January 6, 2014

Australia's success a testament to immense will

The 5-0 scoreline speaks of a desperation so strong that players might have imploded had success not been achieved
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Darren Lehmann and Michael Clarke began to orchestrate their home Ashes campaign even as they were losing the previous series © Getty Images

It was appropriate that when the final catch was taken, the ball settled in Michael Clarke's hands. The best teams play in the image of their captain and Australia found a compelling blend of adventure and aggression to wipe the floors of their proud land with a bunch of forlorn England cricketers. Never can five matches between two teams backed at even money when the series began have become so one-sided. The margins of defeat bear repetition - 281 runs, 8 wickets, 150 runs, 218 runs, and 381 runs. They are devastating. Numb in defeat, Alastair Cook issued an apology to the many fans who had made the pilgrimage of support.

Clarke's achievement lists him with Warwick Armstrong and Ricky Ponting as the only captains to lead five-nil whitewashes in Ashes history. Cook said it was the best bowling attack he had faced. Clarke called it the best in the world, which will fire up some South Africans on February 12th, when the teams meet in Pretoria. Australia's captain also explained the way in which Darren Lehmann had improved the dressing room. Their relationship, and the contrasting strengths at its core, is close to ideal for the development of a cricket team. It is not unlike the one forged by Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher. In 2005, England played a brand of cricket that surprised Australia in a fine, and at times excruciatingly tense, series that led to the recovery of the Ashes after 16 years. This time it was England who were surprised, or should we say shocked, and who suffered a memorable defeat. Australia had to wait a mere four years for redemption. If only it had been excruciatingly tense.

In the weeks leading up to the first Test in Brisbane, Clarke was under near-unbearable pressure. Ponting had criticised his commitment to the team ethic in his book, while Michael Hussey, in a volume of his own, had insinuated not all was well in "the rooms". The public were sick of losing Test matches and of the back chat. The team was accused of a soft underbelly. Clarke's captaincy was mistrusted, mainly because Australia prefers its sporting heroes a little rougher around the edges. In a startling interview, that captain promised the return of the Ashes but few, if any, believed the fulfilling of such wild ambition to be possible.

From 132 for 6 on the first day at the Gabba, Australia recovered to 295. Not riches, but runs to play with at least. Clarke had been bounced out by Stuart Broad, the worst possible dismissal for a high-class batsman and/or captain because it encourages the opponent to gloat. It was the last English gloat of the summer, for the tables were to turn with indecent haste and to stunning effect. Two hundred and ninety-five proved more than enough as Mitchell Johnson and the rest of Australia's scavenging pack tore Cook's over-confident team to shreds. England managed 136 between them on a blameless pitch. With that substantial first-innings advantage, David Warner went out to play. Reformed, if not quite bible belt yet, this strong and compact streetfighter licked his lips as England licked their wounds. Warner's bullying strokeplay was every bit a barometer of Australian joy as Johnson's searing pace and snarling confrontation.

At the other end Clarke was easing the ball into wide Gabba spaces with one small change to his technique - the movement a little back and across as a trigger to his otherwise exemplary method - and one big change to his approach. From that back foot he took on the short ball, and by the time England worked out they had been duped, the Australian captain had bolted. If England thought they were in a contest, they were wrong. From there on, the contest was over. Johnson's opening salvo became an ongoing assault. The tide had turned irrevocably.

Of all modern captains, only Vaughan and Mark Taylor could match Clarke's imagination and attention to forensic detail. Barely a trick was missed during a campaign in which smart field settings matched intelligent bowling and brilliant catching. Never once did Australia get ahead of themselves, preferring to attend to the needs of the moment with a level head and some old-fashioned common sense. Clarke spoke well to, and about, his team, admitting imperfections and applauding excellence.

Now England will need to find the same commitment. It must come from within and must first be the responsibility of every England cricketer to examine his own part in the failing and his path to ensure he is never so exposed again

Apparently Lehmann has insisted that everyone enjoy their cricket, which is hardly rocket science. But in an age of intense scrutiny, unparalleled platforms of public opinion and an ever voracious media, the soul can go out of the game pretty damn quick. Lehmann appears to have the happy knack of retaining that soul through simple tricks of social interaction and conversation, de-structuring and delegation. The essence of cricket pours out of this uncomplicated man and when it floods the minds of eager cricketers and endorses an exceptional captain, the seeds of success are sown.

Neither Lehmann nor Clarke have even begun to think that this Australian team is the finished article, far from it. What they know is that they have released much of the best play possible from those to hand. Glenn McGrath reckoned he had not seen any Australian attack bowl so well collectively. Ian Healy thought that Chris Rogers' performances best illustrated how a team can become greater than the sum of its parts.

