Eng v Aus, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day July 21, 2013

A chasm yawns wide

England landed a hugely significant blow at Lord's; it will take a miracle for Australia to win the series from here

As England ground Australia into the dust of Lord's, an odd atmosphere settled over the home of English cricket. In a place where Australia went unbeaten for 75 years, where they lost only four wickets in beating England by an innings in 1993, where Bradman and Border and Massie and McGrath had provoked such misery, there was a realisation of how far England have come and how far their oldest foe has fallen. There was a realisation that a chasm has developed between these two sides.

If that sounds like hyperbole then consider the statistics. England have now won four Tests in a row against Australia. Two of those victories have come by innings margins, another by nearly 350 runs. Where once England went into Ashes series with the pathetically modest ambition of 'competing' with Australia, they now seek to dominate. By the end of this series, they may well be resting players for sterner tests to come.

This is a highly significant moment in English cricket. Rightly or wrongly, Ashes series continue to provide the barometer of English cricket and, on this evidence, it is in fine fettle. While Australia are, arguably, at as low an ebb as they have ever been, England's achievements should not be diminished.

This is the manifestation of years of change in the structure of the domestic game and is rooted in brave decisions taken long ago by half-forgotten committee men. It is due to the introduction of central contracts, four-day cricket, promotion and relegation, investment in A tours, facilities and coaching and the realisation that, after years of defeats, things had to change. Luck has nothing to do with it.

It will not always be like this. Australia are a proud sporting nation with a plethora of natural athletes. It may take some time, but they will recover. It may well be that we come to reflect on these days as the golden age of English cricket.

The bad news for Australia, in the shorter term at least, is that England can play better than this. While they have played some fine cricket in this match, a few of their batsmen are still searching for their best form and Graeme Swann, for all his wickets, is feeling his way back after a series of injury lay-offs.

On a helpful pitch, Swann sometimes looked a little frustrated at Lord's. While he produced some terrific deliveries - he beat Michael Clarke, a renown player of spin, in the flight and should have had him stumped but for a fumble from Matt Prior and foxed Usman Khawaja so often that is almost constituted torture - he was not, by his own very high standards, absolutely at his best.

Since his most recent operation - the second he has undergone on his right elbow - Swann has worked hard on his fitness and looks trimmer than for some years. Due to an unsympathetic schedule, however, he has played only five first-class games this summer - four of them Tests - and has had little chance to settle into the rhythm that has made him so dangerous in the past. Still, to bowl just a little below his best and claim nine wickets in the match is not a bad effort. There is no reason why he will not bowl even better in Manchester.

Statistics rarely tell the full story. Just ask Stuart Broad who bowled particularly well in this Test yet claimed only one wicket. Generating sharp pace, he twice hit Clarke - once full on the badge of his helmet - and maintained a wonderfully nagging line and length while gaining as much movement as any seamer in the game. His fragility remains a concern, but Broad's bowling has returned to the standard it reached in the UAE nearly 18 months ago.

There is room for improvement in England's batting, too. England's opening partnerships in this series - 27, 11, 18 and 22 - have been modest and in this Test they recovered from 28 for 3 in the first innings and 30 for 3 in the second. But it says much for England's dominance in this series that Kevin Pietersen's possible absence from Manchester is not provoking the concern that it did in 2009 or 2012.

It remains to be seen how Australia react to this defeat. The efforts of their tenth-wicket pair suggest there is still defiance in their dressing room but, until that moment, it appeared a light had gone out in Australian cricket. There is precedent in a side coming from 2-0 down to win a five-match series - it happened in the Ashes series of 1936-37 when Australia prevailed 3-2 - but this Australia side contains no Bradman. It is not a realistic scenario.

England look too strong. Joe Root has now cemented his position at the top of the order and is a fast-improving second spinner, Ian Bell is in the form of his life and the return of Tim Bresnan allowed England to play a remorseless brand of cricket that suffocates opposition. Half of the overs Bresnan delivered on the final day were maidens and his reliability provided no release of pressure for Australia. England may not be the prettiest or most eye-catching opponent, but they have developed a relentless style of cricket that renders them painfully difficult to defeat. It will take a miracle to deny them the Ashes from here.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Scott on July 25, 2013, 8:30 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer, I think you'll find that it was. At no point during that series were England ever looking a likely winner of any of the test matches and in each match generally looked the side that were going to be beaten - as they were. England shouldn't have come close to that series and didn't. They may have had chances, but they were such a great distance away from winning, that it was a hiding. SA cantered it through and barely had to get into high gear and it was a more than comfortable series win for them. Not too sure why you're upset with their performances, they did well considering the gulf in class between the two sides. They're not even close to the team that SA have, as SA have proved. It's no myth, England were hammered - and easily too. The real myth is that England had a chance, SA steamrolled them in every department.

