end of the series. Broad had just bowled him a rank long-hop which Watson had dispatched with typical arrogance, and this was even ranker and filthier and just generally cringe-inducing. He was done by the lack of pace, it went so high it would have caused any passing birds serious consternation and a visibly pumped-up Broad had time to draw his face on the cover of the Courier Mail before taking the catch. Watson was rightly livid with himself as he walked off, there were runs to be had here.

It rained! The Barmy Army went wild.

It stopped raining! The Barmy Army went to the bar. Off the first ball back, Broad was so busy trying to aggressively stare down Clarke he forgot to stop the defensive push and gave away a single.

David Warner, c Prior b Broad 124, 233/3: A magnificent innings composed of clean hitting and impeccable shot selection throughout. Broad kept running in all day long and was the only England bowler to look even vaguely like getting a wicket through good bowling (as opposed to Tremlett, who bowled his one decent ball of the day to get Smith early and was gifted two more wickets through slogs), and this was hung out tempting the mistimed drive which Warner did not fail to provide.

Steve Smith, c Prior b Tremlett 0, 242-4: ‘Two brings three!’ shouted one admirably chipper Barmy Army lance-corporal. Probably. The law of averages stated that Tremlett was bound to get one right eventually, and Smith was unfortunate that it was he who had to face it before he was set, thus missing out on a chance to boost his average from its current middling level.

66 overs and four balls in: overthrows. England to their credit managed not to completely fall apart, even though there it was obvious before tea that there was little they could do that would make any material difference. They only dropped one catch which was off the middle of the bat to short-leg, and thus something of a lottery in any circumstances. James Anderson even managed to mock-congratulate of Swann when a George Bailey single to mid-on brought up the jovial tweaker’s bowling century. It must be noted however that they opened both the afternoon and evening sessions with Joe Root. Still, at least it wasn’t Jonathan Trott.

Michael Clarke, b Swann 113, 294-5: Where Warner was belligerent, Clarke was serenity itself. He sailed chancelessly to his 25th Test hundred, going past Viv Richards, the aforementioned G. Chappell and Mohammad Yousuf in the process. It was the fastest of the six he has now scored against England, and his second fastest overall. I said on the first day that how Clarke handles his role as the batting fulcrum of the team will go a long way to deciding this series, and though this may not have been the most crucial knock of his life the manner in which he defused an admittedly knackered Broad should set him up well for the rest of the series.

George Bailey, b Swann 34, 305/6: The friendliest looking cricketer since Murali was bamboozled by the vicious lack of turn. He played down middle, it went on to hit off. It was Swann’s 250th Test wicket, a milestone which due to England’s year-round surfeit of Test cricket he has attained in less chronological time than any other bowler, but I doubt he will want to dwell for long on the circumstances in which it came.

The new ball came. Haddin threw the entirety of the Habitat 2013/14 kitchen range at it and it sailed over the slips for four. Cook decided to plug the gap at third-man. The over went for 15 anyway. Eight overs later, Swann was paddle-swept by Mitchell Johnson, which drew howls of laughter from the Australian balcony and howls of anguish from the Barmy Army.

Brad Haddin, c Anderson b Tremlett 53, 395-7: Haddin likes the Gabba too, and why not with three fifties, a hundred and an average over 60. This was declaration batting at its entertaining best: many of the shots he played don’t really have names. He became only the third wicket-keeper after Alan Knott and Ian Healy to score over 50 in both innings of an Ashes Test.

Tremlett finally bowled a proper bouncer in the 94th over. It barely registered 80mph on the speed gun. Peter Siddle hit two over the keeper off the back of the bat, Australia went past 400, Clarke decided he’d had enough and declared. England were set a wholly theoretical 561 to win. Although as was pointed out on Twitter, the required rate was only 2.88 runs per over!

Michael Carberry, b Harris 0, 1-1: Hideously unlucky. A perfect back-foot defensive block, but the ball went almost straight down, bounced off both his feet and hit the top of leg stump. Ryan Harris bowls a heavy ball, and this was certainly that. It also moved in a little which may have tucked Carberry up a touch.