It is now clear that the Australians had an immense will - something so strong, so desperate probably, that some of them might have imploded had success not been achieved. The preparation began while matches were lost at Lord's and the Riverside in Durham during the last English summer. At The Oval in the last Test, Clarke declared the Australian second innings earlier than he would otherwise have done because he wanted to challenge the players in his own team: to see how far he could push them, to see what winning and losing meant to them, man by man. Observations about character, technique and mental strength were noted and applied to the master plan for this series, and how.

Those same observations were made about the England players - Lehmann could be seen on dressing-room balconies furiously writing notes about both teams - and used to determine the most effective way to confront each England player head to head. When Clarke made his promise he knew more than we did. Moreover, he knew more than England could have believed. It was a heist of monumental proportions.

Now England will need to find the same commitment. It must come from within and must first be the responsibility of every England cricketer to examine his own part in the failing and his path to ensure he is never so exposed again. Cook is right to insist that he is the man to oversee the rehabilitation and launch the next era of type, style and performance. He will need those around him to be equally motivated, for the task is daunting. As he said afterwards - "from rock-bottom, the only way is up". Let us hope so. Clarke and Lehmann have shown him the way.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • xtrafalgarx on January 6, 2014, 10:00 GMT

    The thing i love about this Australian team is that it shows that you do not necessarily have to be a champion player to be successful as a part of a champion team. Just plain hard work, dedication and friendship is all they have to get through, as has been said before, besides a few players, these guys aren't the most talented players the world has seen, but that doesn't mean they can't be successful as a team.

    Someone like Nathan Lyon epitomises that. Nothing fancy about him, but he does his best and works as hard as he can at his game and improves with every game. It goes to show that you don't need outrageous talent all the time to be successful, just work hard and keep at it and you never know how far you can go. Not just in cricket but in life, inspiring team.

  • pat_one_back on January 9, 2014, 0:46 GMT

    @Natural Outswing, seeing KP at fine leg, failing even to join the group for a DRS referral (ambitious & failed but even still) was truly disappointing. He was even getting agitated with the Members over a playful jibe on his initials - clearly he doesn't either know or respect Kerry Packers role in making modern cricketers rich, he tried to have the Members ejected! Warne had a huge ego and Waugh is still his sworn enemy to this day it seems but they still collaborated well on field for many years and all bar conceiled their mutual dislike to the benefit of the team, it can be done.

  • Gillyisgreat on January 8, 2014, 8:31 GMT

    As a result of the capitulation of England , all those involved will carry the mental scars similar to the ones carried by the English teams of the 90s, conversely the Australian team will hold the mental edge over their opponents as in the tradition of S Waugh ,Warne & Co . That England lost the series , and life can go on , the respect that was lost , will be much harder to retrieve.

  • Shaggy076 on January 8, 2014, 3:55 GMT

    Ozizim - Carberry dropped Haddin at Adelaide not Brisbane. At that stage we were well past 200 and had more than enough as that game and the rest of the series showed. Perhaps if he was caught Australia could have used an extra wicket that they had available in the second innings to still set 500 for victory.

  • on January 7, 2014, 23:39 GMT

    I've always been a strong critic of Clarke's as I believed he cared too much about image and less about being a leader. Never have I been happier to eat humble pie. His captaincy has been exemplary. He never takes his boot off the opponent's throat and shows his bowlers his confidence in them with his declarations and field placements. Granted some of his batsmen need to lift their game, but bring on the Saffers I say. Should be a cracking series.

  • on January 7, 2014, 10:48 GMT

    So INDCRAB - an Indian fan thinks the Indians will win 3-1 in Australia next summer. Well allow me to retort: It's never happened in 140 years of cricket. India have never won in Australia. Not with Kapil Dev, or Gavaskar, or Tendulkar - not with any of those alleged greats. Secondly - if you can't defend 450 you are (to use your words) 'a poor club level team'. India have no great bowlers - never have really. And they don't now. If Ashwin thinks he'll get assistance from Australian pitches he might want to think again. They will be greener than a Martian dipped in ink. But this is the 21st Century, and india believe falsely they are a world power in cricket based on the amount of money they generate. However historically India have held the number one spot for a grand total of 10 months in those 140 years of Test Cricket. I think that alone says it all.

  • dunger.bob on January 7, 2014, 10:14 GMT

    @ Samdanh: For your plan to work, SA would have to have some quality spin. I'm not so sure that's the case. South Africa's strength is also with their fast bowling and they probably still have the sharpest attack, despite what Siddle said. Preparing slow dry pitches wouldn't particularly help their bowling but would maybe help Australia's batting. .. Or you could be dead right. Cheers.

  • Ragav999 on January 7, 2014, 10:11 GMT

    @dunger.bob: Very well put. Anxiety and insecurity can be found in most of the posts stating that Australia are going to be thrashed in SA. Most of the people hoped/believed Aussies would get thrashed in England if one goes by comments before Ashes. Most of them made by SA fans who dare not delve deep into their poor home record for the past many years and they went many series without ever winning 2 consecutive Tests.

