Despite the brave and patient rearguard action from Pietersen (60*) and - at last - Flintoff (51) after an excellent 116 from young Alastair Cook earlier in the innings, it was too little too late after the Aussies amassed a huge total and left England two days to bat out and save the game.
The questions will start to be asked:
- Why did we leave out Monty Panesar, clearly our most potent spinner in the last ten years (and one the Aussies had never faced)?
- Why were Giles and Jones selected when the former hadn't played for a year and the latter has been erratic with the bat, his supposed advantage over Chris Read (who must be spitting feathers)?
- Where was the Flintoff of old with the bat (although to be fair, he bowled his heart out with a dodgy ankle)?
- How can someone as dour as Collingwood score 200 in one match and then look like a rabbit in the headlights the next?
- Why did it take Harmison ten days of cricket to wake up?
- Is Anderson really better than Jon Lewis? Stuart Broad? Me, for that matter?
So what can we take from this?
- Cook looks like a fine prospect, needs temperament, will come with experience (he is only 21)
- Strauss should be captain, full stop, must make hundreds not thirties
- Bell is a good player, have to leave him in, even if Vaughan returns, but...
- Collingwood has a great average on this tour but is fighting for the place with Bell (and I guess, Key) - admittedly his astonishing fielding may get him the nod at times
- KP has been patchy this time but is sheer class, prefers a target to chase rather than having to bat out a day (though that is part of Test Match cricket, Kev mate...)
- Flintoff does not need the captaincy on top of being the main strike bowler and an attacking batsman - politely relieve him and let him be magnificent again
- Jones has blown it, Read is surely in - he owns a bat too, you know :)
- Panesar must start every test - when did the Aussies ever drop Warne after looking at the pitch and deciding it wouldn't take spin?
- Giles is now the second spinner to the mighty Panesar, as and when required
- Anderson? Mahmood? Forget it, surely Stuart Broad is the way forward, young & fiery (as he proved in the Twenty20 final)
- Hoggard continues to surprise, getting wickets through sheer grit, must stay but really should be second change to...
- Harmison can turn it on, but once in six innings is poor for a bowler of his apparent quality, needs work and fast
[cue much weeping into skinny camel latte]