It’s more than a little disappointing and more than very embarrassing that I am writing this article with more than 2 test matches remaining of the series, but in all honesty, it has been clear that the Ashes have been lost since the first test drubbing at the ‘Gabbatoir’. Now, it is not even a question of when Australia will win, but by how much in this Test – and what the final score-line will be.
It all started so promisingly for England as well. After a convincing (if not somewhat flattering) 3-0 win in the summer, England fans woke at the close of play of the first test feeling reasonably good, despite losing the toss England had restricted Australia to 273-8 at stumps on the first day – with local pantomime villain Stuart Broad taking 6fer to silence the critics. The second day started pretty well as well, with the England attack mopping up the Aussie tail for just a further 22 runs.
It all went downhill from there.
55-2 at lunch, England collapsed to 136 all out, Mitchell Johnson taking 4-61. Australia in their second innings set about carting the England bowling attack all over the Gabba. David Warner and Captain Clarke both scored excellent hundreds as they declared on 401-7; giving England an improbable target of 561. Reduced to 24-2 at the end of day three, it was already as good as over. Alistair Cook was the only England batsman to put up any kind of fight as Mitchell Johnson again ran riot, taking 5-42 as England again crumbled and lost by a colossal 381 runs.
That’s not too bad though, it’s the Gabba, England never win at the Gabba, we’ll bounce back, just you wait.
Adelaide. Another lost toss. Australia rack up 570-9 declared. Mitchell Johnson destroys England, taking 7-40. Ian Bell puts up some kind of fight: England 172 all out. Australia second innings: 132-3 declared. England target of 531. England pass 300 for the first time – Joe Root 87. England lose by 218. 2-0.
Time for the WACA… ‘oh yippee’ thought England fans….
Another lost toss. Steve Smith scores a good century. Australia 385 all out. England actually start reasonably. 180-4 at the end of day 2. But then, England implode. Again. 251 all out. Australia bat again, 235-3 at the end of day 3.
What now at the WACA? My prediction? Australia will bat to 550 plus, get England again, let Mitch loose, and blow them away again. Ashes regained. Job done.
What is it that has changed since August? I felt at the time, as pretty much everyone did, that England had not played well at all and still won 3-0, and pretty much everyone was confident that England would be much better in Australia.
What has changed?
Australia have gone back to basics. Darren ‘Boof’ Lehmann has got them doing the little things well. They have a settled batting line-up and Shane Watson has removed the magnetic attraction the ball once had to his pads. Warner is in form, Clarke is in form with the bat and is inventive with his captaincy. And Mitchell Johnson? He has always been a quality bowler, if somewhat erratic, but has found form. He is suddenly big Merv (Hughes), (Dennis) Lillee and Thommo (Jeff Thompson) reincarnate. And England’s whole batting order = rabbits in the headlights of that Merv-like tash.
Australia have been aggressive and have played by far the better cricket, which unfortunately has not had to be that good to beat England. It’s all well and good England talking a good game, but they need to go out and do it in the middle.
Probably the most chastening fact for England and England fans? Messrs Clarke, Warner and Haddin have now scored more runs than the whole England side combined in all of the Tests.
England will lose this test match. And they will probably lose the MCG and SCG tests as well. 5-0 is a more of a probability than a possibility at the moment. I am hoping for at least a draw in one of those, I daren’t dream of a win.
Back to the drawing board for England. Possibly a change of head coach – Any Flower won’t be drawn on his future beyond this series, which sounds to me like he’ll be gone by the end of January.
Finally, a word on Jonathan Trott. It was very sad news that he had to leave the tour after the Brisbane Test, and everyone in the cricketing fraternity wishes him a full recovery. He is a top quality player who will be a huge miss for England.