Test cricket is the pinnacle of the three international formats, and today at the Adelaide Oval showed just why.
It was the Mitchell Johnson show, as the left-armer made England shudder in their boots. Sending down blistering thunderbolts and some beautiful balls on a good length, Johnson picked up 7/40 as England were routed for 172, still 398 runs in arrears at the time.
Cautious Michael Carberry and Joe Root began the morning session with a fair bit of confidence. However, Root, eager to push what was a reasonable scoring rate, didn’t get on to a Nathan Lyon looper, and holed out at deep square leg for 15 from 80 balls.
Next man in Kevin Pietersen did not hang around for very long, chipping Peter Siddle straight to midwicket for a cheap four runs. The trap had been set, and Pietersen was caught unawares. At 3/66, things for England looked shaky, but there was still room to rebound.
One more wicket, that of Carberry, fell before Johnson routed the rest of the lineup. A clinical display of speed, accuracy and bounce had England fending, weaving and very rattled.
Carberry’s dismissal involved one blinding David Warner one-handed catch at square leg. Picking the ball up from a reasonably short length, Carberry pulled hard only to find the outstretched hands of Warner. England went into lunch at 4/116, down but not out.
The calamity that ensued after the main break surprised more than a few. First to fall to Johnson’s sword on day three was all-rounder Ben Stokes. A searing ball delivered on middle stump was reviewed after a not out decision, successfully, and he was on his way for one.
Johnson’s next two wickets came in the same over, getting England wicketkeeper Matthew Prior nicking to counterpart Brad Haddin. Stuart Broad came out to a vocal crowd, and went back to the pavilion just one delivery later, his leg stump knocked back by yet another ripper from Johnson.
Ian Bell (72 not out) provide resolute and stubborn resistance to the onslaught, but would ultimately run out of partners. Graeme Swann, James Anderson, and eventually Monty Panesar (2 from 35 balls) all fell at the hands of Johnson. It sets a terrifying scene for Perth, his adopted home ground.
Another surprise cropped up when Australian captain Michael Clarke did not send England back into bat. Flat, hard, and still giving little after three days (other than some magic for Johnson), there has been very little of special proportions the Adelaide surface has offered.
England took first blood, with Chris Rogers nicking Anderson through to Prior before Australia had got their second innings off the ground.
Keen to make amends for his fast-but-brief first innings, David Warner looked in good touch, keeping out the good balls and sufficiently punishing the bad ones.
Losing Shane Watson for a duck, and Clarke soon after for 22, superbly clean bowled by Panesar, Australia needed to stabilise. Enter Steve Smith, and the current partnership with Warner (83*) stands at 67 at stumps.
There is little doubt that Australia took charge on day three, and England face the most monumental of asks to chase down a target that has ballooned out past 530. Bell, Carberry, Cook, Pietersen and Prior all have plenty of experience to be the stalwarts in the fourth innings – but do they have the power?
Stumps, Day 3
Australia 9/570 dec & 3/132 (Warner 83*, Smith 23*, Anderson 2/19) v England 172 (Bell 72, Carberry 60, Johnson 7/40)