England are in trouble.
I am stating the obvious, but it is worth saying.
A sorely needed and decent 72 from their captain was the only highlight of their first innings, and now the entire weight of the Ashes rests solely on the shoulders of Ian Bell and Ben Stokes.
Bell can bat forever, but I worry about Stokes, and when Stokes falls the weight falls to an out-of-form Matt Prior, and then the tail. And then it is Tea on day three and they are still 100 runs behind.
All of the above is worst-case-scenario stuff, but none of it is out of the question.
Actually, worst case possible is if Bell falls early. And it is going to be nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit today in Perth. And that kind of heat – if one is not acclimated – makes everything more difficult and can affect judgment and reflexes. And today is Sunday, so the WACA is going to be a cauldron of noise – as the Australian supporters will know that if their boys can bowl out England before lunch, then the Ashes might very well be coming back to Australia.
But we shall see what happens tonight. In sport, nothing is a forgone conclusion.
If – and it is a mighty big if – England can play out this match to a draw, then they will need to win back-to-back matches in Australia in order to retain the trophy.
England won two Tests in a row in Australia during the 2010-11 series of course – but before that you have to go all the way back to 1979 to find England beating Australia twice in a row down-under.
So it has happened twice – in 34 years.
The weight of the Ashes is on England’s shoulders, but so is the weight of history.
However if they can pull it off, it will be their greatest triumph – and it would go a long way toward improving the health of the game in England. And the retention would have every Cricket loving eye on earth watching the fifth Test – which would be great for the game globally.
And so I am supporting England.
I am supporting England because I want a competitive fourth and fifth Test. I am supporting England because retaining the Ashes would be great for this game I love. And I am supporting England because more than anything, Test cricket needs a competitive five-Test series.
And so: come on you England!