Jet lag: a sickness. Brought on by time zones and in-flight movies. 3am IST, 5 hours to the start, sleep now would be too risky, might as well just be up all night.
Having grown up watching Ponting, Hayden and Gilchrist, Lee, McGrath and Warne tear into my beloved home team, the heart yearns to see the horrid Aussies getting vanquished. An Australian Ashes defeat at home would do wonders for my jet-lagged soul.
And so I hoped. England bat first. Stoneman is steely, Malan and Bairstow are brilliant. Vince and Root throw away starts, but no harm done. But that’s the tragedy of being an England supporter. Momentary solidity is all that this England team offers. A year-long attempt to drive their fans insane. 384/4 becomes 403 all out. Not nearly enough on this track. For the line-up dubbed the deepest in Test cricket, England are surprisingly eager to give away their lower-order wickets.
And then it began. Steve Smith, you absolute monster. Hours of sleep is lost, watching blankly as he piles on run after run in awkward fashion. Root is out of ideas. The wacky fields and strange tactics that slowed him down in Brisbane don’t work. Damn! Is Smith actually getting better with time? Is that allowed? Maybe if there’s one-tip-one-hand mode of dismissal when Smith is batting, he’d stop this madness.
The issue with bowling dry to Smith is that he likes to bat. A lot. When he finally let England get him out, it prompted a mini-collapse. Was there a way back here? Ha! The England fan knows better than to be lured into false hope. The damage was done. When you let Mitch Marsh, who started this Test with a First-Class average south of 30.00, score a quickfire 181, there’s rarely a way back. As if on cue, the earth opens up. Cracks that smiled at Smith curdled into gaping ‘Joker’ grins: the result is inevitable. The rain cannot save England. An innings and 41 runs isn’t just bad, it’s humiliating.
The Ashes are with Australia: they deserve to be. They have three genuine quicks, a world class spinner and a decent batting order. These things don’t just happen. Despite the tragics that whine about Australia’s dearth of First-Class talent, the Sheffield Shield is a tournament that develops talent like no other. The same cannot be said about the County Championship. It is a clear case of upside-down priorities. In an age where England have tried just about everything to shore up their white ball teams, their Test team is a house in poor repair. In the last four years, they have a win-loss ratio of 0.769 in Tests: a sign of changing times. The stoic guardians of cricket’s traditional core aren’t faring poorly in Tests because of a lack of funds, but because they aren’t really trying.
As Jimmy Anderson ducks and weaves in a shoddy attempt to save a lost Test, I curl up in bed. It’s 1pm, but for me, a week of sleepless nights is drawing to a close. Dreams of a miracle Stokes-return fade to another English nightmare. Wake me up when December ends.
The author tweetes @vedant15498