Hell is empty and all the devils are in Sydney.
Australia closed Day 2 on 140-4, leading England by 311 runs, following a dramatic England batting collapse earlier in the day which saw the visitors bowled out for 155.
Australia will hold hopes of batting until perhaps midway through tomorrow’s play before bowling at England for the final time and wrapping up a comprehensive 5-0 series victory, ending the epic decathlon of Ashes Tests.
What happened at the Sydney Cricket Ground today was not a surprise.
What happened at the Sydney Cricket Ground today has happened all series.
What happened at the Sydney Cricket Ground today was the continuation and inevitable exacerbation of Australia dominating a broken England.
Unless Jesus floats down from heaven, flanked by virginal angels, discovers that he has a British mother, fast-tracks his citizenship and somehow plays for England in this Test match, today was the day a 5-0 Ashes whitewash became a certainty.
England are playing some utterly terrible cricket, some of their worst in recent memory. Both players and management are responsible for that.
Yet, and although it is defeatist to say so, there is very little England can actually do in the immediate sense to halt this slide. They have changed the personnel—but quite simply Australia are not relenting in their dominance. They are bowling too well to allow England back in.
The door to redemption has been slammed shut, nailed to the door frame, and a 60' deep, fire-proof wall manned with RPGs and lasers has been built in front of it.
You can look at Kevin Pietersen’s slightly loose drive, Ian Bell’s tentative push and, of course, Alastair Cook’s leave and rightfully question whether they could have played better shots; and yes, they could have in theory. But in reality right now this is a set of broken players, stuck in a cycle of defeat.
England will, of course, keep going onwards; they will, of course, keep trying—they are professional sportsmen—but success and victory, that will have to wait until after this series.
Then and only then is when the inquest can begin, and changes—changes that the management and players can have faith will actually make a difference, rather than random changes for the sake of change—can be made.
Players can take a break. Players can train away from the looming presence of another match. Tactics, strategies and methods can appropriately be reassessed.
New opposition will come around—Sri Lanka are England’s next Test opponents—and England will go onwards again; they will try again and then perhaps success and victory will arrive again.
But not now. Not now.
Nothing, other than perhaps the scoreboard at 23 for 5, demonstrates the demons that have consumed this England team more than Cook’s dismissal.
The delivery he shouldered arms to was so badly misjudged that the ball he thought would pass outside his off stump struck his pad in front of his middle stump.
Rarely has a fast bowler bowled so well for such a prolonged period of time as Mitchell Johnson has in this series; the series that has seen all the great fire-breathing might of his enormous potential realised.
While one suspects he is very much a bowler of fragile confidence—confidence that a disproportionately brief poor patch could break—it’s difficult to see that happening at the moment.
Here is a man representing the very antithesis of England’s struggles, here is the man in a cycle of victory and, like England, he’s stuck in the cycle.
Unlike England, he’s happy to be there.
Chris Rogers is now the leading run scorer from both sides over the course of the Mega-Ashes. Which is quite some achievement for a man who this time last year would have thought he would never play Test cricket for Australia again.
Gary Ballance’s 18 displayed promise for the future.
That I even just typed that sentence shows how screwed England are.
Oh, and Ben Stokes was good again. But you knew that already, didn’t you?
The Ashes could well end tomorrow and England can be put out of their misery.