The Ashes 2013-14 December 10, 2013

This Australia, that England

Matt Davies
If you were to compare the current Australian Test team and its style of play with another, you'd probably go with England's Ashes-winning side of 2005

Man-for-man, the current Australian team is quite similar to England's 2005 Ashes side © Getty Images

So Australia have a solid opening partnership of two left-handers, one of them more aggressive in his play than the other. They have only one arguably world-class batsman who also doubles as an inventive captain. There is a batsman who has made his name with some great one-day innings, a sometimes unstoppable, big, blond allrounder. A pugnacious keeper is present, a reliable but unspectacular spinner, a work horse of a seamer, a fantastic fast bowler who can be injury-prone and one of the more mercurial pace bowlers the game has seen in recent years, but with the capacity for brilliant hostility. They play with controlled aggression and seemingly no fear, with some good bowling plans, against a team with pedigree and class who have dominated for a while. Does that sound familiar? If it does, you may be thinking of one particular team from 2005. A team that wasn't Australia.

This Australia team reminds me of England's Ashes-winning team of 2005. In Mitchell Johnson they have someone capable of unsettling England's batsmen just as Steve Harmison did at Lord's eight years ago. The blood that Johnson has drawn may be more metaphorical than literal (though we haven't seen what he can do at Perth yet), but it has been no less effective. The bowlers, also, as a unit, have worked excellently to plans to both dry up the runs and take wickets of class batsmen, as has been demonstrated by their bowling as a unit to Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, which has been just as good as Andrew Flintoff's around the wicket attack against Adam Gilchrist. Michael Clarke has also supported his bowlers excellently with some unorthodox fields and well-timed bowling changes, reminiscent of Michael Vaughan's much lauded captaincy in 2005, though unlike Vaughan he is unarguably a world-class batsman and has shown it, whereas his spiritual predecessor was not at his best, bar Old Trafford, in 2005.

So there are some comparisons to be made here, especially in the way Australia have been playing the game in this series, in terms of their attitude. They have a confidence that belies their recent history against their opposition, and a level of aggression that seems to be creeping under the skin of their opponents. While I doubt that Cook will storm off the field in Melbourne giving a foul-mouthed rant to anyone who will listen about substitute fielders (although it's fun to imagine that from Cook), England do seem rattled just by the sheer force that Australia are directing their way. This is not like South Africa's defeat of England where they were clinically ground into submission by an undeniably better team, this has been the cricketing equivalent of the Powell Doctrine - a use of overwhelming strikes executed with maximum speed, which is exemplified by David Warner and Johnson, as well as Clarke's overnight declaration in Adelaide. It is not beyond the realms of thought that England would have batted on into that fourth morning, yet Clarke knew he had enough, and knew he had the artillery.

Of course, the results after two Tests don't quite resemble 2005. England were crushed at Lord's and only narrowly won at Edgbaston, so is it really that similar a situation? Well, there are some differences. The 2005 Australia team had been a real No. 1 side, without question, whereas the current England team's stay at the top was short-lived. Also, no matter how good you consider James Anderson to be (and he is good), he is no Glenn McGrath - the destroyer at Lords - and Graeme Swann, even at his best (which we've not seen for quite some time now), will never replicate the sheer unstoppable force that was Shane Warne. Also, England were fighting against more history than Australia are now - Australia can look back more fondly on more recent times than the 18 years of hurt that England had to overcome. Australia also seemed to show far more fight and grit in that series, perhaps because of the confidence accrued over those 18 years, while England's recent Test series have not always gone to plan (Pakistan in the UAE, South Africa at home).

So there are quite a few similarities to the make-up of the teams and the way they are playing, but the circumstances in which this series is being played is far different. This is why I, an England fan, can't even anticipate a whitewash the other way next time around. In fact, unless something changes in the England camp and they start playing with the same brazen attitude of the Australians, it could be another Australian period of dominance that is established by this series.

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