Aussies humbled in Ashes tour game

Australia have lobbed in London low on confidence after another batting collapse marred their Ashes tour game against Northamptonshire.

The three-day clash was supposed to be a tune-up for the fifth Test, which starts at the Oval on Thursday.

Instead it was another kick in the pants for a squad that meekly relinquished the urn last week.

Day one was washed out, while the undermanned second-division side posted a total of 396 on day two.

Australia finished a flattering 9-312 in response on Sunday, tailender Pat Cummins rescuing the side after a top-order collapse of 5-74.

Cummins finished unbeaten on 82, while Nathan Lyon chipped in with 41 and Mitch Marsh scored 68.

Durham were the most recent county side to force Australia to follow on, in 1993.

In Sunday’s morning session it looked like Northants might end that streak.

The visitors resumed at 1-13, playing like a side low on motivation.

Steve Smith fell for a duck to start the rot.

Smith lasted six balls before prodding at a fine delivery from Maurice Chambers, the resultant edge flying to keeper David Murphy.

Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges were also out edging, while Shane Watson was trapped lbw by Ben Sanderson.

It came against an inexperienced attack, hardly a harbinger of hope for the tourists as they prepare to face Stuart Broad in London.

It is little wonder Alastair Cook is feeling bullish as England chase history.

“The next challenge is to do something that no English side has done and that’s win an Ashes series 4-1 at home,” Cook told The Daily Mail.

“This side is younger than the one in 2009 who won the Ashes and went on to become the best in the world in 2011, so it’s a really exciting time.”

Cummins embarrassed the top order, but was denied the chance to chase a maiden first-class century.

“I think they already had one foot on the bus, so I didn’t argue,” he said.

“A couple of overs to swing the bat around would have been nice.

“I was pretty happy to survive that long and get through to the end of play.”

It could have been a lot worse for the team that was skittled for 136 at Edgbaston and then 60 in Nottingham.

George Munsey put down a straightforward catch at point when Lyon was on 17, while Cummins was yet to score when Josh Cobb dropped a regulation chance at first slip.

It’s not the first time the East Midlands town has been a source of angst for Australia.

Northamptonshire forced Don Bradman’s 1930 tourists to follow on, while Bishen Bedi’s left-arm spin helped them defeat Ian Chappell’s side in 1972.

Mitch Marsh is expected to return to the Test XI this week and confirmed as much with 11 well-struck boundaries, plus a haul of 4-56 on Saturday.

Coach Darren Lehmann admitted last week it was a mistake to leave Marsh out of the XI that lost by an innings and 78 runs at Trent Bridge.

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