  • Samdanh on January 7, 2014, 9:05 GMT

    Australia batting needs to be more strong in performance in overseas tours. SA can be expected to lay out dry pitches to negate the Aus pace attack and crush the Aus batting which cannot play quality spin (except perhaps Clarke and Smith to some extent) Australia needs to rest not just Siddle and Harris but also Johnson from ODIs. There are plenty of fast bowlers who could be roped in to play the ODIs with England. Also, for overseas tours it is important they take one more spinner to be used when pitches are doctored. Further, a back up quality spinner should always be with the team to be able to play if Lyon gets injured or a second spinner is required. It is very key for Aus to use some foresight in squad composition

  • DamieninFrance on January 7, 2014, 8:43 GMT

    South Africa will be the ultimate challenge. Let's just hope that the Australian side puts in the preparation required for a Test series in the Rainbow Republic. If they prepare as well for the Saffas as they did against England, it should be an awesome series. Just hope I can get coverage in France!

  • xtrafalgarx on January 6, 2014, 10:00 GMT

    The thing i love about this Australian team is that it shows that you do not necessarily have to be a champion player to be successful as a part of a champion team. Just plain hard work, dedication and friendship is all they have to get through, as has been said before, besides a few players, these guys aren't the most talented players the world has seen, but that doesn't mean they can't be successful as a team.

    Someone like Nathan Lyon epitomises that. Nothing fancy about him, but he does his best and works as hard as he can at his game and improves with every game. It goes to show that you don't need outrageous talent all the time to be successful, just work hard and keep at it and you never know how far you can go. Not just in cricket but in life, inspiring team.

  • pat_one_back on January 9, 2014, 0:46 GMT

    @Natural Outswing, seeing KP at fine leg, failing even to join the group for a DRS referral (ambitious & failed but even still) was truly disappointing. He was even getting agitated with the Members over a playful jibe on his initials - clearly he doesn't either know or respect Kerry Packers role in making modern cricketers rich, he tried to have the Members ejected! Warne had a huge ego and Waugh is still his sworn enemy to this day it seems but they still collaborated well on field for many years and all bar conceiled their mutual dislike to the benefit of the team, it can be done.

  • Gillyisgreat on January 8, 2014, 8:31 GMT

    As a result of the capitulation of England , all those involved will carry the mental scars similar to the ones carried by the English teams of the 90s, conversely the Australian team will hold the mental edge over their opponents as in the tradition of S Waugh ,Warne & Co . That England lost the series , and life can go on , the respect that was lost , will be much harder to retrieve.

  • Shaggy076 on January 8, 2014, 3:55 GMT

    Ozizim - Carberry dropped Haddin at Adelaide not Brisbane. At that stage we were well past 200 and had more than enough as that game and the rest of the series showed. Perhaps if he was caught Australia could have used an extra wicket that they had available in the second innings to still set 500 for victory.

  • on January 7, 2014, 23:39 GMT

    I've always been a strong critic of Clarke's as I believed he cared too much about image and less about being a leader. Never have I been happier to eat humble pie. His captaincy has been exemplary. He never takes his boot off the opponent's throat and shows his bowlers his confidence in them with his declarations and field placements. Granted some of his batsmen need to lift their game, but bring on the Saffers I say. Should be a cracking series.

  • on January 7, 2014, 10:48 GMT

    So INDCRAB - an Indian fan thinks the Indians will win 3-1 in Australia next summer. Well allow me to retort: It's never happened in 140 years of cricket. India have never won in Australia. Not with Kapil Dev, or Gavaskar, or Tendulkar - not with any of those alleged greats. Secondly - if you can't defend 450 you are (to use your words) 'a poor club level team'. India have no great bowlers - never have really. And they don't now. If Ashwin thinks he'll get assistance from Australian pitches he might want to think again. They will be greener than a Martian dipped in ink. But this is the 21st Century, and india believe falsely they are a world power in cricket based on the amount of money they generate. However historically India have held the number one spot for a grand total of 10 months in those 140 years of Test Cricket. I think that alone says it all.

  • dunger.bob on January 7, 2014, 10:14 GMT

    @ Samdanh: For your plan to work, SA would have to have some quality spin. I'm not so sure that's the case. South Africa's strength is also with their fast bowling and they probably still have the sharpest attack, despite what Siddle said. Preparing slow dry pitches wouldn't particularly help their bowling but would maybe help Australia's batting. .. Or you could be dead right. Cheers.

  • Ragav999 on January 7, 2014, 10:11 GMT

    @dunger.bob: Very well put. Anxiety and insecurity can be found in most of the posts stating that Australia are going to be thrashed in SA. Most of the people hoped/believed Aussies would get thrashed in England if one goes by comments before Ashes. Most of them made by SA fans who dare not delve deep into their poor home record for the past many years and they went many series without ever winning 2 consecutive Tests.

