Mike Holmans December 9, 2010

The best win in years

Whatever else happens during these Ashes, Adelaide will provide a cherished reminiscence for years, even decades to come

Adelaide was a wonderful victory. It is very rare for England to dominate a match so totally from beginning to end, playing so well as a team, and making so few mistakes.

The last occasion I can remember was against Sri Lanka at Edgbaston in 2002. However, in that game England had major help from the weather. Batting conditions were horrible when Nasser Hussain put Sri Lanka in, and Andy Caddick put in one of his rare, top-quality first-innings spells to skittle the visitors for 162. The weather improved greatly thereafter, and England posted over 500 with the sun on their backs, facing a Murali who bowled 64 overs despite having been unwilling to play because of a very sore left shoulder. This was before he had perfected his doosra and was easy meat for left-handers such as Marcus Trescothick and Graham Thorpe, who both scored superb hundreds; Thorpe getting there with the aid of Matthew Hoggard, who scored 17 out of a last wicket partnership of 91 before going on to take a five-for in the second innings as the Lankans subsided.

But to find anything similar, I think you have to go back 25 years to two matches in 1985.

The first was in January at Chennai. There must have been something in the pitch or the atmosphere because England captain David Gower inserted India, who were quickly undone by some splendid swing bowling from Neil Foster. When England batted, Tim Robinson departed for 74 before Graeme Fowler and Mike Gatting became the first pair of English batsmen to make double-centuries in the same innings to allow Gower to declare at 652 for 7. Foster then removed Gavaskar, Srikkanth and Vengsarkar with 22 on the board, before Mohinder Amarnath and Mohammad Azharuddin put on 190. It was Azhar's second Test and he went on to become the only batsman, till date, to score a hundred in his first three Tests, after he made a hundred in the next Test in Kanpur. England had to bat again and lost Fowler for 2 on their way to 35 for 1 and a win by nine wickets.

The other was against Australia at Edgbaston, where Gower once again decided to field first. When Allan Border and Kepler Wessels had made good progress to reach 189 for 2, it looked to have backfired, but then Richard Ellison stepped in and took three wickets in rapid succession as Australia slid to 218 for 7. The tail now wagged effectively to reach a decent-looking total of 335, which still looked good when Graham Gooch went for 19. But then came one of the most enjoyable stands in England's history. Tim Robinson did the donkey-work, making 148 at a merely respectable tempo while David Gower played the most glorious innings of his career. He still had his golden curly hair then, and it shone in the sun as he reeled off effortless hooks, drives, cuts and glides. It was how Adonis would have batted. Mike Gatting provided the belligerent coda to power England up to almost 600 for 5, following which Richard Ellison was again the main destroyer as Australia lost by an innings.

Adelaide combines elements of both of those: India were on the ropes quickly at Chennai, but there neither Fowler nor Gatting played the kind of masterpiece innings that Gower and Pietersen produced. Gower at his elegant best was more to my taste than KP's imperious domination, so I wish I could award the palm for best victory to Edgbaston, but I can't.

Whereas at both Chennai and Edgbaston, England's chief bowler in both innings was a paceman, Adelaide had Anderson leading the attack in the first innings and Swann spinning England to victory in the second. Thus Strauss's win was a more complete allround performance than either of Gower's games in 1985, and must be accounted England's most impressive victory for at least a generation.

Whatever else happens during these Ashes, Adelaide will provide a cherished reminiscence for years, even decades to come. England could not have found a more perfect way to erase the horrors of four years ago.