Dawid Malan column: Australia bowling barrage was one of the toughest experiences of my career

Dawid Malan
AFP/Getty Images

The wives and girlfriends arrive in Perth this weekend and everybody has been given a couple of days off before we prepare for the Third Test. It will be so good to see them.

Don’t misunderstand me — our spirits are high. We may be two down with three to play, we may have no room for error, no room for the strangely ineffective spells that spoiled our strong start in Brisbane and then put us so far behind in Adelaide, but we’re not dead yet.

We’ve played really well at stages but we have also allowed both Tests to drift at other times. In key moments, in the 50-50 moments, the Australians have somehow appeared stronger and more powerful and, as a result, they have one hand on the terracotta urn.

I still believe that, as I wrote last week, there isn’t much between the teams, but we can’t deny the fact that, at the Adelaide Oval, we lost our way for 30 or 40 overs in their first innings and allowed them to score 80 or 90 runs more than they should have.

We didn’t bat particularly well in response but we did then bowl beautifully to get back into the game and we fought hard in the last innings, chasing 354 runs to win, finishing 120 runs short.

It is frustrating, so frustrating.

Some people might think this oft-maligned England team responded to the Second Test defeat by heading straight to the bar. In fact, we headed to the gym. Losing hurts us all, properly hurts.

Even our fiercest critics will agree we got stuck in and put up a fight.

The last session of the fourth day — when Joe Root and I came together at 91 for three and battled against the Australian attack in full flow — was one of the toughest, most challenging and most exhilarating experiences of my entire professional career.

They were all over us, a relentless barrage of fast bowling. One guy is tall, another is a bit shorter. One bowls at your head, another bowls at your feet. They test your technique, they test your physical courage and they test your mental strength. There’s no escape.

Cummins bowls Malan after a gritty stand with Root (REUTERS)

And then, just when you think you’ve somehow managed to survive the barrage of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, you find yourself facing Nathan Lyon, the off-spinner who has bowled fantastically well in this series, getting turn, fizz and bounce in both Tests.

It was an intense battle — Test cricket at its very best, reviews upheld, reviews denied, a capacity crowd completely captivated, the Barmy Army chanting at Steve Smith, the Australians roaring their bowlers on; enthralling to watch, fantastic to be involved in — and doubly fantastic to be batting in the trenches with a partner of the quality of Joe.

Top batsman, top, top man: Joe’s usual way is to break the innings down by setting little targets, so we might come together in the middle and he would say we need to focus on getting five more runs to reach 150, then get to 155 and to 160 etc.

That night in Adelaide, we were taking it ball by ball.

I might play and miss at a decent ball and he would come down the wicket and say, “Never mind, forget about that; five more balls, just five more balls — keep concentrating, give nothing away, keep going”.

And we did keep going, taking the score to 169 for three, and fielders were starting to get worried — even Smith was beginning to run out of ideas — and we were just starting to believe that maybe, maybe, we could reach 354 and level the series at 1-1.

It wasn’t to be. So now we’re 2-0 down and we hear Australia haven’t lost a Test in Perth since Captain Cook was on tour — but we’ll be fighting, still fighting.