  • Samdanh on January 7, 2014, 9:05 GMT

    Australia batting needs to be more strong in performance in overseas tours. SA can be expected to lay out dry pitches to negate the Aus pace attack and crush the Aus batting which cannot play quality spin (except perhaps Clarke and Smith to some extent) Australia needs to rest not just Siddle and Harris but also Johnson from ODIs. There are plenty of fast bowlers who could be roped in to play the ODIs with England. Also, for overseas tours it is important they take one more spinner to be used when pitches are doctored. Further, a back up quality spinner should always be with the team to be able to play if Lyon gets injured or a second spinner is required. It is very key for Aus to use some foresight in squad composition

  • DamieninFrance on January 7, 2014, 8:43 GMT

    South Africa will be the ultimate challenge. Let's just hope that the Australian side puts in the preparation required for a Test series in the Rainbow Republic. If they prepare as well for the Saffas as they did against England, it should be an awesome series. Just hope I can get coverage in France!

  • dunger.bob on January 7, 2014, 8:31 GMT

    I love the way everybody is getting a bit nervous about us. They're on our case so that must mean they're worried. We've currently got Saffer, Indian and even a few Pak. fans are out there busily dreaming up ways of proving to us we're crap. The trouble is boys, it's coming across as though your worst nightmare is starting to rumble back into life and you're trying to ward it off with a few unconvincing words. .. Maybe that's true, maybe not. We'll know in a years time.

  • IndCrab on January 7, 2014, 7:49 GMT

    Next year , We will thrash aussies in Down under 3 -1 ,, bring it on Johnson. Johnson will lose cool after 6 overs , same apply for poor Siddle. May be Harris will get some wickets. Aussies as a team is a snail with oldies, clarke , haddin , watson (Injury prone) and gully cricketer Warner... Finnito Odyssey of a poor club level aussie cricket team

  • Ozizim on January 7, 2014, 5:04 GMT

    Adulation is one thing but let's not go too over the top here. I wonder what would have happened if Carberry had caught Haddin in the 1st innings at the Gabba? Food for thought?

  • Greatest_Game on January 7, 2014, 3:51 GMT

    @ Srivatsan Sridharan stated confidently that "Johnson always bowls well in SA."

    Srivatsan Sridharan does not seem to pay much attention to either stats or the performances of players in series. On his last trip to SA, of all the Aussie bowlers Johnson bowled the most overs, 62.1, conceded the most runs, 255, & took the least wickets, 3 at Ave 85, Econ 4.10, SR 124.3. If 3 wickets in 6 innings at an Average of 85 and a Strike Rate of 124.3 is "bowling well," heaven help Australia if Johnson bowls badly!!!

    Johnson did perform brilliantly in SA - in 2008/9 - five years ago. His more recent visit in 2011/12 was, to put it mildly, abominable.

    Srivatsan Sridharan - do your homework.

  • on January 7, 2014, 2:00 GMT

    Brilliant article Mark - nothing you have missed !

  • Chris_P on January 7, 2014, 1:21 GMT

    @dabbadubba . "Clarke is over rated" The leading test run scorer of the last 2 years? There goes your credibility, sunshine, try learning about the game, lad, then try, if you can, playing a real game of it. "Over-rated".. That's gold!! Always need a good laugh to start the day.

  • Avagoumug on January 7, 2014, 0:17 GMT

    dabbadubba you have got to be joking re Clarks captaincy. Were you watching the same series that the rest of Australia just did? Clark ran rings around Cook at all stages during the series, bowling changes, field placings, positive leadership and you knew who was in charge. Cook on the other hand did none of this and at times there were 11 captains on the field trying to make changes because Cook could not. This in itself was a major contributing factor in Aust's win.....LEADERSHIP...!!!! As far as 3-0 win to SA, we will see!!!! The combination of Leahmanns positive coaching and Clarks captaincy will see Aust does well and if the way Aust creamed the Poms, who were going to win 5-0 (just ask Ian Botham), you may just see a similar result.

  • on January 6, 2014, 23:50 GMT

    @dabbadubba - if you think Clarke deserves no credit you've been watching the wrong test series.

  • Shaggy076 on January 6, 2014, 23:36 GMT

    South African fans chest beating saying we will beat you 3-0 when you haven't beaten us on your soil for over 40 years is going to far. If you had said 2-1 it would be a lot more realistic. I have no idea what will happen in South Africa, however I am optimistic from what I have seen against England that we can win. We didn't score enough runs in Brisbane but we almost won by an innings against players who at that stage was as well credentialed as the South African batsman.

  • ShutTheGate on January 6, 2014, 23:34 GMT

    @ Werner Blomberg.

