Action: fifth Test January 4, 2007

Where is Australia's fortress?

At the start of this series, there was much talk about Brisbane being Australia's fortress
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At the start of this series, there was much talk about Brisbane being Australia’s fortress. In mid-series, something similar was said about Perth. Both were right, but they didn’t tell the whole story. Australia’s fortress is … Australia.

Since the turn of the millennium, Australia’s record in home Tests looks like this: won 34, lost 2, drawn 7. So the 5-0 whitewash that only a miracle can now avert is merely a little better than par for the course. The only reason they haven’t done it more often is that most visiting teams play three Tests. Pakistan have lost their last six Tests in Australia; West Indies have lost their last eight. Only India and England have won one.

Australia’s average score at home, as a team, is 488; their opponents’ is 275. England’s average in this series is 274. Par for the course. Where England have flopped worse than other teams is with their bowling: Australia have romped to 520 per completed innings, helping themselves to an extra 32.

When the Aussies go abroad, they are still way ahead of the rest, but not by quite such a massive margin. The score moves to 26-8, and the team averages to 395 and 281, so other teams have a chance – though the Aussie bowlers are just as clinical. It’s like football: playing at home makes a bigger difference than it should. This season, in the English Premiership, only three teams out of 20 have picked up more than half the points in away games.

It doesn’t excuse England’s performance – they’re second in the world, and should have pushed Australia harder – but it does put it in context. And it means that visiting teams need to think much harder about how to steal victories on Australian turf.

Today, it was largely Shane Warne who turned parity into dominance. Like Justin Langer yesterday, he found the farewell cheers acting as a shot of caffeine and went off at a ridiculous lick. Warne’s personal home Test record is quite something: won 48, lost 7. Glenn McGrath’s is even better: won 52, lost 5. Together, they haven’t tasted defeat in a home Test since February 3 1997, when West Indies, who had just lost a series in Australia for the the first time in ages, picked up a consolation victory in Perth.

McGrath has lost one home Test since then – Melbourne, 1998-99, against England, when Warne was injured and Dean Headley had his day in the sun. Australia have lost two home Tests since, one to England and one to India, and each time, both Warne and McGrath were missing. Australia have been a great team, no question; but their twin peaks have been the two bowlers who bow out this week.

Tim de Lisle is the editor of Intelligent Life magazine and a former editor of Wisden

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fanedlive on January 7, 2007, 18:32 GMT

    "And that to walk or not to walk would make a good blog."

    Batsmen who walk are crazy. The reverse face of walking would be a bowler calling a batsman back after a blooper in his favour. How many times have you seen that?

  • fanedlive on January 5, 2007, 18:42 GMT

    All this stuff about not having a spinner to replace Warne is unbelievable. Warne was a giant, but Stuart MacGill more than matches him in every statistical department except average, where he still matches every other contemporary spinner with a legitimate action. He won't always get to bowl on the SCG, where most of his good stats have been realised, and he won't completely replace Warne, because nobody could, but he'll still be miles ahead of every other straight-armed spinner in the world, Kumble excepted.

    As for walking: at the beginning of my modest career in social cricket, I resolved to walk in return for every time a bowler called me back after a manifest dudding. That is, I never walked once.

  • fanedlive on January 5, 2007, 15:34 GMT

    Gosh I was getting worried until I got to the last posts.

    Ok - my take;

    1. Replacment Spinner? - MacGill, lazy 200 wickets at an average of what 27 odd strike rate 50 odd in tests....thats off the top of the head but around Warne. Thank god MacGill is old. Us Aussies need a "Dad's Army" (thanks Beefy and Fleet St makes it all the sweeter).

    2. Warne "not out" vs Gilly's "out". Hey? Did not Gilly just hit 100 off 50 balls 2 tests ago. Tim (and others) are you suggesting you would rather Warne be out and Gilly not out?

    Moot point I know as the whole series is done and dusted but really...Warne vs Gilly as a batsmen??? Wow, I will take that bet anytime.

  • fanedlive on January 5, 2007, 13:31 GMT

    Avik:

    When Warne Retired from ODI's everyone was saying who would step up in the spinning department.... Up steps, Brad Hogg averaging just over 27 with the ball and 20 with the bat.... I would say after Murali, he the next best ODI spinner in world cricket (easily better than the overated Kumble or the Turbanator).

