England v Australia, 2nd ODI, Cardiff June 24, 2010

Liberated England turn the tables


When, in the aftermath of another one-sided contest, it was put to Ricky Ponting that England are now one victory away from being able to claim bragging rights in all three forms of international cricket, he bridled with the sort of indignity which suggested that the question was not as preposterous as it might have sounded six months ago. Much like the purported "rivalry" between England and Germany in football, the stats may not stack up when viewed in the fullness of time, but that has never prevented the here and now from assuming the most relevance.

And right here, right now, England are hurtling towards the sort of ascendancy that looked inconceivable while Australia cruising to their 6-1 ODI triumph nine months ago. "We've only got ourselves to blame for the hole we're in at the moment," said Ponting after the match, but he was being disingenuous. With their liberated array of strokemaking batsmen, allied to a canny bowling attack with a priceless ability to think on the hoof, England have got the measure of the Aussies in this series, and it will take an incredible (and dare one say it, inconceivable?) collapse of resolve for a 2-0 deficit to be overturned in the remaining three fixtures.

"Australia have had a very good 12 months or so, and they played well against us last summer, but ultimately that was last summer," said England's captain, Andrew Strauss. "Times have moved on, and I'm happy with where we are as a side at the moment. Ultimately, this series will be decided in five games not two, but that 6-1 defeat is still fresh in our minds, so we want revenge for that if we can."

There are a myriad of mitigating circumstances that will prevent England from claiming full satisfaction in the event of a series victory - not least the fact that Australia's attack is down to the barest of bones, with Ryan Harris, their quickest bowler at the Rose Bowl, joining an injury list that already includes the likes of Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Brett Lee. But, whereas the first match was all about the batting exploits of Eoin Morgan, the Cardiff fixture showcased the second crucial string to England's bow. Namely they are developing an extremely intelligent attack.

Admittedly, it didn't look too clever when James Anderson was clattered for 13 runs in the opening over of the match, and at 34 for 0 after five, Australia had a platform from which they might realistically have expected to set a minimum target of 280. But then up stepped Stuart Broad, celebrating his 24th birthday, and brimming with enthusiasm after his enforced absence from the Bangladesh series. In tandem with Luke Wright, another man whose confidence and tactical awareness has surged through his involvement in the Twenty20 set-up, he set about stifling the momentum of Australia's top-order.

"The most pleasing thing was the way we adapted as a bowling unit," said Broad. "I think the first couple of overs didn't go to plan, but we communicated about the best ways to go, and we tried to bowl as straight as possible because players thrive on a bit of width these days. We used cross seamers pretty much straightaway today, because there was no swing, and that aided us with a bit of extra bounce and a bit more skiddiness.

"The communication side of things is massive in Twenty20s," Broad added. "It's such a short form of the game, you have to be speaking virtually every ball because one ball can win or lose you the game. That was all that was in our minds, as long as we didn't give any width, and that helped us claw it back to a decent score after 20 overs."

Ponting, for his part, conceded that England's tactics had been pretty smart. "They probably bowled 80 or 90% of their balls across the seam, and got the ball to leap from those deliveries," he said. "I think they just adapted really well. It's a good skill to be able to do that, and they put us under pressure. From 4 for 90, it's hard to fight back into the game."

The ability to think on one's feet is one thing - and Broad himself has long been credited, not least by his first Test captain, Michael Vaughan, as an intelligent cricketer. Having the confidence to put such plans into action, however, requires an extra veneer that is rapidly becoming the hallmark of this England outfit. And Strauss, whose own freeflowing half-century was a vital factor in the final result, credited the lesson he and his team had been handed by the Australians last September for transforming their outlook on one-day cricket.

"When we got beaten by Australia last summer, that was an eye-opener," he said. "We'd been playing okay up until then but it made us realise that what we were doing was not good enough and we had to find a way of being better. We came out to the Champions Trophy [in South Africa] and tried to play a more fearless type of cricket, but as well as being fearless and aggressive, it is very, very important that we are calculated as well. In the field we've been far better, the communication is better and the gameplan is clearer. We've stifled Australia with the ball and that's been as important as anything.

"It's always important to learn from your mistakes," he added. "You learn more about a side when you're losing than when you're winning, so in that respect [last year's beating] was a good thing. For those of us who went through it, it was pretty horrendous, but what's been good is that everyone realised we had to do things differently, and a lot of people have been putting in suggestions about where we can take things from here on in. It's very encouraging, and we all feel like we are part of something that can grow, and grow, and grow."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 25, 2010, 19:16 GMT

    As you have seen, a well planned shot pitch deliveries can get even the best batsmen out, not just the indians, isnt clarke and ponting supposed to be invincible against short pitch balls?

