When an archetypal Alastair Cook inning that lasts for 233 deliveries and many a hours of incommensurable concentration levels, fails to shift the balance of a test match, you generally know things are either overly grim or that England are being tore apart by someone very lordly. Today was one of the rare cases when matters looked grim, and the postmortem had been done already.
"Staring down the barrel", yes, England are staring down the barrel knowing only the kindness of the weather gods, and a prayer that says "let rain be upon us" will save them from a situation where embarrassment has become an inevitability, with only some minimal formalities left to be completed by the tormentors in chief, Messrs The Mitchells, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon.
It was always going to be a dark end to the day for England once they pressed the self-destruct button on day two. On a wicket where hell was to be unleashed upon the Australian bowlers, England themselves opened the gates to the jouissant heavens. Australia made the efforts on their part, England put a glorious display of madness on their part - BOOM - the Aussies were all smiles thereafter.
Day three wasn't quite the characteristic "2nd Test at Lord's" day, it was different in a few ways, one being that there was no shooting oneself in the foot, the other being the bowlers earning a few rewards, and rightly so, Australia bowled well after all - pitching it full to give themselves the best shot, and keeping it straight with pace on it being enough even on a flat carpet, something England badly missed.
For once, England fans knew what it was like to be happy, as Ben Stokes and Alastair Cook begun very well, punishing the bad deliveries, leaving the good ones and defending it in the most certain of manners. Lunch was upon them, Lord's was buzzing (barring the Fanatics section), beers were being enjoyed, but then, poor Ben Stokes (87) - who is familiar with the sorrows of missing out on a hundred at Lord's - chopped it onto his stumps, bringing to an end, another knock driven by utter exuberance, and the strength of the Durham Cricketer's character. That inning had it all - class, aggression, intent and panache.
Jos Buttler was the next to depart, perhaps against the will of the umpire - who thought the Lancashire lad was to stay, henceforth successfully avoiding being termed a "S**t Bloke" unlike Stuart Broad, whose famous act of standing firm at Trent Bridge some two years ago earned him this lovely accolade.
England were all but doomed basically by the time Moeen Ali had arrived. The optimist section at the Home of Cricket expected Moeen to hit a triple-hundred, the other, more realistic section could rightly smell more misery. For a few moments, one would have been tricked into thinking of how they'd applaud the man with the beard once he reaches his triple-hundred, partly because Ali's willow was producing some shots of unmatched beauty, and partly because his partner was Alastair Cook, who had looked ungettable until the point where all optimism was flushed just as the England captain chopped it on, falling agonisingly short of a hundred he deserved.
The rest of the business was done quite quickly, as Australia wrapped England's direful innings up for 312, a lead of 254 runs. An already huge lead became even massive within the blink of an eye, once Australian openers came out to bat, plundering all England bowlers on their way to a still unbeaten opening stand of 108. The lead now stands at 362 runs, and with all the arsenal required in their pack, Australia are on the cusp of reaching parity with their opposite numbers.
As for England, well, they still are searching for that exurb whereby they can finally feel a bit relieved. Nonetheless, the Englishmen are still limping their way through an Arabian desert, where only hopes and miracles are the best sources of survival.