    I think that your speculation is inaccurate. I think that Johnson will have a great impact in SA as well as back home against India. There is no indication of him loosing form, fitness or becoming mentally frail.

    In fact he didn't even bowl his best figures in this series.

    Anyway why speculate in 5 weeks we'll know for certain whether this was a "Band aid" series.

  • Shaggy076 on January 6, 2014, 23:34 GMT

    I really cant understand why there is so much South African chest beating from supporters, are you the most insecure #1 team supporters that I have ever come across. I haven't seen any statements from anyone in AUstralia that they expect to win, just that we need to perform at our best and the outcome will hopefully go our way. South Africans continual chest beating, we will win 3-0 sort of smacks of a lack of confidence in your teams ability to win. You continually put down our performance against England, stating it had more to do with England. Going into the last 10 tests all of Pietersen, Trott, Bell and Cook averaged over 50 and this average suggests they are very good players. We didn't come up against a weak side, however they are now called weak - I think that has a lot more to do with the effect Australia had on them because before the series they were all great players. TBC

  • AH_USA on January 6, 2014, 23:15 GMT

    "Those same observations were made about the England players - Lehmann could be seen on dressing-room balconies furiously writing notes about both teams - and used to determine the most effective way to confront each England player head to head. When Clarke made his promise he knew more than we did. Moreover, he knew more than England could have believed. It was a heist of monumental proportions."

  • Cantbat.Cantbowl.CantField. on January 6, 2014, 21:49 GMT

    @dabbadubba - there's a few other articles on espncricinfo.com at the moment. Clarke retire? You must be joking champ.

  • on January 6, 2014, 21:32 GMT

    @dabbadubba is dribbling as much as his name sounds. Clarke is one of the main reasons for the team success. His on-field intuition is exceptional. He is prepared to take risks and then to back his players. He batted well when it mattered at the top of the series. South Africa may win the upcoming series because I still think they're a better team but it won't be 3-0. Cook is right - the Australians do have the best bowling attack from 1 to 5. The Saffas have more class batsmen although we bat lower with Haddin and Johnson. Could the all-round loss of Kallis be telling?

  • on January 6, 2014, 21:29 GMT

    @Werner Blomberg

    I bet smith hopes he's spent, or his hand does anyway. 3 great series against SA and 1 poor one, methinks MJ likes the pitches he gets in SA. He was not finished, he was just having a fallow spell, and he has come back stronger.

    Bowling 150k plus at the moment, as long as the ACB doesn't waste him in nothing ODI series, I fail to see how he will have a poor series if he remains injury free.

  • couchpundit on January 6, 2014, 21:03 GMT

    Two Words Mate - DOCTORED PITCHES!!

  • gimme-a-greentop on January 6, 2014, 20:53 GMT

    @ Srivatsan Sridharan..I think it's entirely possible that Johnson can have another series like this, because, as you say, he always plays well against SA. Even if this series hadn't happened for him, I would still consider him the most dangerous player in the Aussie side besides Clarke based purely on his past performances against SA. Seems to like pinning Smith, which is no mean feat by the way. As a general point, how would Cook know how good the entire SA attack is? He didn't get past Philander much last time they played :) Did he get much look at the change bowlers here, either?

  • on January 6, 2014, 16:17 GMT

    @Werner,

    Agreed Johnson won't have another series like this. Ryan and Siddle have been bowling well for ages now. Bowling is not their issue, batting is. Even the last time they toured SA batting was an issue in drawn series. Having said that I don't see a whitewash for either sides in SA. SA are with out Kallis and Johnson always bowls well in SA.

  • dabbadubba on January 6, 2014, 15:05 GMT

    too much brouhahaa over 1 series win.. a win always makes the team feel better... better keep the balanced perspective.. will be useful when SA thrashes Aus 3-0 soon.

    clarke is highly overrated and does not deserve any credit for this 5-0.. full credit should go to darren lehmann. the same clarke in company of arthur and run aus cricket down to zero.

    clarke should retire now so that aussie cricket can progress ahead

  • on January 6, 2014, 14:19 GMT

    Let cut to the chase. To praise Lehman is premature. This Australian team is filled with alot of players at the end or one or two poor series from the end of their careers and australia need to be war of that fact. Johnson was finished as a test bowler just 6 months ago and its only because of the weaknesses of this england team that he did so well...he bowled well but he was spurred on by the fear he smelled in them. He wont have another series like this and Australia needs to make sure Pattinson and Cummins come on quickly. This Australian team wont face bat scared English batmen every series. This is a band aid series for Australia at best.

  • quogequox on January 6, 2014, 14:14 GMT

    Fantastic article, beautifully written.

