England 361 & 349-7 dec. Australia 128 & 235.
We won by an innings at Melbourne; we won by an innings at Sydney; and our margin of victory at Lord’s yesterday, the small matter of 347 runs, was like winning by two Australian innings.
After Trent Bridge most people expected a tight series. History shows, however, that once losing becomes a habit for touring teams, they tend to fall on their collective arses.
A very knowledgeable contributor to this blog, who goes by the name of Goose, predicted that if England won the first test, they’d probably go on to win the series 5-0. I’m beginning to think he’s right.
Australia’s morale must be shot. Their batsmen have no confidence; their bowlers must be completely dispirited after reducing us to 30-3 in both innings, and then watching Bell and Root, perceived weak links, rescuing their team with majestic centuries.
Worse still, they’ll worry how on earth they’re going to bowl England out on turning pitches; Ashton Agar might be a promising batsman, but he sure as hell doesn’t look like a test class spinner yet.
Nathan Lyon has been treated in exactly the same way as Nathan Hauritz: a steady spinner, who was clearly the best man for the job, jettisoned unfairly because he was not as good as Shane Warne. The Aussie selectors have made exactly the same error all over again.
It will be interesting to see just how intransigent they are: recalling Lyon for Old Trafford would be an admission of error, even though it’s the right thing to do. The other option, I suppose, is to call up Fawad Ahmed – but this would surely look desperate. They’re in a no-win situation really – and it’s all their own fault.
I really hate to write Australia off as it’s so un-English. Some of us will love rubbing the Aussies noses in it, but the majority of England fans will feel a little awkward at the prospect of another eight one-sided test matches. The bottom line, however, is that whilst our Canary Yellow friends have some decent (but not world class) fast bowlers, their batsmen simply don’t have either the talent or application to accumulate competitive totals.
Let’s look at them one by one …
Is Chris Rogers really good enough? He used to be a very good player a few years ago, but these days he’s nothing more than useful. Test class? He might get the odd score, but he’s no match winner.
Shane Watson is a complex player. He’s extremely talented but he seems one paced: all his innings are exactly the same. He loves those booming drives; he loves getting on top of the bowling; but where is the graft? Very few players are good enough to attack the new ball and have consistent success. Like Rogers I can see him making a few good scores but not producing the goods often enough.
Then we come to Usman Khawaga. He looks like a stylish player – probably the best prospect Australia have – but at this point he looks no better than Usman Afzaal. You also have to wonder why it has taken him so long to get into the side, and why he didn’t score more runs in country cricket.
We all know Michael Clarke can play, but what about the other batsmen? Phil Hughes looks like he’s improved a bit, but he needs to improve a lot.
Meanwhile, I’ve heard Shane Warne rave about Steve Smith’s talent, but the normally reliable Warney is letting his canary yellow blood affect his judgement.
Steve Smith is a talented shot-maker, but like Watson he only knows one way to play: attack. He looks like a quirky number seven batsman at best. He would bat eight for England … which is a bit of a moot point, because if he was English he wouldn’t be anywhere near the side.
So what optimism is there for Australia? To be honest, the only positive they’ve got is that England don’t yet look totally convincing. Cook has looked out of sorts, Kevin Pietersen has batted poorly and might miss Old Trafford through injury, and Trott has yet to make significant runs. The problem for Australia, of course, is that we’re two nil up despite the problems our top order has had.
When asked whether Australia could avoid a whitewash, Warney said that their top six might yet come good. His logic, when pressed, was that all of them have made a few runs thus far; all they need to do is convert their fifties into hundreds and all fire at the same time.
I’m sorry Shane, but we’re not buying that. All professional batsmen will score runs at some point. What separates the men from the boys is how often you make runs. Your argument is about as logical an English supermodel marrying a beach bum from St Kilda.
And that just about sums it up really. All rational thought suggests England will win the Ashes comfortably now. The only hope Australia have is that something extraordinary happens. It might just happen – burger munching ex-legspinners do very occasionally marry English roses – but it probably won’t.