  • Mark on June 25, 2010, 17:14 GMT

    I second the points others have made that the 'depleted side' excuse isn't necessarily a completely valid one, and that Australia's batting this past two games hasn't been up to par. Having said that, look at the attack we just fielded: Bollinger, McKay, Hopes, Hauritz as our specialist bowlers (and Hopes is a ho-hum all-rounder). A few years ago those guys wouldn't have made our fourth string! I know it's over but may I indulge in a quick mourning of the days of McGrath, Lee and Warne, with Mitchell as our third seamer? As things stand, Hazelwood looks awfully raw but if given the choice, get him in for McKay. No offense Clint, but you're just not good enough. Hopefully Harris is good for test three and I second those talking Tait, Nannes and Bracks. Any one of that three would do better than McKay or Hazelwood! When did priming for the future mean automatically passing on existing quality?!

  • Muhamad on June 25, 2010, 14:41 GMT

    What don't anyone talk about Tait and Nannes? Is it a stamp on them that they wull only play T20 ? Why ? Those two are far better bowlers even in ODIs, comapred to this current bunch.

  • A on June 25, 2010, 14:16 GMT

    While it's true that Aussies are playing a depleated side, it's probably equally true that they are a depleated side. England on the other hand seem to have found a band that can perform in all seasons and I say finally. Their team has been bits and pieces after the 70s. There were a few (eg. Flintoff, Vaughn, Harmison, Monty) who showed promise only to fade away before full bloom. They have not really found a Waqar or Warne or Tendulkar or Lara or Dhoni. But now they have Pieterson who seems to belong to that league. Then there are Morgan, Broad and Swan who are threatning to show that promise. Ahem - am I onto a bloggers curse!

  • Michael on June 25, 2010, 13:33 GMT

    I do not know how often England have had to field their 3rd choice attack against Aus,particularly downunder,and yet those victories still count the same, so stretched bowling resources is not really a good enough excuse. We won fair and square. I know it feels weird actually beating these guys but it's a lot of fun too, and long may it conintue. To me a reallly good feature was Strauss's batting, smooth cool and at times audacious.Why anyone would want to substitute a top class player like him for a lesser light foi ANY reason is lost on me. Also good was the fact that everyone has so far contributed in the two matches. it takes 11 to win a World Cup.

  • Martin on June 25, 2010, 13:16 GMT

    Excellent article - thank you Mr. Miller. Nice to see praise where praise is due, instead of a constant barrage of negatives against the England team.

  • Jos on June 25, 2010, 12:50 GMT

    I've had enough of these whinging po... Sorry, force of habit, whinging Aussies. The England attack isn't exactly the most experienced either, Anderson and Broad excluded. Michael Yardy was tying the Aussie batsmen in knots, in what, his 9th ODI? And as has been pointed out by other commentators, the batting lineup should be experienced enough to give your bowlers a platform. Truth is, to a certain extent the batsmen have been found out on this tour. And as for Ricky Ponting, his comments after both games point to a sore loser who's been too used to having a team full of greats and can't cope without them.

  • Steve on June 25, 2010, 12:34 GMT

    It's funny seeing these excuses about Australia fielding a weakened bowling attack clearly hampering their chances. Where is this much vaunted bench strength of Australia's? I saw several, including @popcorn, crowing about it a while back - but there's little sign of it here. At no point has McKay so far looked an international bowler in all the matches I've seen him in, whilst Hazlewood is VERY raw. So now they go back to Tait, a bowler who apparently wasn't good enough to make the squad in the first place. Look, I've offered several times already - do you want Pattinson back or not?

  • Dummy4 on June 25, 2010, 11:37 GMT

    I believe England's current success in the shorter forms of the game is the result of a subtle but evident change in attitude towards test vs ODI/Tw20 cricket. Before, the test side was the default team for all forms, with a couple of changes here and there to field a more "balanced side". England were crap at ODIs and tw/20. Bell and Prior opening in the one-dayers worked for a couple of games, but it was just reshuffling the test batting order. Now, the selectors are simply picking the best men for the job at hand: Lumb and Kieswetter suddenly appear as openers in tw/20, and Morgan comes in. England wipe the floor with everbody. Now, people want Kieswetter and Morgan in the test side as well! Ironically, this development preserves test cricket as the top form of the game: You are promoted to full dress based on your feats in your pyjamas, not the other way round! This is how it should be, IMHO.

  • John on June 25, 2010, 11:34 GMT

    So now all those who said Australia would win 5-0 are coming out with the excuses. As usual, most of them have got it wrong. Australia's bowling has actually been pretty tidy, although McKay didn't look too good at Cardiff. It's the much-vaunted Australian batting which hasn't been good enough against England's well thought-out and executed plans. It doesn't matter who is bowling, 239 isn't enough to defend on a good wicket against a deep batting line-up. Australia are fighters and never give up. The fact is, though, they are struggling against a very good England side.

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