Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 4th day

Whitewash lessons guide England to glory

Andrew Strauss was part of the team humiliated 5-0 on the 2006-07 Ashes tour, but those harsh lessons have served England well

Andrew Miller at the MCG

December 29, 2010

Comments: 37 | Text size: A | A

Mitchell Johnson was bowled early on the fourth morning, Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 4th day, December 29, 2010
England's bowlers have worked in partnerships and not allowed Australia to get a hold on the two matches that they lost © Getty Images

For nigh on two decades, ever since Australia broke away from the pack to become the undisputed masters of world cricket, the Australian way has been the only way forward for teams in search of success. After a defeat of staggering magnitude in the fourth Test at Melbourne, that may not be the case for much longer, but nevertheless, the seeds of England's triumph can still be traced back to the lessons they themselves were handed out on this same campaign four years ago.

The whitewash series of 2006-07 is not a topic that England have been keen to address publicly on this trip, and with some justification, given the range of humiliations they suffered in each of their five Test defeats. Privately, however, the memories of those matches and the methods that the Aussies used to stifle England's ambitions have been taken on board and turned back on their tormentors, with a considerable degree of success.

Tim Bresnan is no Glenn McGrath, and for all his confidence and trickery, Graeme Swann is not yet Shane Warne, but at Melbourne each produced a performance that would have graced the records of those two legends. Much the same could be said of James Anderson's first-innings incisions at Melbourne and Adelaide, or the fearsome discipline that Chris Tremlett has shown since his recall in Perth. England's mantra on this trip has been: "Do unto Australia as they've always done unto us." And with the Ashes secured for the third series out of four, that is exactly what they have achieved.

Andrew Strauss was one of six Englishmen in this Melbourne match who suffered at the hands of the Aussies in 2006-07; this time he will depart as one of only three English captains to successfully defend the Ashes in Australia. "It was the lowest point of my career and a lot of guys felt similarly," he said. "But in a lot of ways there were some important lessons learned. The one thing that struck me as an opening batsman in that series was the feeling of being suffocated from both ends all the time. I think that was the basis of our strategy out here, to make sure Australia never got away from us, and if we did that well and consistently it would bring us wickets."

That is precisely what transpired in the key first innings at both Adelaide and Melbourne, where Strauss's confidence in his team's planning was showcased by the decision to bowl first - a no-brainer in hindsight, but a bold move nonetheless. Speaking at the end of the first day, James Anderson admitted that England's only gameplan had been to go at less than three an over, for pressure is everything in Test match cricket. The magic balls tend to be the ones that beat the bat. Constant and unrelenting application, from first delivery to last, is how McGrath and his cohorts broke the spirit of their opponents.

"When you had Warne and McGrath and those guys in your side, that was something we were always able to do and maintain for long periods of time," said Ricky Ponting after the match. "As a batsman, having experienced it a few times in my career, it just makes batting so much more difficult. Some have got the skill and the patience to know how to be able to do that for long periods of time, which at different times of this series, England have been able to do particularly well."

While Strauss acknowledged that the absence of Australia's greats of yesteryear had been a factor in their success, it is one thing to take on a team whose stature had diminished, and another thing entirely to raise one's own standards to fill the vacuum created. "It's easy to say that Australia missed someone of Shane Warne's quality, but it's true," added Strauss. "He could attack and defend at the same time, and they had the likes of McGrath, and at that time, Stuart Clark and Brett Lee, who were doing an excellent job as well."

Where McGrath would once have reigned, England instead had the unlikely lad, Bresnan, who fittingly had Ben Hilfenhaus caught behind for a duck to complete his Test-best figures of 4 for 50, and the exemplary match analysis of 34.4-14-75-6. But his efforts would have been diminished without the diligence of Swann at the other end, whose 22 overs on the third afternoon went for 23 runs, before Peter Siddle and Brad Haddin cut loose in a lost cause on the fourth and final morning.

