For an England cricket fan there is nothing better than turning over the Aussies in their back yard, turning them over by an innings three times is unheard of and, regardless of how good this Aussie team is, has guaranteed the whole squad’s position in the annals of England cricket history. I know I will long remember being there. Well, there, in front of a TV 12000 miles away.
It’s easy to appear condescending about the Aussies by saying that regardless of the standing of the current team, it’s always a major achievement for England to beat them on their turf but that is the reality of the performances and aura that they have created over the past 20+ years. It was started to be broken down in 2005, but snatched back with a bullet in 2006/7 and with a competitive series in 2009 there was no hint that we would turn up and go through them like a hot knife through butter. And the response in Perth to going one down gave every indication that they had woken up and remembered they were Aussies, which for me made the victory at the MCG the sweetest moment of the tour. The England response was clear and emphatic, we’re not like teams of recent times, we’re made of different stuff and here’s our foot back on your face, get used to it. And it was kept firmly in place at the SCG.
England are now a well led and well coached team, have players with talent at the right age and some depth. Whilst we have done a proper job down under, it will be India in the coming summer which will endorse England’s credentials as possible No. 1 test country. There are always two teams in a game of cricket and without an objective assessment of the calibre of opposition, you still have little idea of how good, or otherwise, you are. The Aussie batting still looks strong, Watson has been good, may not have had a big score but his average tells you he’s, as a minimum fulfilled an openers first task, seen the best of the shine off the new ball and if paired up with Katich look like a solid, if unspectacular, partnership. Then comes Ponting, Clarke and Hussey, with Haddin at 6 and that for me is still a strong lineup, and with just the odd outburst, has been completely subdued by the England bowling attack. Hughes has exposed the middle order to the new ball earlier and more regularly than they would have expected but against anything less than a very good bowling attack, the runs would still have come. This is not Hughes’ fault, the selectors know his game and, presumably, picked him to play that game, they thought that he would be on flat tracks which would cover up his technical flaws, even though the England attack had already shown it’s ability to extract movement in just about any circumstances. We didn’t allow the tail to make significant contributions other than a few runs in garbage time, and that was without bowling particularly well at them at times.
Alastair Cook as the Man of the Series was a hard decision not to make, piled up records and runs and as a lapsed member of left handed, opening bat club I don’t want to disparage his achievements in any way but I would have chosen Jimmy Anderson. No one disputes that Anderson leads the bowling attack and in every match that we won, the bowling attack created the comfort zone for the batsmen to do their thing, Aussie 1st innings scores of 245, 98 and 280 and once we had batted and battered the Aussie bowling, closed the door. Anderson had the clear lead in wickets, 24 at an average of 26, and most maidens, took 4 catches, can be put just about anywhere in the field and not let anyone down, all this and still finds time for some ‘chat’.
All in all I can’t remember a series that comes close in terms of complete performance from a team which looks destined to go onward and upward. Just as there was a time not so long ago when the Aussies were dishing it out, The Ashes were important, but not an end, a stepping stone to sitting at the pinnacle of test match cricket and Flower looks to be a man with the same outlook, a man with a plan and the ability to put it into effect.
So what of Australia? I don’t see the need for wholesale change, but if Hilditch really believes that they bowled well then his grip on reality is somewhat suspect and he has already, since the end of the test series, made what is considered an odd decision, dropping Haddin from the T20, but also handled the decision badly. Then there is the ever so ‘umble Michael Clarke and his measured tones, ‘look at me, I’m not Ricky Ponting’ chats with the umpires, moving people hither and yon in the field, look how hard I’m trying; but without the slightest sniff of success. If the dressing rooms was Ponting’s after the 4th test, then it remains so after the 5th which must make him favourite to lead them into the next test series.
Sad to see the end of Paul Collingwood in the test team, but if poor form was ever going to force such a decision on someone, having it happen at the end of a successful Ashes campaign down under has to be the way to go.