160 years ago Australia held its first international cricket tour.
An English team under the captaincy of HH Stephenson arrived in Australia thanks to the sponsorship of caterers and entrepreneurs from Melbourne Spiers and Pond.
The MCC Library recently acquired an extremely rare scorecard from Stephenson’s Tour Third Game, in which England faced a combined side of New South Wales and Victoria at the MCG.
The most striking feature of the scoreboard is that it was really a combined team; the Australian squad consisted of 22 players, making 21 for 153 and 21 for 144, while England were 100 percent in the first set and the game was called a draw with the visitors 0-10 in the second.
Based on another dismal day for England at bat, one could doubt whether the current side could beat Australia if the tables were turned and England were able to field a 22-man squad .
England have tried just about everything in preparation for Boxing Day to try and consolidate their worryingly fragile hitter.
Zac Crawley, Rory Burns, and Haseeb Hameed all performed exercises where they eliminated all trigger movement and kept their feet still, as if they were stuck in cement.
Then Burns and Hameed punched flamingo style with their front leg bent and their feet raised in the air.
Most unusual was the sight of Hameed slapping on one foot and with one hand, his lower hand.
The sight of the England opening hopping and sliding the ball single-handedly reminded me of Monty Python’s holy grail dark knight after losing one leg and both arms, butting King Arthur all over. insisting: “It’s but a scratch!”
England have made an art of surrendering on this Ashes tour after playing just ten days of cricket and Boxing Day only underscored the vast gap between the batting fortunes of the two sides.
Hameed spoke of the least coveted half-century for England; when he fletched a great Pat Cummins ball that bowed, then climbed and moved away just enough to hit the edge, it marked the 50th time an English hitter had come out for a duck in a year civil.
Crawley’s height, which England hoped they could adapt to Australian conditions, fell short of the rebound of taller Cameron Green while Dawid Malan was another of Cummins’ three casualties on another excellent day for the new captain.
But the way some of England’s drummers wrapped their wickets in yesterday’s Christmas paper scraps made the viewing especially grim.
Joe Root, who had scored with a fourth strain marker to improve his decision making, was sacked again while playing away from the strain against Mitchell Starc.
Ben Stokes pushed his way through a particularly convincing spell from Green only to lean back and cut a short ball from the versatile straight to Nathan Lyon in point.
Jos Buttler, just before tea, was also up for the worst dismissal for England. on the first day of his test debut.
Bairstow seemed to at least make a decent punch from his return to England’s middle order but, just as he looked to be ready after scoring 35 points, he was surprised with a short ball from Green which he gloved for delight himself as he tried to bend down. out of its way.
To sum up how England tried to work on techniques to no avail, Mark Wood had spent his hitting sessions in the net working on the short ball face.
On Christmas Day, he waited for his first pitch from fast bowling coach Jon Lewis, expecting a bouncer; Lewis instead sent a Yorker, who pinned Wood to the pads.
“What happened to the short ball?” Wood asked.
“They’re not going to just blame you,” Lewis replied.
Promoted at bat to No.8, Wood was indeed on the receiving side of the court, but it was a fuller ball that trapped him lbw and placed him as Boland’s first try wicket.
So, despite all the different methods and emphasis on technique, England are still desperately unable to find the right answers.
But a frank Bairstow may have found the only way for this side to muster any semblance of courage with the bat; the same kind of relentless determination the Dark Knight summoned to keep fighting no matter what blows were taken, but hopefully without the comedic effect.
“It’s about finding a way, it’s about finding a way to score points individually,” Bairstow said after the game. “You are looking at some of the techniques that have scored points here for many years.
“There isn’t one method that works, is there?
“There are a lot of different ways and it’s about finding a way and there are different techniques on one side or the other.
“People have analyzed people’s techniques and game plans to find out how they see the best way to score points, but at the end of the day it’s about scoring points and spending time in the middle. ”
But time is running out for England and, with no rules for this 160-year-old game, it’s up to these eleven players to find the resilience that has eluded them so far.