Where is Australia's fortress?
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.