For a game played for several hours over several days across a series of matches, things can change quickly in Test cricket.
England does not know it. It’s been their curse in every series to know that trouble lurks around every corner, the unsinkable buoy of their own incompetence always floating a wave away.
On a historic day in Hobart, its first host of an Ashes men’s game, England once again showed their unique ability to turn even a moderate position of control into a complete disaster in the blink of an eye.
Time and again in this series, Australia hasn’t so much had to get out of jail, but have to wait for England to forget to lock the cell door and walk out casually.
It started in Brisbane, when England had Australia 6-236 and less than 100 ahead in their first innings and let them slip away at 425. Then, in their second innings, England crumbled from 2-223 to 297, and the Test was over.
In Adelaide, the Australians fell to 4-55 in their second set and fought their way to a declared 9-230.
And then there was Melbourne, at the nadir or at the zenith depending on your point of view.
You may not remember England had Australia at 6-180 and were still trailing just before tea on the second day of this Test. Even when Australia were knocked out late in the day, the lead was less than 100 and the game was fine.
In 28 overs, four of which came from the hand of Scott Boland, it was rather conclusive.
But this Hobart mess might hurt Joe Root and his weary travelers the most.
When Australia slipped to 3-12 early Friday afternoon, it was exactly how the game unfolded. It was England taking conditions almost perfectly suited to them and using them in the style of a professional and skilled cricket team.
Then, in an absolute rush of red cordial sugar an hour before dinner, the ascendancy was lost. By the tea he was gone and forgotten.
The credit, of course, belongs to Australia, who defied conventional wisdom and fought back in the face of the toughest questions posed to them in this series.
Marnus Labuschagne was the instigator, and played some remarkable moves during his brief stay. Sadly, no one will ever remember any of them due to their wacky dismissal.
If you saw someone getting rolled like that in a video game, you would immediately trade them. Who’s to say if it’s a reflection or an indictment of the modern game that the best Test hitter in the world can be thrown by stepping on the moon on his own face two feet from his stump.
But whatever the ending, Labuschagne had already set the tone. And from that launch pad, Travis Head stole the show.
Head played a similar round in Brisbane to take that test away from England, but it was even more impressive. The fearlessness of his blows was matched only by their degree of difficulty, as he drove, cut and whipped shocked Englishmen through every quarter of Bellerive.
He worked his way into a second century of the series, then immediately ended his own innings. He came and conquered and left in a flash, England left only to rub their eyes in wonder at what had just happened to them.
Meanwhile, if their predicament wasn’t bad enough, England had to watch Australia’s next generation superstar take his most decisive steps yet towards his potential at the level.
Cameron Green didn’t make it to his first Test century, but for the first time in his young career he showed a true version of himself with the bat. It was the commanding, technically safe and supremely confident green that terrorized first-class cricket and inspired such devotion from those who saw it at its best.
He had England beaten when they resorted to their latest good old fast leg theory tactic, but may have fallen victim to his forgivable immaturity stepping straight into the trap.
And as the gentle drizzle fell to end the day of play, it felt like Australia had already done enough in this round.
The England outfielders hobbled after the balls and collapsed on them on the edge. Many of them injured, the Aussie batters picked the weaker of them for teasing singles and made extra runs on soft underarm pitches from the boundary.
The reason this team proved so shaky will be one for post-series enquiries, but on day one in Hobart, all it took was a slight nudge for England to topple over again.