Jonathan Trott, c Lyon b Johnson 9, 10-2: I have been watching and playing cricket for 15 years. I know and have read or listened to the words of many people who have been watching and/or playing far longer. I swear that by all that is good and right and pure in this or any other universe, none of us have ever seen a worse shot played. What was he thinking? Answer: he wasn’t. It looks like my worst fears from yesterday may have come true; he looks utterly lost both technically and mentally. This would have been a diabolical shot in an under-11s net session, but in the last innings of a Test match ‘chasing’ an entirely nominal target and batting purely for pride, on a fairly bouncy pitch against a fired up Aussie quick it was beyond indefensible. Nathan Lyon could hardly believe his luck and was smiling as he caught it. The kind of shot that ends careers.

There was still time for Kevin Pietersen to nearly run out Cook going for his traditional first-ball suicide single. If Bailey hadn’t knocked the bail off before gathering the ball Cook would probably have been out. We were also treated to the ludicrous and pathetic sight of a broken Tremlett padded up ready to be night-watchman.

I’m really hoping this match ends before tea tomorrow so I can get some sleep. Good-bye.

Test Match Review, Australia v England 2013/14, First Test, The Gabba – Day Two

Ashes

Australia 295 (Haddin 94, Johnson 64, Broad 6-81) and 65/0 (Rogers 15*, Warner 45) lead England 136 all out (Johnson 4-61) by 224 runs

What the f…??

Are you Pakistan in disguise?
The last eight wickets fell for 54 runs. The middle 5 fell for 7 runs in less than 8 overs, the middle 6 for 9 in less than 10. England started batting before lunch, and when the last wicket fell there were still 25 overs left in the day.

There was an overwhelming smorgasbord of depressing statistics generated during England’s ludicrous collapse. I’m not going to try and provide any context, or indeed any further analysis at all, I’m simply going to list them in the order I scribbled them down before my brain imploded at about 8 am. Also there are far too many links to provide you with one for each stat, so you’ll have to trust me I’m afraid.

  • There hasn’t been an England opening partnership of more than 50 in the first innings of any of the last fourteen series, going back to January 2012.
  • They have only passed 300 twice in the first series of any of the last 9 series, both of which were at home in the summer of 2012. Of the remaining seven, only two even passed 200.
  • Given this paucity of runs, it will come as no surprise that they haven’t won the first Test of a series away from home since they toured Bangladesh way back in March 2010, which incidentally saw the debuts of Steven Finn and Michael Carberry and the captaincy debut of Alastair Cook.
  • Perhaps most alarmingly, they haven’t passed 400 in any innings at all since January 2012. In that time, against the best bowling attacks (those belonging to Australia, Pakistan and South Africa) Alastair Cook has averaged 28, Jonathan Trott 30 and Kevin Pietersen, despite two magnificent hundreds, 32. Their career averages are 47, 49.9 and 48 respectively.
  • Continuing on the Cook/Trott/Pietersen malaise theme, in the last five completed Tests and the first innings of this one Cook has averaged  26 with a highest score of 62, Trott 27 with a high of 59 and Pietersen 36, which without the aforementioned 113 would have been 27.5.

Basically, Ian Bell deserves a knighthood, the key to every city in England and his own weight in platinum.

Good ball, bad shot
Strap in, everyone, it’s going to be a long and ugly ride.

Ryan Harris, c Prior b Broad 9, 282-9: An attempted leave, but it was on him too quickly. A well-deserved sixth wicket for He Who Must Not Be Named (although the similarities between he and Ralph Fiennes very much end there).

Brad Haddin, run out (Carberry/Prior) 94, 245 all out: Michael Carberry might not get many twos run to him from now on, although Prior deserves a lot of credit for a super take. Haddin’s approach to batting with the tail was a little confused, alternately slogging wildly and taking singles seemingly at random, and in truth he never had a hope of making his ground.  Lyon’s defensive technique should probably have earned him more trust than Haddin showed him, but this was a fine knock which rescued Australia from embarrassment. Incidentally Haddin became only the third man in Ashes history to be run out in the 90s, after Tom Hayward at the turn of the 20th century and more recently a certain Sky employee and former Future England Captain.

Before the tour, England would have viewed bowling Australia out for less than 300 at the Gabba after losing the toss as a potential high point of the series. As it turned out, they were right, but not in the way they or anyone else expected.

Alastair Cook, c Haddin b Harris 13, 28-1: The only normal dismissal of the innings. Harris used the crease well throughout his first spell and eventually found the perfect line to Cook, and not for the first time – since his 148 at Adelaide in 2010, Cook’s record against Harris has been dire (73 runs at 14.6 to be precise). It may have just held its line a little which helped.

