Ashes:Everything has suddenly gone wrong for England

Everything has suddenly gone wrong for England. In the space of a week they have veered from the sublime to the ridiculous. What happened on Sunday was not so much a defeat as a mauling.

Australia drew level in the Ashes series with a ruthless, crushing victory by 405 runs. The tourists said they would be back after the unexpected loss at Cardiff and this was the most conclusive evidence that they were not kidding.

On a tame pitch which barely altered in character, Australia made a total over their two innings of 820 runs for the loss of 10 wickets in this second Test; England mustered 415 for the loss of all 20.

At the very least England should have taken the contest, if that was what it was, to a fifth day. The fourth was again calm and bright and Australia seized it.

In the morning they scored runs almost as and how they wanted, 146 of them from 23 overs. In the afternoon they brutally dismantled England's batting and in their hands the surface looked dramatically different. At 4.41pm it was all done.

If England asked for a benign surface, intended to negate their opponents' faster bowlers - and they denied it afterwards - then it rebounded on them spectacularly. Truly fast bowlers can operate on any pitch.

England now have to take a gamble and hope that something more typically English, on which the ball may nibble around off the seam, will close the gap.

There are legitimate questions to be asked about England's top-order batting to which the selectors have to find swift answers. If the same top four roll up to Edgbaston next week, it is certain that Australia will be delighted.

The Nos 3 and 4, Gary Ballance and Ian Bell, both look vulnerable and one or both should go. Unfortunately, there is not a queue round the block threatening to knock down the selectors' door to replace them; there is barely a single batsman in the country giving a polite tap on the windows. Something has to be done, though.

This is the third series this year in which England have taken a lead only to lose the following match. In the two other cases it was the final Test, in this one there are three matches to go and Australia are now rampant.

Unfortunately for England, it is not only their batsmen who looked inferior. Australia's bowlers, helped obviously by having so many runs at their disposal, were much more assertive. They were, in a word, faster.

Mitchell Johnson again looms large in the English psyche and he was irrepressible for a little while, scenting English blood in his nostrils.

The toss on the first morning was significant and it is fair to presume that if England had enjoyed first use of the anodyne conditions then the margin, if not necessarily the outcome, would have been much different. But after the Australian captain, Michael Clarke, called correctly, his team repaid him handsomely.

The robust nature of their play wore England down as the match proceeded, starting with the first day, when only one wicket fell for 337 runs. By Sunday England, so vibrant so recently, appeared to have nothing left to offer. They knew they were heading towards their doom.

They began their improbable pursuit shortly before lunch. It was a minor triumph in the context of all that happened that they managed to survive the three overs available. Nine balls into the afternoon session the first breach was made and already it was possible to sense that England would be done for.

Adam Lyth, a king in the county game, is beginning to realise how hard it is to readjust to playing at this level. He received a snorter of a ball from Mitchell Starc which lifted and which he might have left but, understandably perhaps, elected to play, only to edge behind again.

It was Alastair Cook or nothing now and when the captain wafted at Johnson, trying to cut a ball he had to leave alone, two were gone. Ballance, after a cursory stay, fell to Mitchell Marsh's first ball, Bell nudged to short leg one from Nathan Lyon which turned and lifted. Both should have been disappointed in the circumstances.

Nothing epitomised England's sorry state more than the dismissal of Ben Stokes which followed. Called for a quick, perhaps ill-advised, single by Joe Root, he was run out by a direct throw from Johnson because he failed to run in his bat. That was elementary stuff. England had scored 57 for 5 in 25 overs of the session.

The rest followed in short order and for them Johnson worked up to his biggest head of steam. It was almost wasted but maybe he was making a statement for the rest of the series. Jos Buttler prodded at a rapid ball outside off, Moeen Ali was disrupted by a vicious bouncer which he was probably grateful to prod to short leg.

Stuart Broad played a few whirring drives to ensure that England avoided the ignominy of being dismissed in double figures but that was all he managed.

What a contrast this all was to the morning, when England merely went through the motions, seeming to realise that their only purpose was to allow Australia to score as many runs as possible as quickly as possible.

Not a single bowler looked capable of taking a wicket, though Moeen took two, gifted by David Warner and Steve Smith, both in imaginatively brutal frames of mind.

Chris Rogers was forced to retire hurt early in the day when he suffered a dizzy spell at the crease. Since he had been hit twice recently on the helmet - in the West Indies, when he was concussed and missed both Test matches, and here on Thursday during his 173 - there were worries that all was not well.

But Rogers proffered a thumbs-up sign from the Australian balcony later. This was the most welcome sign of all, of course, though Australia's elation at winning for the first time at Lord's since 2005 was much more expansive.

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