    In my opinion Australian cricket has enough depth to beat any international side in a test series(in Australia) with any of the the current state teams (South Australia not included.. ha).

    To put it another way - Its like Australia is in the premier league or champions league; and Eng, Pak, SA, Ind, SL, NZ, WI are in the Championship... Ban in Div 1.... Zim and Kenya in Div2.

  • fanedlive on January 5, 2007, 8:41 GMT

    I feel sorry for the forgotten man of Australian cricket. His support bowling was equally (if not more) responsible for Australia's dominance as McGrath's & Warne's. And, he was the wrecker-in-chief when Australia conquered the final frontier in India in 2004/05. And I don't see his name being mentioned even once in these discussions. I'm talking of one Jason Neil Gillespie.

  • fanedlive on January 5, 2007, 3:20 GMT

    Tim :

    Ok, I'll take your other points.

    But,

    four half chances??

    haha that's a joke.

    the ones to pietersen in the deep, the very hard and low ones to mahmood off his own bowling and anderson at short mid off, were NOT what you would call half chances. Maybe 1/6th chances.

    The point is that gilchrist NEVER looked troubled by the bowlers. All the events I described above were shots that were smashed and the fielders happened to make an outstanding stretch or run 20 metres and then stretch out, before still only getting one finger to a very very hard hit shot. And Pietersen's one STILL didn't even carry to him.

    Ok the top edge off harmison which landed in the middle of nowhere was lucky, but still he wasn't troubled by the delivery. He more like chose to take on a delivery that shouldn't have been pulled, or pulled better.

  • fanedlive on January 5, 2007, 0:39 GMT

    There's no need to even mention Terry Jenner. When I think of Australian spin-bowling in the years BW (Before Warne) I think of Tim May and Peter Taylor. May was a decent test match bowler (75 wickets in 24 tests at an average of 34). Taylor took almost 100 wickets in his 83 ODIs at an average of 28).

  • fanedlive on January 5, 2007, 0:21 GMT

    I think you've missed the point there, Tim.

    Regardless of whether Warne made 71 or not, there is serious distinction between a wicket keeping batsman who has a demonstrated ability to dismantle an attack in short time being given out in such poor circumstances and a spin bowler who proves generally adequate with the bat surviving a close one.

    Seems you're quite happy to bleat like a wounded goat whenever one of your English pretenders gets a poor decision (regardless of how many good ones they get, which, by your own rationale, should thereby then cancel out all the bad ones).

    Yet, you are quite happy to dismiss an obviously poor decision against the opposition under the poor justification of some arcane form of your own hopeless mathematics.

    Once again Tim, you prove that you seriously cannot take an impartial view of the game...no matter how much you pretend to do so.

    As for gloating. I don't think we're going to see anything more stomach turning than the drunken stumblings and misguided awarding of MBEs that took place in '05.

    Do you Tim?

  • fanedlive on January 4, 2007, 23:31 GMT

    Spot on comment by Mohan. These statistics should have been considered by the 'experts' prior to the series, rather than dragging them out now in an attempt to somehow make England's inept performances look not so bad.

    And Rich, I wouldn't be talking about Aussies kidding themselves. After all the statements from the English press and fans prior to this series (which have now turned to how they're going to smash Australia in 2009 hahaha), it's true that supporters of one country may be kidding themselves. But I don't think it's the Australian supporters. Rich also says that Cullen (among others) is barely good enough to play state criket?! 43 wickets in his debut season at an average of 30.3 (as an offie against Australian batsmen in Australian conditions) indicates that he is more than good enough for first class cricket. And I notice Rich didn't even mention MacGill. Sure, he may only have a year or two left (which will be a good bridging period to allow Bailey, Cullen, Casson etc to develop further), but he is a guy with nearly 200 test wickets, who probably would have taken 400 if he was born in any other country. I don't think anyone's saying Australia's spin stocks are overflowing, and Warne will obviously never be replaced, but the cupboard certainly is not bare and there are reasons for Australia's optimism in this department.

  • fanedlive on January 4, 2007, 23:25 GMT

    How can you forget Ray Bright? Maybe the best bearded slow left-armer of recent times until Monty came along. Actually Tim May was a decent spinner, well he used to give it a rip anyway.

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