England will resume the third Ashes Test at Headingley this morning shaken by a dismal 67 all out and knowing their hopes of reclaiming the urn could be over by the time stumps are pulled.
Friday’s play in Leeds will go down as one of the most miserable in England’s modern history, bowled out for a risible total inside 28 overs and ending a punishing day with the tourists 283 ahead with four wickets in hand.
Should they find themselves bowled out cheaply again on day three – and, after turning in their eighth lowest Ashes total, that seems a very real possibility – their campaign would be sunk, with the holders 2-0 up with two to play.
A day earlier it had been Australia scrambling for a foothold in the game but it was befitting of a dire outing that the man who authored their plight with six wickets, Jofra Archer, suffered from cramp late on day two.
England will be hoping there is nothing more serious afoot with their rising star but after asking him to get through 70 overs in his first eight days of Test cricket the warning signs are clear.
Australia seamer Josh Hazlewood took five for 30 and was on hand to ram home his side’s advantage at the close.
“I guess we might be starting a few scars,” he said with a smile.
“I don’t think many teams are winning if one of their innings is 60 or 70 runs. Sixty all out is hard work to come back from during a Test.
“If we start well they might think ‘here we go again’ so it’s about creating that doubt in the mind. I can’t remember day like this to be honest, been it was a great day…simple as that.”
Hazlewood also welcomed Joe Root’s recent decision to go back up to number three, suggesting it was a welcome change after dismissing him for a second straight duck.
“I certainly like him in there as early as possible,” said the seamer.
“They follow him a little bit, he’s the leader, he’s the captain, he’s got the best average, he’s their best batsman going by numbers. So if we can get him I think they can be vulnerable at times. If their best batter’s out you feel a bit more relaxed about your business.
“I think they love to feel bat on ball, especially through that middle order, so if we can dry up the runs and force a mistake then that’s fantastic.”
England’s batting coach, Graham Thorpe, attempted to talk up the chances of an unlikely win – on the same ground that played host to Sir Ian Botham’s heroics in 1981.
“The guys have a great deal of pride and their pride will have been dented,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say they’re playing for their futures, no. It’s an opportunity. If we can keep them to a lead of 320-330, a few of our lads can put their hand up and do something special.
“There’s no point us getting out of bed if we don’t think we can do something special. I’ve seen fourth-innings run-chases happen, that’s our belief but we know we’ve missed an opportunity in our first innings quite badly.”