  • whofriggincares on January 6, 2014, 13:35 GMT

    This article sums up why this bloke has been able to take over from the great Richie Benaud absolutely seamlessly , he understands the game better than most. He obviously was a player of note ( I haven't looked up his record, but he captained a county side so he must have been able to play!). I would be interested to know if he has a journalistic background or if his obvious knowledge of the game has got him to where he is currently. Look forward to seeing him on our TV's for many years to come.

  • Natural_Outswing on January 6, 2014, 13:10 GMT

    England know where they are now - Cook said it, rock bottom. I think they need to take Vaughan's ideas about KP as vice captain seriously if Cook is to continue. Cook captains like he bats in Test cricket: process is everything. That is, find something that has worked, and repeat it. He doesn't mix it up. KP will bring the variation. I've got faith Flower can do something but found Dean Jones's idea about Vaughan as coach pretty compelling.

  • Ozobserver2 on January 6, 2014, 13:05 GMT

    Mark, when you first arrived in Oz, I don't think got us and understood us, but to your full credit, you've done your time and made the effort. I'm not saying this because you praised us and the team, it's because, like a good scholar, listened and learnt. I'm sure you're still a proud pom, but you are welcome here (now). Keep the good work up.

  • Ditraversa on January 6, 2014, 12:09 GMT

    Fantastic cricket journalism Mark. I largely agree with your analysis , excepting one major comment: Cook is not the man to continue leading England. His tactical weeknesses and inability to read a game as it is unfolding have been badly exposed in this series. There were multiple times in this series when Cook failed to grab the initative or respond to changing circumstances. Several times during the series when England had Australia 5 or 6 for not many he failed to inspire and press upon his bowlers the need for their best efforts - that this was the moment. Furthermore, as it became apparent that Haddin was in rare form he should have had his best, most agressive bowler, Broad, on to him everytime. His lack of faith in his spinners in the last two test was bordering on contemptuous. Cook is most valuble as an opening batsman. England need someone typically arrogant and proud, and, more importantly, tactically astute: Stuart Broad is man. I can't believe no one has mentioned him

  • on January 6, 2014, 11:11 GMT

    It is really a case of meticulous planning and unremitting pressure on the opposition. In the last ashes series in England, Cook, Trott and Prior were handled extremely competently. Bell was the one that got away and with him went the ashes. This time no one was allowed to get away with the possible exception of Stokes and I am sure they will figure him out by the next ashes round. Sport is all about pressure and this is a classic case of how a lower ranked team with less stars puts a superior team under constant, unrelenting pressure and soon that other team throws in the towel. As Cook said if it had been a boxing match it would have been called of. The australian batting is still fragile though Rogers, Warner and Clarke not to forget Haddin should all make runs if australia is to win . I hope that Maddinson or Doolan comes good for if australia bats reasonably you will find a surprising result in south africa too. Go for it Australia, this is a clear case of David rising

  • dunger.bob on January 6, 2014, 10:19 GMT

    I also Marks commentary on TV. It can't be easy keeping the likes of Healy and Warne on a short leash but he seems to manage somehow. In fact I'd go so far as to say that Mark is the real Ali G (remember him?) in that he does in fact 'keep it real'.

    This series was the biggest ambush I've ever seen. We drew them into the canyon, dynamited both ends then picked them off from the cliffs. .. Unbelievable turn of events. I'm still pinching myself. I honestly had no idea we had this in us. You see, I was starting to believe the Pommy propaganda machine. I thought we were no hope because we were out gunned all over the park.

    I guess it just goes to show that you just can't take anything for granted. Especially a wounded, angry Aussie cricket team it seems.

  • UsmanMuhammad on January 6, 2014, 9:47 GMT

    Congrats to Aussies for winning back ashes. English bowlers were lifeless. Swann and Anderson led the bowling unit for last 5 years through to many victories were miserably clueless this series.

    Aussies should not expect same from Steyn & co.! They are fired up and have a lot of gas in them to destroy a fragile battling line up such as Australia's. A much tougher test for Johnson, if he could bowl with same intensity and accuracy again!!

  • Thegimp on January 6, 2014, 8:52 GMT

    Once upon a time a cricket board needed to take into account every little aspect of playing cricket. They produced cook books and schedules and had meetings and even went so far as to consult NASA over their choice of material for their shirts, needless to say they prospered for a short time. They prospered on the back of some stella performances. In England Bell carried their batting and they got across the line, just, due to planning the preparation of slow, low, Swann favouring cricket pitches. Pitches where Bell could rock onto the front foot and drive on the up, where short balls are invitations to gently sway onto the back foot and smash them in front of square, Swann ambushed Australia's left handers, Andreson and Broad swung and reverse swung and seamed and reverse seamed their little Duke balls and all was good in the world.

