December 18, 2006

Third Test, Perth

One blows, the other sucks

Gideon Haigh

Sixteen years to win them back. Fifteen days to lose them. That’s one press box formulation I’ve already heard for England’s Ashes defeat. In fact, it doesn’t do the Australian effort justice. This campaign to recapture the Ashes has genuinely been 462 days in the making. It’s been fascinating to watch the systematic nature of the Australian preparation for this series – not least because of its contrast with England’s ‘it’ll-be-all-right-on-the-night’ thinking.

I remember the first inkling I had of it. In England last year, I had been taken aback by how casual the Aussies’ net sessions seemed to be. Then, during the ICC Super Series one-dayers at Docklands, the Australians began coming out during the intervals and doing seriously sharp fielding routines, severely showing up the Fred Karno’s Army of the World XI. I’ve felt that note of intent and intensity in their cricket since. Having not seen England between times, I’ve been taken aback by the slippage in their standards. As in 2005, the trophy was won by the team that wanted it more, and that planned, selected and executed accordingly. No real cricket fan can be other than satisfied with that.

I’ve written about the contrast in preparation for tomorrow’s Guardian, so I won’t say more here. Having been toasted on the front and frozen on the back for five days, furthermore, I’ve buggered my neck and need some physio, so I’ll save further musings for after the three-hour flight to Melbourne - which I’m now really looking forward to! As I write this, Michael Hussey is in the middle of the ground sharing beers and posing for photos with the WACA support staff. Nice bloke. Feel free to lavish praise on him and others.

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Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

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Posted by macca on (December 25, 2006, 14:00 GMT)

hi vishnu,my comment was that i think 20 or thirty more runs in the second test by england,or one more aussie wicket and that game could have been a draw.going in to the fourth test 2 nil down one drawn is as i said hanging on .in 05 ashes english fans could in hyperbole have said we smashed /destroyed australia,reality was we won ,few runs /decisions either way could have been different.in 05 australia got done by some borderline decisions,this time its strauss and england who are getting done.australia are the best team in the world playing great cricket and im glad the aussie fans are revelling in it,fair play ,we did last year.as i said i,m sad we havent competed bcause , we are not that far away from australia talent wise,we should have matched them and taken it to an interesting place.there is also too much rubbish talked about australian supremacy.in 05 when aussie batsmen couldnt play swing,all those funny stump tumbling leaves ,it is aussies playing badly nothing about mental frailty or technique or good bowling ,warne takes a wicket this year,hes a genius.england couldnt force 3-1 last year(rain at old trafford anyone)so now its weak england we only just won,gilchrist gets no runs(not cos hes lost it)just cos england have a plan ,then he gets an awesome score,suddenly hes a genius again,bias is boring ,i like to enjoy the competition and the individual battles,enjoy the fourth test y'all

Posted by Chalaka on (December 22, 2006, 11:18 GMT)

England made so many mistakes in selection. It obviously meant they just had a plan and no plan B. Didnt know what to do if something went wrong. As usual the Poms got over confident before they really became a very good side. The aussies were awesome to say the least. 3 cheers to Warne. He is an ashes special isn't he.

Posted by Costanza on (December 20, 2006, 21:25 GMT)

Amid all the celebrations and Ashes-frenzy, Michael Clarke seems to have silenced his critics, at least for the time being. All critics will remain quiet until another test when he falls for a single-digit score on the first morning of a test, but not me.

Look, no matter how many runs he's got so far in the series, I am still not convinced that Michael Clarke is the next Ponting/Steve Waugh in the making. He scores entirely too many meaningless runs in low-pressure situations. He is dearly loved by everyone in and around the squad, for absolutely no reason. He hasn't even dominated at domestic level yet, just look at his stats. And at 25 years of age and more than two years into his international career, he is almost as good as he will ever get.

Clarke doesn't deserve to breathe easy, not just yet. We need to keep him on the toes, so he realizes his potential. Becuase if he relaxes again and plays the way he wants to, you know what will happen - meaningless runs, playing suportting role to a rampaging Gilchrist and crumbling under pressure in critical situations.

Posted by luke on (December 20, 2006, 19:31 GMT)

To Tim who earlier posted talking about the "Inner Circle" in the Australian setup, i'll give you one name, Brad Hodge.

Posted by scott on (December 20, 2006, 12:27 GMT)

Its been a wonderful and rivetting series - one that has, for those who have not just read the end result, ebbed and flowed each game. This Australian team have been together for essentially the best part of 15 years - at the very top - and have developed a culture of winning. This England tean IS very good - they just ran into possibly the greatest team of all. How many teams in history would have won in Adelaide after the end of day 2? Lets not criticise the English, just sit back and enjoy what is 'the spendour, the passionate and brlliant' that constitutes this team. For all the English supporters take note. The last team to make a significant impact (they have taken each test to the 5th day) were the Windies in the early 90's (this signalled the demise of the Great Windies team). Long live the Ashes - and - without Warne, McGrath, Martyn, Hadyn, Langer and Gilchrist - the battle of 2009 will be decidedly more open. Cant wait for test 4

Posted by Joel on (December 20, 2006, 11:59 GMT)