"Yesterday afternoon was a really good example of how they were able to do that," said Ponting, "with their quicks going at one end and Swann pretty much tying up the other end. That just creates pressure in Test match cricket. As a batter you want to score runs but if you're finding that difficult, the bowlers are generally creating chances somewhere. It's one thing to learn that. It's another to be able to do it as well as they have."

The pressure that England were able to generate was two-fold, however, because just as was the case in Australia's glory days, their sheer weight of runs created an extra set of circumstances for their under-pressure opponents. With that in mind, Strauss recalled the second innings at Brisbane as one of the most critical junctures of the tour, when England banished the memories of their nervy first innings at the Gabba with an unanswerably vast scoreline of 1 for 517.

"Getting big runs on the board suffocates you as well, so we were fortunate in that second innings in Brisbane that we got stuck in and proved that we could get big scores out here," Strauss added. "The confidence builds, you get guys in good form, and suddenly it's hard to keep those guys from scoring. It's always a number of very small factors that allows one team to get on top of the other, and it's important to say that we're only 2-1 up in the series so there's still a chance for Australia to square it. That's not something that we want to happen."

The likelihood of that happening - even allowing for the heroic amounts of celebrating that the squad can expect in the coming hours - is slim in the extreme, however. Australia may have bounced back to square the series at Perth, but they did so on a lively track that Strauss admitted had been "out of the ordinary", and in so doing had relied on a spell of fast bowling from Mitchell Johnson that was freakishly brilliant. The East Coast of Australia, on the other hand, has been much kinder to England, and with Swann in the right form for a star turn on the most spin-friendly track in the country, a 3-1 scoreline now seems the likeliest denouement.

"We were reasonably comfortable in the fact that we could say that Perth was a bit of an aberration for us," said Strauss. "It did knock us a little bit and Christmas Day was a little more nervy than it might otherwise have been, but we also knew that our formula had worked for us pretty much throughout the tour - not just the Test matches but the preparation phase. As long as we got back to that sort of formula I thought we'd do fine."

That is because England's planning for this campaign has been exemplary. David Saker, their Victorian bowling coach, not only knew the five Test venues with the intimacy that only a Sheffield Shield veteran could bring to the equation, he also instilled in his pace-bowling charges a discipline and determination to be ready for action at all times, and a trust in their own abilities that no bowling coach in England's history - not even the feted Troy Cooley - would have been able to match.

"The way David Saker has worked with them and made sure they are ready from ball one is exceptional," said Strauss. "Often when bowlers are not playing they lose rhythm, and the fact they are suddenly thrust into a Test match can affect them pretty badly, so credit to him and way they have worked as well. But there's no rocket science involved. We always look for secret formulas, but generally there is isn't one. It involves graft."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2010, 20:58 GMT)

And when you take into account the young players coming up through the system in English cricket-both in domestic and international level, English cricket is set for a golden generation in Test/ODI levels for the next 5-10 years.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2010, 6:25 GMT)

is it possible 4 Australia 2 have been @ the pinnacle of test cricket for 30 years when for 17 long years & 8 series between 1977 & 1994 they lost all but 1 series against west indies which they drew 1 all ? it has not even been 20. its more like the 14 years between beating west indies @ Sabina Park in 1994 & losing @ home to South Africa in 2008/2009 series

Posted by Campbell on (December 30, 2010, 3:27 GMT)

@JohnN... if you'd bothered to read, Strauss is only the 3rd to DEFEND the Ashes in Aus, the other 7 occasions, the Ashes were won in Australia from Australia.

The current Australian side has a dearth of form. Hughes, Ponting, Clarke, North, Smith, Hilfenhaus, Johnson. With the exception of Johnson, none of these players have made any meaningful contribution to this series. Any wonder why we got thrashed.

