Australia v/s England,
Australia wins back the urn with 3 wins in a row at Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth
4 months ago, England defeated Australia 3-0 in the Ashes in England to retain the urn for the third time in a row. Australia had gone three series without winning the Ashes now, a gap larger than the vacant space before Border ended Gooch and Botham’s domination in the 80s. This was after a 1-3 England win in Australia in 2011 and a 2-1 England win in 2009. There were a few bright spots for Australia in June- the debut of Ashton Agar was one. Pattinson’s injury ended their hopes after the third test itself, but new coach Lehmann insisted that there were enough cracks in the English batting lineup to exploit them back at home in the ‘return’ Ashes in December.
The statement was a bit unbelievable, simply because he meant that his team took an entire 5 match series to suss out a well-machined test team- a team that had not lost a test series since losing the no. 1 spot to South Africa in 2011. It also meant that his team had planned to use the Ashes as a ‘warmup’ series, a series they were destined to lose anyway, before they pulled up their socks on home soil. That sounded a lot like a certain sub-continental powerhouse of world cricket.
But Lehmann knew that things couldn’t get any worse for his young team- 6 losses in a row, winless in 9.
Something had to give.
To make things simpler, England and Australia both beat a spineless Indian test team on home soil over the last few years, England came to India to win 2-1, Australia came to India to lose 4-0 and now, as we speak, Australia lead the Ashes on home soil 3-0. To be fair, this 3-0 seems to be against the flow, effected by a team nobody gave any hope before they entered the series against their old powerful foes even on home soil. Clarke’s men have executed the swiftest and most unexpected result of the year by demolishing Captain Cook and his men in less than 14 days at 3 venues. Now, the concept of Home and Away always held more importance in a sport like cricket- where more factors than the crowd and atmosphere came into effect- compared to other sports like football, tennis or basketball. The pitches, curators, field, weather are all variable factors that have been manipulated to extreme effects over the years to present lopsided results between two equally-balanced teams, depending on where they play one another. How else can one explain Australia’s reverse disaster in India, and England’s reverse disaster in Australia? More than ever, it is now that teams have depended on home conditions to carry them through the rankings- to maintain the air of dominance over short periods of time.
That is why teams like England and South Africa- teams that do not lose abroad- are the ones that are highly respected and placed in experts’ views all over the world, despite their obvious lack of batting depth. Bowlers like Anderson and Steyn have brought their teams into the spotlight, highlighting the importance of good fast bowling in test cricket. Teams like India, Australia, Sri Lanka have become extremely dependent on home series wins to keep them afloat. Their inability to compete overseas has extended the gap between South Africa and the rest at the top.
Australia had fallen to such depths that even this dominant home series performance is a breath of fresh air. Nothing has majorly changed from their performance in England, except the inclusion of one man- Mitchell Johnson.
The much maligned quickie has destroyed the English top order in 3 tests- repeatedly bowling out Cook and Bell.
Here is a brief report card for the winning Australian team, who look to whitewash England 5-0 with two tests to go:
David Warner (9/10)
Two centuries and couple of devastating catches. Easily Australia’s main man so far- a far cry from the man that punched Root in a bust-up back on their long dreaded tour back in June.
Chris Rogers (5/10)
A solid 72 at Adelaide apart, Rogers has fallen for precious little in the other 3 innings. His is the only spot up for grabs, but Australia have announced the same team for the next test.
Shane Watson (6/10)
A quick century in Perth after the danger passed, his batting has been an issue, but he remains an all-rounder that takes a crucial top-order wicket every innings to put England on the back foot. The ‘plague’ is back and enjoying his time in the middle.
Michael Clarke (9/10)
Two centuries, cricketer of the year, and finally now, Winning Ashes Captain. He was the only Aussie player to have tasted Ashes success before this one, way back in 2006.
Steve Smith (7.5/10)
A brilliant Perth century when his team was 32-3 in trouble will have cemented the young Turk’s spot in the middle order. The blonde bombshell remains as resourceful as ever.
George Bailey (6/10)
A fifty, a terrible shot and a breathtaking assault on England’s best bowler. Bailey’s contribution to the Ashes cannot be undermined. 28 runs off an Anderson over will remain etched in Perth memories.
Brad Haddin (9/10)
The wicketkeeper is enjoying a second wind, scoring a century after 3 years and a few valuable fifties. His work behind the stumps remains solid, and he remains Australia’s best keeper.
Mitchell Johnson (10/10)
He came, he saw, he destroyed. 23 wickets, an average speed of close to 95 mph. He is faster and meaner than Steyn right now. His efforts in the recent India ODI series weren’t to be taken lightly, and suddenly, nobody is laughing at the management’s decision to bring him back before the deciding ODI in India.
Peter Siddle (7/10)
His tireless determination and dominance over an impatient KP has put his team in the position they are.
Ryan Harris (8/10)
His twitter outburst apart, Harris has been his accurate and prodding self, taking the wickets softened up by a furious Johnson at the other end. He has been unrelenting and his batting at Adelaide was priceless.
Nathan Lyon (7/10)
He is now Australia’s best spinner- an indisputable fact. His wickets have been carefully planned, few and far between, but important and game-breakers.