What an odd contrast this Ashes series has provided. So close in many respects, England have dominated to the point of the contest being rendered one sided.
Before the fourth test at Melbourne, tote betting pundits note how Ricky Ponting was pictured on the front page of an Australian newspaper all smiles as he looked forward to building on their win at Perth by pummelling England into submission as they melted in the cauldron that is the MCG.
Fast forward to the final test at the Sydney Cricket Ground and Australia find themselves in a relatively similar situation as they did prior to their Melbourne capitulation; Able to match England in some respects, but streets behind in others.
Their batting performance at the SCG erred on the side of respectability, but a good first hour from England could well put paid to another test match.
On a surface which offered something for everyone, the Australian top order lacked any sort of batting intelligence and application to make the most of a pitch which, while giving the bowlers plenty of encouragement, has consistent pace and bounce which should allow a batsmen willing to leave alone plenty of deliveries to make progress.
With Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus adding respectability to a batting card which teetered on the brink of collapse throughout, Brad Haddin proved to be a case in point. Wafting at a wide and short ball from Jimmy Anderson, the ball should have been left well alone, but one of the most dangerous weapons Australia possesses was left walking back to the pavilion wondering what might have been.
At times the Australian innings stalled in the face of consistent bowling and looked bereft of ideas. What a contrast with their approach at the MCG; swinging blindly at balls which should have been dealt with easily and safely. The batsmen seem clueless in the face of constant pressure and lacking a game plan to execute.
Those who get free bets believe that all is not lost however. A comeback of sorts and some mindless batting from Kevin Pietersen meant the door remains open for Australia to level the series, and at least have something to take away and move forward with.
As with most mornings in this exhilarating series, the first hour is crucial. England are 113 runs behind and are three down; a decent partnership early on and England can move serenely past the Australian total with wickets in hand.
Anymore rash decision making from English batsmen would invite unnecessary pressure and spoil what was meant to be the icing on the cake. This one is England’s to lose – why can’t all test series be this engrossing?