Posted by bhatu on (December 30, 2010, 2:32 GMT)

It is very disappointing to see the Aussies slip so much after the retirement of their greats - Langer, Hayden, Gilly, Warnie, and Piegon. Somehwere down the line, i'll blame the past and current selection of this Australian team. I find it unbelievable that someone of the calibre of Stuart Clarke is not playing, whereas we see Hilfenhaus and Johnson having an extended run.. I still fail to realize why they gave away Gillespie when he failed in one Ashes series i.e 2005. I'd say that was the arrogance of having one Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in your bowling lineup. it was fine as long as they were around, but once they were gone, there was no transition to the next generation of bowlers..The unfortunate injuries and the consequent retirements of Brett Lee and Stuart McGill also didnt help. But i hope they bring back Stuart Clarke, Dougie Bollinger, because they are ur best bowlers and give them an extended run as in case of Johnson and Hilfenhaus and plan to win back the urn

Posted by vikas1983 on (December 30, 2010, 1:16 GMT)

@richard gauntlett Why creating dead tracks or turners by Indian team is bad? But green tops by SA, England or Australia are normal and accepted. If England wants to blunt Indian or for that matter subcontinent spinners or expose some Indian batsmen frailties to pace and bounce they Can create green tops ( pretty much what SA is doing right now).

Now, if we create a spinning track or dead track we are called names.

Some one please explain this. Why suiting your strengths and exposing weekness in opposition is bad.?

Posted by Rahulbose on (December 30, 2010, 0:54 GMT)

I am an Indian fan. but have to admit this Eng team is the best team in test cricket right now. They have good balance in the bowling unit with a quality spinner in Swann and while their batting might be lighter than SA or Ind on current form they would be able to matchup with those sides.

Posted by tjsimonsen on (December 29, 2010, 21:42 GMT)

@crimsonbull: I for one am looking forward to India's trip to England next summer - will likely try to get a ticket for Lords. If India can flog this England attack in English conditions, I want to be there to see it. Likewise, if England demolish India, I want to see it too. @Popcorn: No, we all seem to forget that the Australian way is to field a team and administration of native Australians only, right? Or perhaps we'd better not go there? Whatever the Australian way is, it's not working at the moment, so perhaps now is the time to change direction? As the saying goes: "When you find youself in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging".

Posted by   on (December 29, 2010, 19:57 GMT)

@popcorn, it's not just the english way, Sri Lanka,Pakistan, India, WI,NZ,Zim,SA all have or have used foreign coaches in one capacity or another, your point is rubbish.

Posted by ratdot on (December 29, 2010, 19:32 GMT)

I find it interesting that people are quick to put the bott in when the Indians - currently riding on a bit of a high - are probably bigger sledgers thatn Australia in any case. Yes, Ponting has been there a while, but he probably still has 2 or 3 seasons left in him, he's just out of form. Incidentally, Steve Waugh retired, he was not pushed. Australia have just had 30 years at the pinnacle of world cricket. When West Indies, India, South Africas or an of the other nations can boast a similar record, then I might be repared to admit that there are some problems with Australian cricket. This is merely a changing of the guard and the Australian cricket team will probably bounce back stronger than ever within 5 years at most. Personally, I find it good that England are back as a cricketing nation after so many years in the wilderness. Now if only the West Indiesw could make a return...

Posted by phoenixsteve on (December 29, 2010, 18:30 GMT)

See.... when he's not argueing with umpires and trying 'talk up' the Aussie game Ponting can talk some sense! It's a shame about the popcorns and jonesy2's of the Aussie fan base - but I guess they make the rest of them seem intelligent! I can't see the point of widespread changes for the Sydney test. I don't think it'll matter too much who the Aussies pick - England should continue their dominance and why give Aussie newbies a bloody nose and possibly damage their future confidence? Ricky Ponting has been a great player and servant of Australian cricket and please don't crucify him - just because the Aussies lost to a far superior and much more professional side! He deserves better and his poor personal form must be punishment enough! But as they say "form is temporary whilst class is permenant". He'll be back! Reports of his death are premature......