    Unfortunately their next assignment was in a land of real cricket pitches and angry fast bowlers............I think we know the rest of the story

  • cricketsubh on January 6, 2014, 8:41 GMT

    I don't think aus bating line up. Is fragile the got gud opener and got Seattle no 4 and 5 and they have got world class wk haddin their are 2 spot need to be fill no3 and 6 position I don't think watson is a no3 bat if he plays as a all rounder he need to be bat at no 6 my no3 batsman will be either Maddison or doolan . Every one say Hughes should give a another chance but I think he is yet not ready for test cricket be coz he is only off side player. Very poor agonist spin and also he need to improve his technic against. Gud pace bowling let him play shield cricket for another 3 years. He is just 25 he can back in to team at the age of 28 and get more mature .

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on January 6, 2014, 8:26 GMT

    To sum it up Mark ... Australia knew the limits of their resources and did the best with them, England were in la-la land with the best of everything of all time at their disposal. Australia were fed up of losing, England had a surfeit of winning. Clarke made things happen, Cook waited and waited for them to happen. Cook had been excessively lauded, Clarke so roasted. A beautiful pot-pourri of catalysts and a very well thought-out article.

  • Mitty2 on January 6, 2014, 8:05 GMT

    @dalboy12, 100%. I watched a fair bit of the NZ v Eng series in NZ where NZ played the better cricket overall and seemed inspired by Mcullum. His captaincy, apart from one follow on error, was near flawless (I remember him out-foxing Bell with a short cover twice) and not only did the contrast between him and Cook compare favourably for Mcullum (Cook more than once had every man on the boundary!), it set a precedent for Clarke to follow. Clarke is now hailed as somewhat of a genius captain, which is a little overrated but nonetheless, Cook is rightly considered a dreadful tactician. Some of his decisions.... Wow.

    Mark, like your writing and this was well summed up. I don't know how much can be made of the whole "losing to win" theory on Arthur's/Clarke's/Lehman's strategy of purely winning it in the return Ashes and gathering info in the first leg... But based on the enormous turnaround, it was an effective and (retrospectively) brilliant strategy.

  • dalboy12 on January 6, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    You say of all modern captains only two, Vaughan and Mark Taylor can match Clark. I think Clark is a great captain, cos he doesn't just wait for things to happen -- he is always trying stuff and attacking. However, a captain can only work with the team they have. Vaughan, Taylor and Clark all had/have pretty useful teams to work with. For that reason as a Kiwi, I'm going to mention two other captains that never got (or possibly never will get the results) of certainty Taylor, but I reckon rate up there. One is a Stephan Fleming - well recognised as a great captain. The other is NZ's present captain McCullum who can't yet be mentioned with the others (I mean he is yet to win anything) - however he does come very much from the Clark school of captaincy - in that he is creative and attacking, always trying stuff. Captains like this make test cricket more interesting to watch as they active and keep the game alive.

  • austentayshus on January 6, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    Mark First of all great work in the commentary box ...I always have liked the way you sum it up..

    As far as i Am enjoying the returning urn and series victory 5-0 .. I still think that we have massive problems batting wise.. Our top order is fragile and It will have to stand up and face steyn test in the rainbow nation

  • austentayshus on January 6, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    Mark First of all great work in the commentary box ...I always have liked the way you sum it up..

    As far as i Am enjoying the returning urn and series victory 5-0 .. I still think that we have massive problems batting wise.. Our top order is fragile and It will have to stand up and face steyn test in the rainbow nation

  • dalboy12 on January 6, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    You say of all modern captains only two, Vaughan and Mark Taylor can match Clark. I think Clark is a great captain, cos he doesn't just wait for things to happen -- he is always trying stuff and attacking. However, a captain can only work with the team they have. Vaughan, Taylor and Clark all had/have pretty useful teams to work with. For that reason as a Kiwi, I'm going to mention two other captains that never got (or possibly never will get the results) of certainty Taylor, but I reckon rate up there. One is a Stephan Fleming - well recognised as a great captain. The other is NZ's present captain McCullum who can't yet be mentioned with the others (I mean he is yet to win anything) - however he does come very much from the Clark school of captaincy - in that he is creative and attacking, always trying stuff. Captains like this make test cricket more interesting to watch as they active and keep the game alive.

  • Mitty2 on January 6, 2014, 8:05 GMT

    @dalboy12, 100%. I watched a fair bit of the NZ v Eng series in NZ where NZ played the better cricket overall and seemed inspired by Mcullum. His captaincy, apart from one follow on error, was near flawless (I remember him out-foxing Bell with a short cover twice) and not only did the contrast between him and Cook compare favourably for Mcullum (Cook more than once had every man on the boundary!), it set a precedent for Clarke to follow. Clarke is now hailed as somewhat of a genius captain, which is a little overrated but nonetheless, Cook is rightly considered a dreadful tactician. Some of his decisions.... Wow.

    Mark, like your writing and this was well summed up. I don't know how much can be made of the whole "losing to win" theory on Arthur's/Clarke's/Lehman's strategy of purely winning it in the return Ashes and gathering info in the first leg... But based on the enormous turnaround, it was an effective and (retrospectively) brilliant strategy.

