“It just made me sad.”
As another batting collapse played out, former England spinner and Test Match Special pundit Alex Hartley summed up how many of the nation’s cricket fans felt.
Wickets fell and batters slumped back to the dressing room in Hobart on day two of the fifth Ashes Test, as the tourists were bowled out for 188 in the first innings, in reply to Australia’s 303.
Joe Root’s men have failed to reach 300 runs in their nine Ashes innings so far. It’s also the fifth time this series they have failed to reach 200.
“It’s been a case of same old, same old with the bat,” frustrated former England captain Sir Alastair Cook said on BT Sport.
Australia – who lead the five-match series 3-0 – ended the day-night Test on 37-3 – a lead of 152.
‘It’s just boring now’
To add context (not that you need it), in all Ashes series of four or more Tests, England failed to reach 300 in any innings just twice – the very first Ashes series of 1882-83 and in 1958-59.
Much like letting your younger sibling ‘have another go’ in a friendly game of garden cricket, Australia even gifted England extra chances.
Both Rory Burns and Dawid Malan appeared to edge behind, with Australia opting not to review. And Chris Woakes was given two lifelines when simple slip catches were dropped by Usman Khawaja and David Warner.
Such is the dominance of Australia in this series, they laughed off their errors. In fact, as England’s middle and lower order capitulated, it was a case of smiles rather than celebration from Australia bowlers each time a wicket fell.
“I’ve watched England since the 2005 Ashes – I watched Freddie Flintoff at Old Trafford and was inspired by Test cricket and cricket in itself,” Hartley continued.
“Between 2011 and 2013, they were a really strong Test side. They were really good to watch.
“But then there have been so many ups and downs over the past 10 years and it’s been frustrating to watch and quite sad.”
Two-time Ashes winning captain Cook added: “I can’t imagine how quiet the England dressing room must have been when they were bowled out.”
For many fans, one eight-letter word in particular is now expected rather than feared…
So can England still win?
With 17 wickets falling on day two, the game has moved at express pace. There is a real possibility that England’s Ashes nightmare could be over on Sunday, with fans and players put out of their misery.
Whether it happens before the weekend is through, or instead the game is taken into day four or five, BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew only sees one outcome.
“You imagine Australia will now probably score the 100 more runs they need to put this game beyond England,” he said on TMS.
England showed grit to bat out the final day of the drawn fourth Test in Sydney, and Test debutant Sam Billings believes “all results are still possible” and “any target below 300” can be chased.
“It will be a huge session tomorrow morning,” Billings, who scored a somewhat respectable 29, told TMS.
But Agnew dampened any hopes by reminding listeners: “Yes, anything under 300 is attainable but they haven’t scored 300 in the whole series.”
Not another Ashes Test?!
If you’re clutching at positives, England have managed to avoid the ultimate embarrassment of a 5-0 clean sweep.
What could be worse than that? Well, how about a 6-0 clean sweep?
Dominic Baker, chief executive of Tasmania Cricket, was a TMS guest during the evening interval and suggested an extra match be added to future Ashes series.
“It’s a must. The fans will come and it’s a fantastic viewership and great for the game and where cricket is at,” Baker said.
“We should be playing six Tests in England too. We have to play the bigger nations, those series have to be major events.”
Thanks for the suggestion, Dominic.