Posted by landl47 on (December 29, 2010, 17:55 GMT)

Strauss's comments show how thoughtfully England prepared for, not only this series, but their future test challenges. This isn't perhaps the most talented test team England have produced (yet), but it is one of the most well-balanced and resilient. What is really exciting for England is the amount of young talent coming up, especially among the bowlers. Swann, Anderson and Tremlett are the veterans among the current crop, and hopefully they will go on for a few years yet. After that, there is a wealth of good young bowlers- Bresnan (25), Shahzad (25), Broad (24), Rashid (22), Finn (21), Woakes (21) and Harris (20). Almost all of these young players can bat as well, and two of them, Rashid and Woakes, show signs of becoming genuine all-rounders. Happily they'll get a chance to mature in first-class cricket, given the current strength of England's bowling. By the time England next visit Australia, you might be looking at one of the best England bowling line-ups ever.

Posted by KiwiPom on (December 29, 2010, 17:39 GMT)

Thank you for that article. It shows just what can be achieved with relatively modest raw material. But whatever Saker did with the bowling someone else (presumably Andy Flower) did with the top order batting as well. That top order created pressure on what was already a very limited Aussie bowling attack. Only Peter Siddle really understood what was required and the Aussie selectors, given their record over this series, obviously have the same opinion. However I bet you the one bowler England (and England supporters) did NOT want to face was Nathan Hauritz. We got our wish. I don't know what's gone on behind the scenes here but his continued absence from the Aussie line-up, all things being equal, was a monumental nonsense.

Posted by Point4 on (December 29, 2010, 17:20 GMT)

The article title masks the saying "lessons in victory are difficult to be learned than the lessons in defeat".Eng have performed superbly so far (except Perth test)and rightly deserve the applause and celebration.BUT in 2005 they had an even better victorious team with Harmisson,Hoggie,Flintoff,KP and Simom Jones and after the ashes win they started their downward spiral culminating in 5-0 whitewash in Aus in 06/07.Let us hope the contemporary players dont get affected by the ailments of their predecessors..(Flintoff turning up drunk for a practice session in 06/07,KP-Flintof feud,Pressure derailing Harmi's career forever etc).the big diference is that this time they have a level haded sensible skipper and a respected coach.Just cant help but think that had Michael Vaughan played in 06/07 series,English cricket history would have been different.All the best...

Posted by   on (December 29, 2010, 17:17 GMT)

Congrats......to Andrew Strauss and his 10 brave soldiers who helped england to retain their coveted Ashes glory ......really marvellous to see the way each and every one produced in Melbourne, Ponting deserves this treatment, Turnaround was Mike Husseys failure !!!

Posted by eomer17 on (December 29, 2010, 16:20 GMT)

Deep Shankar Karmakar I think you're being a bit immature here.you're happy to see aus lose ,but like most indians fail to appreciate that this team has dominated for almost 10 YRS.jst like no one can play 100 yrs every team will fall at some time.India are not too far from it.and we've been no. 1 for just A YEAR!!

Posted by   on (December 29, 2010, 15:49 GMT)

What England have done to achieve this much is worth studying. However what works at one time for one team may not be transferable across time and teams. Andrew Strauss keeping his head in this heady hour is a good sign. But despite all these successes, one feels Strauss had been a bit more defensive than he shd have been. Given the pathetic level of oz show in this series one is forced to feel England and Strauss may not be able to get away with this style against more proactive and talented oppositions like India, SA and SL. When things go ones way everything that one has done in teh past seems to have lead up to the result. Not always so. A more dispassionate analysis would be an education worth its effort.

Posted by azzaman333 on (December 29, 2010, 15:32 GMT)

Who cares that Watson doesn't make the big centuries. He's averaging over 50 opening, consistently setting up the middle order with a solid base to build on. In fact, of his 34 innings as an opener, he's scored less than 20 on only 8 occasions. Why change one of the only things that is actually working for us?

Posted by   on (December 29, 2010, 15:25 GMT)

Arrogant aussies deserve to lose!! Why are they moaning about top players no longer there, there is a dearth of talent in australia and it is showing in the team. Why else would you keep on playing ponting? Cos there is no one there to take his place, remember steve waugh, he was booted out after losing form, he had to retire. Do you want to play for 100 years? The west indies team aere a 1000 times better than the aussies. They used to play good cricket with humility, there is not a modicum of decency in the aussies, thats why whenever aussies lose i and my friends celebrate, cos India always beats aussies and now other teams are doing it too!! Remember South Africa too beat them... Congrats to England, now go win the series.