When you compare this Ashes series with last year's, what immediately springs to mind are crucial periods of big games. England have been an early position of dominance in both the 2nd Test in Adelaide and the 3rd in Perth, but have been unable to suffocate a hungrier opposition team. To post 550 declared in the first innings in Adelaide and go on to lose by 6 wickets is unheard of in Test cricket, and in fact was the highest first innings declaration made by a team whom went on to lose the match in the entire history of the game. It was so extraordinary that a DVD has already been released documenting the amazing comeback. Another test drew similar attention from the 2005 series, which was that now infamous Test Match at The Oval, where Australia lost by only 2 runs. The difference between that match and the Adelaide Test Match is that in one the match was finely balanced all the way through, which was reflected in the result, whereas the Adelaide game was a momentous turnaround, beginning with England being bundled out for a paltry figure, in batting like a 4th Grade club team, or that the pitch was a minefield - the former confirmed and the latter disproven by Australia'a comfortable run chase in the shadows of day 5. It is true that England have played some good cricket in different periods of this series - batting in the 2nd innings at the Gabba, and the beginning of the 2nd and 3rd Tests, as well as a commendable batting performance in the final innings of the Perth Test - but none of these performances were sustained for long enough periods of any game to pose any significant pressure on these mighty Australians. Some say the England of old is back in town, but , although the scoreline supports this claim, we need only look at these glimpses of brilliance from the Poms to know that they are capable of much more than previous flops captained by the likes of Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart and Nasser Hussain. We must also remember that there are still 2 test matches to play, and while England have seemingly fallen in a heap when The Ashes were up for grabs, it has not been the same old story. We have seen the continuing exhileration of Kevin Pietersen's batting - the highlight being the way he can make Shane Warne look an average bowler at times (minus the 2nd innings dismissal in the Adelaide Test of course). Other positives are the emergence of Ian Bell as a mature, reliable number 3 batsmen, continuing his good form from earlier series this year. For a man who admitted just over a year ago that he felt overwhelmed coming up against the Australians, he has shown great courage and class in this series. Paul Collingwood is another who shouldn't feel ashamed at his contribution. His Adelaide double century was simply brilliant, although his second innings performance was in stark contrast - Collingwood surrendered to Australia's pressure and momentum in the game and played in such a subdued fashion, he was unrecognisable. While wickets fell around him, Collingwood failed to do for his team what was required - to play positively and put the game out of Australia's reach - and as a result the Aussies surround him like a pack of wolves, and Collingwood blinked. He poked and prodded for the entirety of his innings, and was left stranded on 16 not out, as the Australians moved swiftly towards a remarkable victory - however, it was made less remarkable by the way which the Poms just surrendered the game - epitomised by their second innings performance, and Paul Collingwood, however brilliant in the first innings, who needed to lead from the front when the game was on the verge of being taken away, set the tone by shutting up shop and scoring, along with his team at 1.5 runs per over. By adopting these tactics on the final day, England simply played into Australia's hands and were effictively passing the Ashes back over to a team who had previously held it for 16 years. Will it be another 16 years? It most certainly not be with the potential of this current England team, but if attitudes do not improve amongst the player group at the crucial stages, it could be another long wait until the Ashes returns back to it's country of origin.

Posted by Jag on (December 20, 2006, 10:30 GMT)

omg, OMG, Oh My God... no warnie..nooo ooooo warnieeeeeee

Posted by Tristan on (December 20, 2006, 8:49 GMT)

When you look back at the result of 2005 you can see why Australia is so far ahead of the rest. England played out of their skins in 2005, Australia could not really of played any worse, only Warne, who was masterful in 2005 and Ponting heroics in the 3rd test saved Australia from ONLY losing 2-1, and thats the point, England should of won at least 3-1, if not 4-1 last year, but could not. If Australia played anywhere near their best this year, as they have they were always going to win, it was just a matter of by how much, and that was going to be determined by England, they only had one way to go after last year performance, down, the question was by how much, and we have seen. Englands openers are not consistent. No number 3 or 4. Pietersen has been good. Flintoff is not a number 6 batsmen. Keeper - none. Spinner, Giles, useless. Panesar, revelation (but to late). Harmison way down, Andersen (who), Hoggard (good work-horse, never gives up, and the rest dont matter. Thats Pietersen, Hoggard and Panesar who have played to expectations, Flintoff is some-what ahead of the rest in bowling, batting is no-where. Australia have improved across the field in every department. England need a over-haul, Australia may have dads army, but England own Faulty Towers.

Posted by stevelbw on (December 20, 2006, 7:13 GMT)

When reflecting on previous tours, I think this English team is as poor as all the others, they simply believe potential will win thru. So much so that it does affect the overall performance.

The really scary part is the talk and planning for 2009, I mean there are blogs comparing the teams in 2009 - how absurd and desperate can these english supporter be, barmy is appropriate.

Well done australia, I was quietly confident there was going to be a re-alignment of the cricketing axis, order is restored.

And for the record, previous tours India v Australia 1:1:2 draws, that was a great tense series

Posted by Tony on (December 20, 2006, 4:32 GMT)

To Mr Clarke: I do not think DF took apart a winning side for players he thought deserved another go. I think he made a judgement, based on pre-Test form and apparent pitch conditions,that the team would be best served by the players he picked. Some of those players did not perform, and as a consequence his plan did not work. That does not mean it was crazy or evil or any of the other adjectives being liberally bestowed by armchair experts. Nobody can say for certain what would have happened at the gabba if Read, Panesar or indeed anyone else had played. But even if one concedes that DF got it completely wrong in this case , I for one would rather have a coach who uses his own expert judgement as against pandering to public opinion like a cheap politician. And over the last 7 years he seems to have got it right most of the time.....

And to all the Aussie triumphalists "CONGRATULATIONS" (Again.) But would you mind easing up on the boasting and sneering as it is as unattractive coming from you as from some ignorant Englishmen who went overboard last time.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gideon Haigh
Born in London of a Yorkshire father, raised in Australia by a Tasmanian mother, Gideon Haigh lives in Melbourne with a cat, Trumper. He has written 19 books and edited a further seven. He is also a life member and perennial vice-president of the South Yarra CC.

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