The Ashes 2013-14

Johnson, Warner blaze the trail

ESPNcricinfo looks at five reasons for Australia's dominance in winning back the Ashes

Brydon Coverdale

December 17, 2013

Comments: 35 | Text size: A | A

Mitchell Johnson gets a high five from Steven Smith, Australia v England, Test, Perth, 5th day, December 17, 2013
Mitchell Johnson took his tally to 23 wickets in the series at Perth © Getty Images
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Johnson falls into place
Mitchell Johnson would not have played at the Gabba had Australia had a fully fit corps of fast bowlers. James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc would likely have been ahead of him, maybe even Jackson Bird. Even when they were all ruled out due to injuries, it seemed a gamble to pick Johnson alongside Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris, given his fragile history against England. But Johnson had matured since his previous Ashes experiences - marriage and fatherhood had given him a sense of perspective - and he'd been searingly quick in the recent ODIs in India and in the early Sheffield Shield rounds. At the Gabba and Adelaide Oval, England had no answers to Johnson's pace and improved consistency and with strong support from Harris, Siddle and Nathan Lyon, they were repeatedly shot out. Johnson took 17 wickets in those two Tests, won both Man of the Match awards, and the Ashes were all but regained.

Warner fires at the top
David Warner may become the most consistently destructive batsman in world cricket, or he may never reach this level of reliability again. But whatever happens, he has been enormously important in Australia's Ashes campaign, just as his failure to fire - or even allow himself to be selected - was critical in the Ashes in England this year. Had Michael Clarke not declared with him on 83 at Adelaide Oval, he may well have had three second-innings centuries from the first three Tests of the series. True, first-innings hundreds may have been preferable, but if the door was slightly ajar for England in any of those matches he slammed it shut on them. His power ensured there were no fightbacks.

Haddin holds the fort
And on the subject of fightbacks, Brad Haddin could vie with Johnson for the Player of the Series honour, if it was judged at this point. When he skewed a catch to point chasing quick runs in the second innings at the WACA, it was the first time in the series he had failed to reach fifty. Most importantly, his runs had come with the team under pressure. In Brisbane he came in at 5 for 100 and fell just short of a century but steered Australia to 295. In Adelaide he walked out at 5 for 257, and his hundred helped put the match completely out of England's reach. In Perth he arrived at 5 for 143 and together with Steven Smith saved Australia from a potential collapse. Add to that his outstanding work behind the stumps - his diving take of Joe Root's edge on the fourth day in Perth but one example - and his contribution has been immense. England would be happy had Matt Prior had half the series Haddin has had.

A 7-1 victory
No, not in matches won, in hundreds made. While the series was alive in England this year, the Australians managed only two centuries; Ian Bell scored three alone. It was symptomatic of Australia's batting troubles in the English conditions. Similarly, England's batsmen have struggled to build on their starts on the quicker pitches in Australia. Only Chris Rogers and George Bailey of Australia's top seven have failed to score tons so far in this Ashes. Ben Stokes became the first England player to get there after six innings. The hefty scores meant Australia were able to set England 500-plus totals in each of the first three Tests. Of course, winning three tosses helped too.

The Lehmann effect
Yes, Darren Lehmann was coach for the Ashes in England, but he had no part in picking the squad or the long-term planning that went into the tour. And yes, Australia might have found themselves in this same position had Mickey Arthur stayed on - who can know for sure? But Lehmann's approach - relax and play with intent - has now had time to sink in with the squad. Of course, there will be times when aggressive play backfires, as it has done for Australia in the past. But the players seem more comfortable than at any time in recent memory and for this series, against this England outfit, the Lehmann effect has been palpable.

  • George Dobell on how England contributed to their own downfall


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    Posted by   on (December 19, 2013, 1:26 GMT)

    I would say the complete ineffectiveness of Swann and Anderson has been missed here. Maybe that comes down to the Aussie batsmen and we'd prefer to credit them rather than discredit the bowlers, but the their lack of success is significant. Neither bowler had sustained periods of threat. Anderson was comfortably played by everyone and Swann was occasionally batted out of the match. When your main spinner is kept on for no other reason than to absorb the punishment being meted out by the opposition, you know you've got a problem. Clearly the conditions here in Australia are not to their liking. When the pace and bounce is true and you need to put a bit more top spin on the ball and rely on flight and bounce to get wickets then both these guys seem to be rendered ineffective.

    Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 22:27 GMT)

    @wellrounded87

    Bailey hasn't made a significant contribution/shown he's up to red ball cricket?

    I think anyone that can hit James Anderson over his head for 6 3 times in an over might be able to play the game (if you look at the rest of the most expensive overs they were all spin bowlers). Yes you could argue that he's an ODI-only player and that's why he smashed Anderson in that over and it was a fluke etc, etc, but Bailey to me has proven himself, especially in Brisbane in the second innings he came in, in search of quick runs, and did what was required of him, while not being worried about his own statistics. Players don't average 55 in ODIs by chance. Yes, he may be the wrong side of 30 but I think it's a well justified selection to play an experienced head in this still rather inexperienced, young lineup.

    Posted by izzidole on (December 18, 2013, 20:10 GMT)

    Johnson was included in the side only because of injuries to Pattinson, Starc, Cummins and Bird. His omission from the last ashes series in England was the first sign that he no longer deserved to be in the side after years of erratic bowling and repeated poor performances despite being one of the most senior players in this Australian side if not in world cricket counting nearly ten years. Warner was originally in the team for the last ashes in England but was sent home early due to poor behaviour and was also dropped from the team for the limited over series against India. Only some fine performances in the Ryobi Cup and the Sheffield Shield paved the way for him to be included in the side.. After being left out from the side in recent times Brad Haddin made it only as a reserve wicket keeper to Matthew Wade only to be included due to some poor glove work from Wade. Well how things have changed for the better in less than six months under coach Darren Lehman? It's just incredible.

    Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 7:38 GMT)

    Guys.. all said and done.. Aus was the better team hands down... some one always raised their hand when the situation demanded... Steve Smith is a classic case of buccaneering through a rough situation and Haddin... man has tht guy stood up or what. Absolutely love the way Clarke s looking forward as well... atmosphere looks to be fantastic. Btw.. don't forget that Lyon has outbowled Swann and Haddin has outkept Prior. But the 3 best sides in test cricket remain SA, Aus & Eng... I hope Ind gets the 4th spot but honestly we just don;t have enough good bowlers coming though

    Posted by whofriggincares on (December 18, 2013, 6:00 GMT)

    @Chris_Howard," 150kph is not searingly fast" mate are you serious? He bowled a perfectly directed bouncer (not a full delivery) at 152.6 kph ! Have you played much cricket? We had a guy clocked in our competition at 138 I faced him and I am telling you even that is quick. It is all relative and people have bowled faster I know but 150+ is bloody quick in anybody's language. And saying that Patto , Cummins or Starc (I rate all 3 fairly highly) would have done just as well are the words of a Mitch hater methinks, his performance so far in this series rates up there with the best I have seen for strike power intimidation factor and a true leader of the attack performance. 23 wickets at 15.47 and a strike rate of 33 and 147 runs at an average of 49 from your number 8 (after only 3 tests) , mate it doesn't get much better than that!

    Posted by silence66 on (December 18, 2013, 5:32 GMT)

    @ wellrounded87, you can't be serious, already looking to change the team - they just emphatically won the ashes!! Part of the reason why Australia has been underperforming is the constant changes of players and the injection of untried players (Maxwell a prime example).

    As for Rogers not having an impact - at lunch on day 3 with 6 wickets falling in the fist session, England would have thought they could come out and maybe run through the Aus team quickly to ensure a not too difficult target to chase - but Warner and Rogers completely batted them out of the game. Going to 0/150 or more (which is some sort of record for the WACA opening partnership) is exactly what hasn't happened in the past - with invariably clarke having to come in and rescue the team early. Leave Rogers where he is please.

    Posted by sgk.97 on (December 18, 2013, 5:06 GMT)

    Dont forget peter siddle.He has played a crucial part in all 3 matches.First test breaking Cook-Bell partnership,Second test breaking Root-Pieterson partnership & Third test breaking Bell-Stokes partnership.

    Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 4:53 GMT)

    I think England body language is the same as what Aussie had when they were in England before some months,,,, I dont see any difference. Now we can see spark in clarke,, but it was missing on england tour,,,same way Cook seems out of place and he seems a guy who wants to finish off early and go on vacation

    Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 4:35 GMT)

    But who can forget the cracks on the pitch?? Does ICC will probe into that?? If think neutral even english bowlers failed to extract advantage out of that,,,,

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    Brydon CoverdaleClose
    Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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