Posted by Cricket.Nellore on (December 29, 2010, 15:19 GMT)

Yes perhaps, England and India will compete for the No.1

Posted by JohnN on (December 29, 2010, 15:08 GMT)

For some reason you are ignoring a lot of history in your comments about England victories in Australia. The captains who won or defended the Ashes successfully in Australia are: Shrewsbury (3-2), 1885-5; Stoddart (3-2), 1894-5; Warner (3-2), 1903-4; Douglas (4-1), 1911-12; Chapman (4-1), 1928-9 Hutton (3-1), 1954-5; Illingworth (2-0), 1970-1; Brearley (4-1), 1978-9; Gatting (2-1), 1986-7.

This makes Strauss 10th in a series, not one of only three. It is still a fantastic achievement, though, whatever happens in Sydney.

Posted by dylca on (December 29, 2010, 15:04 GMT)

It is hard to watch what has happened to Australia but this was inevitable. Let us not forget that four years ago, this team had Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Damien Martyn, Adam Glichrist, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds! After that series, Hayden, Langer, Warne and McGrath left the team. Martyn retired after the 2nd or 3rd match I think. Gilchrist left a year later in early 2008, and the rest left afterwards. There is no way anyone can expect a team that has lost the amount of top players that Australia has lost to be able to perform at the same level so quickly afterwards. This current team is no where near that legendary team of 4 years ago. Blaming Ponting does not make sense to me since he has an inferior squad compared to four years ago with many inexperienced players.

Posted by SagirParkar on (December 29, 2010, 15:03 GMT)

@ Crimsonbull.. Whether England may or may not beat India is debatable. This English team is a lot better than the ones we have seen over the past decade or two. They are brimming with confidence, they have a good mix of players, a stable team and above all they now have a positive sense of dedication and commiment. Next year I am sure India will have their hands full beating England when they visit. Comparisons are generally odious but it would certainly provide a good spectacle. Needless to say I am waiting with bated breath. For now, many congratulations to the English team for having played wonderful cricket and retaining the Ashes..

And just for the record, i am an Indian living in England and a die-hard Aussie supporter.

Posted by radford on (December 29, 2010, 14:58 GMT)

sonofchennai -

Please remind me the last time India won a test series in Australia?? Thought so...

Posted by popcorn on (December 29, 2010, 13:12 GMT)

The English way is to pinch Australian professionals like David Saker,Troy Cooley, John Buchanan, who do not consider it be treason to help the opposition. this is not the Austraylian way.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2010, 13:08 GMT)

We are coming Poms..to burst ur bubble next July..all ur aims of bein no 1 will bite dust

Posted by Seether1 on (December 29, 2010, 12:53 GMT)

@Savin Khadka: Unfortunately it is you that is delusional. The Aussies are going the same way as the Windies. There are no new players coming through. Also soon they will lose Ponting and Hussey. Johnson and Haddin are not young men either. So England, India and South Africa have to scrap it out fot the No. 1 position. Its sad that Pakistan have lost Amir and Asif as they could have made Pakistan contenders as well.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2010, 12:37 GMT)

Sonofchennai, I feel your comments would have been the same had we won in 06-07, i can't help but feel you're not a fan of Mr Strauss and his team. I guess you're about to tell me that they could pass no sterner test than a victory in your backyard? That's fine, I would want to presume, but you aren't the force you were..... what goes around comes around fella and I have no doubt you'll prepare some dead tracks to nullify our attack, and feed your dwindling batting reserves.....

Posted by crimsonbull on (December 29, 2010, 12:22 GMT)

There is no way England can beat No 1 India.