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on January 6, 2014, 8:26 GMT

    To sum it up Mark ... Australia knew the limits of their resources and did the best with them, England were in la-la land with the best of everything of all time at their disposal. Australia were fed up of losing, England had a surfeit of winning. Clarke made things happen, Cook waited and waited for them to happen. Cook had been excessively lauded, Clarke so roasted. A beautiful pot-pourri of catalysts and a very well thought-out article.

  • cricketsubh on January 6, 2014, 8:41 GMT

    I don't think aus bating line up. Is fragile the got gud opener and got Seattle no 4 and 5 and they have got world class wk haddin their are 2 spot need to be fill no3 and 6 position I don't think watson is a no3 bat if he plays as a all rounder he need to be bat at no 6 my no3 batsman will be either Maddison or doolan . Every one say Hughes should give a another chance but I think he is yet not ready for test cricket be coz he is only off side player. Very poor agonist spin and also he need to improve his technic against. Gud pace bowling let him play shield cricket for another 3 years. He is just 25 he can back in to team at the age of 28 and get more mature .

  • Thegimp on January 6, 2014, 8:52 GMT

    Once upon a time a cricket board needed to take into account every little aspect of playing cricket. They produced cook books and schedules and had meetings and even went so far as to consult NASA over their choice of material for their shirts, needless to say they prospered for a short time. They prospered on the back of some stella performances. In England Bell carried their batting and they got across the line, just, due to planning the preparation of slow, low, Swann favouring cricket pitches. Pitches where Bell could rock onto the front foot and drive on the up, where short balls are invitations to gently sway onto the back foot and smash them in front of square, Swann ambushed Australia's left handers, Andreson and Broad swung and reverse swung and seamed and reverse seamed their little Duke balls and all was good in the world.

    Unfortunately their next assignment was in a land of real cricket pitches and angry fast bowlers............I think we know the rest of the story

  • UsmanMuhammad on January 6, 2014, 9:47 GMT

    Congrats to Aussies for winning back ashes. English bowlers were lifeless. Swann and Anderson led the bowling unit for last 5 years through to many victories were miserably clueless this series.

    Aussies should not expect same from Steyn & co.! They are fired up and have a lot of gas in them to destroy a fragile battling line up such as Australia's. A much tougher test for Johnson, if he could bowl with same intensity and accuracy again!!

  • dunger.bob on January 6, 2014, 10:19 GMT

    I also Marks commentary on TV. It can't be easy keeping the likes of Healy and Warne on a short leash but he seems to manage somehow. In fact I'd go so far as to say that Mark is the real Ali G (remember him?) in that he does in fact 'keep it real'.

    This series was the biggest ambush I've ever seen. We drew them into the canyon, dynamited both ends then picked them off from the cliffs. .. Unbelievable turn of events. I'm still pinching myself. I honestly had no idea we had this in us. You see, I was starting to believe the Pommy propaganda machine. I thought we were no hope because we were out gunned all over the park.

    I guess it just goes to show that you just can't take anything for granted. Especially a wounded, angry Aussie cricket team it seems.

  • on January 6, 2014, 11:11 GMT

    It is really a case of meticulous planning and unremitting pressure on the opposition. In the last ashes series in England, Cook, Trott and Prior were handled extremely competently. Bell was the one that got away and with him went the ashes. This time no one was allowed to get away with the possible exception of Stokes and I am sure they will figure him out by the next ashes round. Sport is all about pressure and this is a classic case of how a lower ranked team with less stars puts a superior team under constant, unrelenting pressure and soon that other team throws in the towel. As Cook said if it had been a boxing match it would have been called of. The australian batting is still fragile though Rogers, Warner and Clarke not to forget Haddin should all make runs if australia is to win . I hope that Maddinson or Doolan comes good for if australia bats reasonably you will find a surprising result in south africa too. Go for it Australia, this is a clear case of David rising

  • Ditraversa on January 6, 2014, 12:09 GMT

    Fantastic cricket journalism Mark. I largely agree with your analysis , excepting one major comment: Cook is not the man to continue leading England. His tactical weeknesses and inability to read a game as it is unfolding have been badly exposed in this series. There were multiple times in this series when Cook failed to grab the initative or respond to changing circumstances. Several times during the series when England had Australia 5 or 6 for not many he failed to inspire and press upon his bowlers the need for their best efforts - that this was the moment. Furthermore, as it became apparent that Haddin was in rare form he should have had his best, most agressive bowler, Broad, on to him everytime. His lack of faith in his spinners in the last two test was bordering on contemptuous. Cook is most valuble as an opening batsman. England need someone typically arrogant and proud, and, more importantly, tactically astute: Stuart Broad is man. I can't believe no one has mentioned him