Jonathan Trott, c Haddin b Johnson 10, 55-2: Talk about jumpy. Much like Michael Clarke, he has to find a method to deal with the barrage of bouncers he is sure to receive or risk becoming an irrelevance for the rest of the series. And Trott doesn’t even have a dodgy back he can blame. It shouldn’t be possible to give the keeper a catch down leg from outside off, but Trott managed it. Just like yesterday, a wicket in the over before lunch proved pivotal.

Kevin Pietersen, c Bailey b Harris 18, 82-3: Pietersen got massive amounts of stick for this shot, and it certainly looked dreadful and will have made his defenders and detractors alike tear their hair out, but at least he got out trying to score runs, which is more than can be said for his colleagues. Most of the criticism aimed at him for ‘starting the collapse’ was a product of faulty hindsight. Bailey took the most Australian of low catches, which is more than Siddle managed when Pietersen chipped one back to him on 8. Not that it made a blind bit of difference.

Michael Carberry, c Watson b Johnson 40, 87-4: Mitchell Johnson is not readily associated with tactical masterstrokes, but this was close. As soon as he went round the wicket Carberry looked all at sea, and the end was mercifully quick. Carberry’s innings was England’s in microcosm: reasonably settled in the first session, utterly strokeless and bereft of ideas afterwards. His statistics were alarming: pre-lunch he scored 31 off 54, post-lunch a funereal 9 off 59. Come back Nick Compton, all is forgiven?

Ian Bell, c Smith b Lyon 5, 87-5: I am a big Nathan Lyon fan, but I doubt he’s been on a hat-trick since he was about 14. He had bowled pretty well since his somewhat delayed introduction, so much so that Clarke felt comfortable enough to put David Warner in at the silliest of silly points. What Bell tried to do with this one from round the wicket was a mystery, it wasn’t threatening the stumps and all he succeeded in doing was gift-wrap a catch for Smith.

Matt Prior, c Smith b Lyon 0, 87-6: Bell’s wicket was daft, this was utterly brainless. Lyon bowled the exact same ball, Prior played the exact same shot but even worse. It was a good catch from Smith, and a bizarre original not-out call by the umpire exacerbated by Lyon not appealing, but the prevailing feeling as Prior recorded his third golden duck of the year was of anger and bewilderment. And in the Channel 9 box, presumably hysterical laughter. Prior now averages 16 from his last 11 innnings.

Broad survived the hat-trick ball. This meant we didn’t have to dig out stats about batsmen being in multiple hat-tricks. This was about as good as it got for England.

Joe Root, c Smith b Johnson 2, 89-7: Seriously, what was he thinking? He has been officially barred from Yorkshire and Len Hutton spun so fast in his grave that he is now embedded in Earth’s core. This was the most leaden-footed of drives to a totally innocuous delivery, and Smith gleefully pouched his third catch in nine balls.

Graeme Swann, c Bailey b Johnson 0, 91-8: This was an even limper waft than Bell’s or Prior’s, Bailey could have caught it with his feet it was that easy, and then it turned out it was a no-ball. The final element of farce to augment this tragi-comedy of an innings.

England avoided the follow-on…8 wickets down in the 43rd over.

Chris Tremlett, c Lyon b Harris 9, 110-9: Tremlett had been thoroughly roughed up by Johnson, who was so fired up that he even managed to bounce one over his head – an event that should be physically impossible and has presumably caused a gaping rift in the fabric of space-time. He had nowhere to go in the face of this beauty from Harris, and got so little on it that Lyon had to fling himself forward and clutch it just above the ground. The Broad/Tremlett partnership, a mammoth 19 runs in 23 balls, was practically Sangakarra and Jayawardene by the shambolic standards of this display.

Stuart Broad, c Rogers b Siddle 32, 136 all out: Another short one, a top-edged pull, a good catch in the deep. He had to try something, because Anderson was not likely to survive long against the rampant Johnson, and as he was the only England batsmen to play any shots at all in the second or third sessions he is utterly blameless.

And then to finish off, Rogers and particularly Warner reminded everyone that this was a road at the Gabba in the bright sunshine. The incipiently hirsute bar-room pugilist took the handbrake off, ripped it from its moorings and threw it into a nearby hedge, braining a passing wombat in the process.

My fingers hurt. Frankly my brain hurts. Goodbye.

PS – I’m well aware you may well end up reading this after close of play on day 3. Sorry, but I do need to sleep at some point.

PPS – I’m well aware I should have written more about Mitchell Johnson, but this review is already approaching 1,500 words. So: well bowled, Mitch.