Posted by rohanbala on (December 29, 2010, 12:00 GMT)

The difference between the two teams (England & Australia) - English batsmen showed lot of patience while the Australians played rash shots and paid the price. English bowlers maintained a very good line, while the Australian bowlers bowled very poorly. England's Graeme Swann delivered wickets at the right time, while the Australians did not have a wicket taking spinner. Except for Haddin who chose the attack mode, none other in the line up did anything worth mentioning. Watson, despite a few fifties in the series, does not possess the capabilities of turning them into three figure knocks. For the Englishmen however, Matt Prior's batting is a real bonus. Its time for the Australian selectors to do some serious thinking before announcing the team for the sydney test. Probably, we will see Michael Beer in action at Sydney, but one wonders whether he is good enough to knock over the Englishmen despite the fact that they are vulnerable to good spin bowling.

Posted by Herbet on (December 29, 2010, 11:26 GMT)

Australia have carried too many bad players in this series, not just out of form, just plain bad to start with. Hughes has far to many technical issues to be an opener in Test's, he got so many runs against South Africa I assume because they had never seen him before and hadn't the time to figure out his slash happy technique. Watson cant get big scores and therefore is unsuitable to being an opener where concentration is everything. Ponting appears to be in terminal decline. Clarke seems to have been found out against pace and Smith looks like a tailenender, maybe an 8 at best. Haddin and Hussey though are class acts. Mitchell Johnson, apart from the WACA has been utterly dire and Hilfenhaus has been flat and the less said about the variety of 'spinners' on offer the better! I'd say the only keepers in his side are Watson as a middle order, Hussey, Haddin, Johnson, Harris & Siddle

Posted by   on (December 29, 2010, 10:33 GMT)

okay the aussies lost the series.frankly,they deserverd to!but all this talk about this being the end of ricky ponting,and the fall of the aussies is just rubbish.the last time the english won the ashes in australia,they made the aussies the giants that everyone else came to fear!!i expect the same to happen again.not in the immediate future but in a couple of years.of that im certain.in the meantime ricky ponting needs to get some belief in the camp and bat well himself.yes the series is lost but there is pride to be salvaged and issues to be settled in sydey. and o!if india,or any other team are dreamin of being the next world conquerers while the aussies are sorting their stuff out,U NEED TO WAKE UP!!!!!!!!its only a matter of time before the aussies become who they truly are giants that the world fears!for now they are the sleeping beasts and the english hav succeded in waking them up from their slumber!!!! go aussie go

Posted by Chris_Howard on (December 29, 2010, 10:25 GMT)

For a team that boasts Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Johnson, Haddin, Watson and Katich when available... we did pretty crap.

Posted by Pacelover on (December 29, 2010, 10:11 GMT)

The difference between now and then for England is the control the bowling unit have. in 06/07 the aussies just had to see off hoggard with the new ball, be watchful against Flintoff and then let Mahmood, Plunkett or Harmison come on and relieve any pressure by bowling boundary balls. This time around they have been able to build pressure virtually all the time with accurate bowling even when the ball was not swinging.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2010, 9:23 GMT)

Correction - the Decline of Australian Cricket has been obvious for a long time as they have failed to bring on young players and every time one of the greats has retired, with the exception of Haddin for Gilchrist, it has exposed the void left behind. This is the end game where selectors, captains and players pay with their careers for the mistakes of the Australian Administrators over the past decade.

Posted by sonofchennai on (December 29, 2010, 8:41 GMT)

All this is so funny....Mr.Strauss, appreciate ur victory, its well earned. But u need to understand that u slayed a dying lion. If this was achieved in 2007, that woudl have been sweeter.....

Posted by anver777 on (December 29, 2010, 7:28 GMT)

Great team work Eng !!!!! Congrats! for retaining the Ashes in style.......

Posted by AKG0479 on (December 29, 2010, 6:39 GMT)

2010 will be remembered as the year of Aussies decline.. India started this mission & England completed it ! potential, class, talent might still be in their team but it may take long to get back the the confidence which has gone low with the last two disastrous series. ! Ponting may not retain his position & many wont be surprised if he loses his baggy green cap as well.. New faces will surely come & Hussey or Watson may become a time-being captain. All said.. lets hope Aussie comes back stron sooner as its no fun without the full on fire Aussie in the world cricket... Gud Luck Kangaroos..

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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