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Ashes 2021-22: Australia v England second Test, day four – live!

Morning everyone, or afternoon everyone. All over England, the theatres are closing their doors – but don’t worry, there’s one show that must go on: the long-running farce known as England’s Test team. It has had a bumper year, delighting audiences in New Zealand, India and Australia, as well as in England, where people secretly love having something to moan about, and the football team are threatening to let the nation down by becoming consistently adequate.

The gods of sport, always keen on an upset, decided to make this match a handicap. They gave Australia two big disadvantages – an injury to rule out the world’s No.4 bowler, and a Covid ping to take out the world No.1. They even handed the captaincy back to someone who’d lost it in disgrace (there’s hope for Tim Paine yet). They did all they could, short of telling Marnus Labuschagne he had to shut up. And still the Aussies have walked all over England.

They piled up 473, decided that was enough, let loose their makeshift attack, and allowed England to make only half as many. The role of Pat Cummins was filled, effortlessly, by Mitchell Starc; the role of Josh Hazlewood by Cameron Green, of all people. The role of Nathan Lyon, which had been grabbed by an impostor for a few months, reverted to its rightful owner on the final day of the first Test. In this one, he’s taken great pleasure in showing England how wrong they were to spurn their specialist spinners.

Only two things can stop Australia going 2-0 up. One is the weather – there was a fair bit of rain forecast today, but only in the morning, so it seems unlikely to make much difference unless it’s been held up by the Covid protocols.

The other is a doughty rearguard action of the kind that was once England’s stock in trade. The last time we saw one of those was Cardiff in 2009, the time before that Johannesburg in 1995. It would be manna from heaven for England fans now, but it doesn’t seem very likely. And if Australia’s batters were over-cautious last night, they could afford to be.

Do join me at 2.30pm Adelaide time (4am in the UK) to see if this familiar tale can produce any kind of twist.

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