December 9, 2010

Mike Holmans

The best win in years

Mike Holmans
Kevin Pietersen savours a rare international wicket, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 4th day, December 6, 2010
"Whatever else happens during these Ashes, Adelaide will provide a cherished reminiscence for years, even decades to come"  © Getty Images
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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.

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Posted by 1st Slip on (December 13, 2010, 6:32 GMT)

Yes...it can be said was an important win for England at Adelaide in the context of this Series but not one of the 'greatest ever' given the indifferent quality of this particular Australian side who are ranked a lowly 5th in the world and have lost all of their last few Tests.

Posted by Robert Gogerly on (December 12, 2010, 11:51 GMT)

Bobby Watson, if England hasnt proved themselves yet, who has? Look at the scoreline 517 for 1, 620 for 5. Look at their opponents' scores, all out 487, 245, 304. These are Test Matches not T20's. Look at their record since last winning the Ashes in England. They may not be number one, but they are still a damn good side and approaching their task in a very professional manner.

Posted by rajkumar on (December 11, 2010, 17:30 GMT)

kevin and swann played very well and undertake ashes

Posted by abhi on (December 11, 2010, 16:08 GMT)

i think australians are not at their peak.except hussey nobody is in form.even bangladesh can beat them convincingly.so its not england great victory in recent years.

Posted by Harvey on (December 11, 2010, 16:01 GMT)

@Bobby Watson - Trott averaged over 60 in Tests with the bat last time I looked. Historically very few players have a career average over 50 at the highest level. As for stand-out players, how about the best spinner in the world, Swann? Nobody is suggesting that England have yet done enough to take the number 1 slot, but they are looking very good.

Posted by Bobby Watson on (December 11, 2010, 3:27 GMT)

I think England are still an overrated team. They haven't proved themselves yet. Winning a World T20 is nothing, as Pakistan showed. Anyone can win a T20 match. They don't have a single batsmen who averages over 50 or a single stand out player. I even remember as recently as Bangladesh's tour, they didn't win either of the matches convincingly. Pakistan also managed to put up a good fight. This team still has a long way to go before it can be called World Class.

Posted by Nag on (December 10, 2010, 14:22 GMT)

Thanks for reminding of the 1985 Chennai test as a 9 year old then I remember, Robinson, Gatting and Fowler batted for like 2 full days. Foster never matched this performance of his ever again, he was outstanding. If ever a single bowler did all the damage on a great batting wicket this was one. Its ranks similar to Holding's effort at the oval in 1976.

Posted by Mad Hamish on (December 10, 2010, 4:38 GMT)

R, the odds are you won't be able to say that it's the only England win in Australia in years by the end of the tour.

England has outplayed Australia since the end of day 2 in Brisbane, the English players have answered most of the questions about them. There are more and more questions about the Australian players.

Seeing as we appear likely to pick as an opener somebody who's averaging 22 this summer and has 1 score over 50 in 9 innings it's hard to see things turning around much.

Posted by Micky on (December 10, 2010, 3:33 GMT)

Did this wicket have enough early life to suggest bowling first? Australia's fast bowlers clearly need a bit of pitch assistance right now.

Posted by R on (December 9, 2010, 17:59 GMT)

Mike,

I meant England's only win in Australia in years.

Cricket needs a strong English side, its good that we have one now, but this is mostly down to the fact that most of the playing 11 are in good form. As we all know, form is as fickle as anything in life, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Have a good one & good luck to the English for the next test. Cheers.

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