It feels a lot different from 2005 doesn’t it, which is better, it’s hard to say.
Last time it ended a long, long period of hurt but back then it was a series of far superior cricket from a far better Australian side taking on a far better England side, as they were respectively number 1 and 2 in the world. This time it should feel better as England are down in fifth the Aussie were still top of the pile at the beginning but this defeat has knocked them down to a very lowly fourth spot. Probably fitting the poorest touring side from down under we’ve seen for some time.
Last time we were stuffed then scraped out a couple of wins, by a couple of wickets and the odd run, this time we stuffed them twice well and truly and had the same done to us once. Then we had a game each of hanging on. Monty man-of-the-series for hanging on those last overs at Cardiff? 😉
Last time it was the culmination of a period of success under Vaughan and Fletcher, that Ashes series being final goal that was achieved. Then it all went pear shaped as injuries, slackness and Fletcher’s inability took look outside his little group saw a downhill trajectory. We’ve never seen Jones again, Freddie hasn’t been the same and but for a small glimpse Vaughan was lost, Harmison picked up his central contract money without much effort and Fletcher tried to get the same team back for that disastrous whitewash trip.
It should have been the start of domination but it was treated like the summit had been reached and they didn’t have to work to stay there. Being fifth in the rankings shows them it’s certainly not the case this time round but it’s bringing out some worrying quotes about Strauss and Flower having the basis of a young side to take on those top four teams.
Yes Strauss is the right man to lead the team on, much like Australia and Ponting he’s the only real candidate and it hasn’t had a detrimental effect on his batting. But he has to stop being so cautious in the field, yes he’s still learning, Vaughan took some time but when Broad got Watson in the second innings Australia had 90 on the board, still 456 short of the 546 target and there was only one slip to a guy who was bowling swinging cutters. Can you imagine an Aussie field like that in the same situation? For all the stick Ponting gets about his work in the field I see England batsmen surrounded.
As for Flower, well there seems to be a good partnership between him and the captain and there’s be few negative comments about his role. But as I pointed out after the Headingley debacle he’s had a pretty easy ride. For 104 overs they bowled short, the coach said that wasn’t the plan, well either it was and therefore he should be sacked or it wasn’t and the team don’t listen to him so what’s the point of his employment. Add to that some of his final XI choices have been just plain wrong.
As for this young side that can go on, some parts it really looks that way, others there’s some glossing over going on.
The Aussies targeted Cook’s weaknesses, but for one innings he was an easy out. He has to deal with the issue or he’s just going to remain the first wicket down with next to nothing on the board. Maybe if they listened to some of the people outside of their little group of yes men, while they’re happy to bugger up a bowler they seem reticent to get someone to work on the batter’s faults .
Middle order, well Pietersen may be back at some point, if he decides he can be bothered with the five day game and isn’t more interested in 20Twenty money. But there’s no number 3, Bopara isn’t the answer – though he should come back in at a position that is more suited to him – your best player is meant to come in a three, such as Ponting, would KP move up, play the team man or would that be to hard for him?
Bell is even less of an answer than Bopara, yeah he got a few runs coming back in here but everyone knew they wouldn’t be big runs, what with no one getting to three figures before him. He’s had his chance, been found wanting at the higher level, he has all the batting gifts just hasn’t got the head or heart for it when it really counts. Collingwood, ah Mr. Grit who repeatedly gave his wicket away inning after inning. Oh but he stood firm in Wales, yeah for a while but with a few overs remaining and knowing there was only Monty left he tried his best to blow it. If the captain is reluctant to bowl him, he’s going to keep dropping catches – last time at the Oval it was “Warnie’s dropped the Ashes” I thought it was going to be “Colly’s dropped the Ashes” this time round – and he isn’t going to take games away from the opposition with his batting then at 33 he isn’t the future.
Trott, well as I said before county runs count for very little really but being from a harder country he has the mental ability not to crumble when it counts. Can’t say I would have seen Ramps getting that ton to seal it all up. He has the fight that’s required.
The all rounder place, is the one of least worry in a way. With Fred now gone that position is open and there’s a queue of good candidates. Broad leads that list, at the same stage he has more runs than Flintoff and twice as many wickets, he is fitter and brighter than the outgoing man with a better batting technique that he can still improve on and now he’s listened to the right voices he knows what sort of bowler he wants to be Glenn McGrath. Bowl like that spell in the Aussies first innings and he’ll trouble many round the world just like the Aussie great did, forget the pitch, how many of those deliveries were going to hit the top of off. That’s when he wasn’t producing great cutters and swingers. Those two balls that got Ponting and Hadden out were the two best of the series. He hasn’t got all that beer induced mass banging down on his knees as well which is a plus.
Swann has proved he can score plenty of good runs to back up his bowling, then you’ve got Rashid from Yorkshire who can hopefully fulfil his potential on the international stage with both bat and ball. Added to that is the vast improvement with Matt Prior behind the stumps, to think he was going to give up the gloves but no he worked at it. A strange thing for an England player to do, after all if they are in the side then they’ve made it and don’t really have to bother anymore, isn’t that so Steve? No clunkers, no dollies dropped, byes more the bowlers fault a huge improvement.
The bowling is a problem Jimmy Anderson will be given the new ball in the next series, he’s the main strike bowler even though this series has reinforced his two main faults. As Langer said about the Burnley Bumpkin in his email when it’s not going well Anderson is a pussy. Added to that when a so called bigger name is in the side – Harmison, Flintoff etc – he’s a shirker. Wicketless in the last three innings of the series, there was another 0-for, a 1-for and a 2-for. A total of 12 wickets at 45.16 , you take out the only two times he bothered then in the other 6 innings it’s 3 wickets for 407 runs so a cost of 135.66 each 😯
That is atrocious, he’s the main strike bowler, the one handed the cherry at the beginning of the innings but come the big time then it’s bye bye Charlie. Don’t hear many say how bad he was though do you, far too many mates in the media ready to gloss over all the crap, short, wide, down leg, coming in when the pressure has been built up and releasing it all with four ball after four ball. All the talk of dropping Broad and yet this shirking, pussy, ineptness over looked. Did the coach tell him to repeatedly bowl short or was it his own idea?
Hamrison, finally bothered in that last innings but thanks for everything your services aren’t required any more after all a trip to South Africa would just have you crying for the delights of Durham. Onions, would have probably done well on that Oval pitch but of course not given a chance, hard to say if he’s the real thing at this level. Monty, they’ve well and truly buggered poor old Monty up haven’t they. He was coming in spinning the ball, getting wickets and winning games, it wasn’t enough for Fletcher he wanted runs and run outs and then this lot move in and want more from his bowling and they’ve made a pigs ear out of a silk purse. Well done lads.
And with all that the Aussies having over double our number of centuries, six batsmen with a 40+ average to our two, three 20 wicket takers to our none we still won the Ashes. Maybe things aren’t all that bad after all, it could be worse 😉