  • Subramani on July 23, 2013, 17:19 GMT

    England have a good team at the moment. But they should be realistic about the value of their beating Australia in the first 2 Tests of the latest Ashes series.Australin cricket is obviously in disarray as we saw first in the thrashing they got in India just before this. They were quite good in their home series against South Africa, where they looked the better side for 2 of the 3 Tests before they lost the last one at Perth.it must be said that this South African series had beaten England in England 2-0.I can well understand the euphoria that an Ashes victory generates in England because of the traditional rivalry part. But beating Australia now when they are quite obviously plagued by injuries, and coach problems is simply too unsubstantial to talk about how English cricket has benefited by keeping their players insulated from the other formats of the game which it must be remembered,came up in England.They have to do well across the globe to see if the Roots have indeed set in.

  • Mark on July 23, 2013, 14:52 GMT

    @Emile Cairncross No "ifs and buts". England were beaten. End of story. I am just pointing out that there is a general belief against people whose knowledge is confined to a quite look at a scorecard or folk memory that it was a 4-0 merciless thrashing. It wasn't.

    England should have shared the series and would have done if they had taken their chances. That is why I was very disappointed with the performance. I hope that it has learnt something from it and is ready to take revenge next winter and at least share the series in South Africa.

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2013, 14:19 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer Ifs and buts are all good and well, but in the end England were beaten in their back yard by an excellent cricket team. South Africa came through when it counted, and if you go back through series where any of the great teams won matches there have been moments where those matches could have been lost. Great teams aren't great because they thrash everyone in sight, they're great because when it matters they find a way to win. The simple fact is that South Africa the best test team in the world by some distance and in a few years time this side may well be considered one of the great teams - It's certainly too early to say they're not.

  • Scott on July 23, 2013, 13:45 GMT

    @SirViv, I disagree in some part. We should be cleaning up the English tail when Bell comes out to bat, and besides a few generous calls, especially in this test, could've walked off with 34 and 10(or so) barring a dodgy hawk-eye overrule and a clean catch miraculously disallowed. These sorts of things would've aided us to no end. Or bowlers only being checked for no balls on wickets. I'm not saying England don't deserve to be in front, mate, but I'll hardly give credit to a team who stood there and watched us implode for 100 odd in a test match. England didn't bowl well, Swann took, quite frankly, the easiest five for he'll ever take. Look at his wickets. Rogers, not out off a donkey dropper (almost as miraculously as bells' not outs in both innings), UK & RH , same awful strokes, Smith's was okay ball at best, but v poorly played and the last was haddin who tried to slog sweep him out of the ground. After scoring 100 and 250 down, I'd have backed a school team to have won from there.

  • John on July 23, 2013, 12:13 GMT

    @Front Foot Lunge - Broad did more with the bat than the ball. He bowled decently but lacked penetration, hence not many wickets. The comment about poor LBW decisions is a corker - didn't use DRS or was the problem it didn't support your assertions. Broad has done about as much as Pattinson for OZ - both are frontline bowlers who have not done much with the ball but both have contributed with the bat. Root a great prospect, but his bowling has a long way to go before it can be described as lethal - remember, Smith took 3 quick wickets at the end of day one against a far superior batting line-up, so let's at least try for a touch of perspective. As so many posts and the media in general have highlighted, OZ are pretty damn atrocious. I agree wholeheartedly, although I still rate our medium/fast bowlers and Clarke. That being said, I expect OZ to show more fight in the 3rd test. Same result, but they need to unite as a team and make ENG work - that's all we can hope for.

  • shankar on July 23, 2013, 11:57 GMT

    Chasm is growing deeper and wider: Regarding the Chasm between domestic cricket in Aus and NZ, as against Eng, Ind, SA, see this: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/current/match/637453.html and http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/current/match/647197.html and http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/637457.html

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2013, 11:07 GMT

    Thing is, England are only ranked #3 in the world George, and got hidings from both Pakistan and South Africa last summer. That to me says where they're really at, rather than comparing them to a very poor Australian side.

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    I have to agree with Milhouse79, NZ were a far sterner test from a bowling perspective, far more challenging than the Aussie line up.

    Really sad to see Pattinson have to drop out due to back issues, he is one of Australia's better batters :-)

    I think in fairness this series is showing how poor a side Australia currently are, if England can beat them playing so badly. The English batters have not performed at all and if it weren't for the outstanding performances from Anderson, Swann and Root this series score might just be 1:1

    I genuinely can't see how Australia can back from this, England have to be favourites for a 4 -5 to nil win

  • Mark on July 23, 2013, 9:35 GMT

    There is a lot of mythology developed around that South Africa series, mainly from people who didn't follow it very closely. England were beaten, yes, but the margin was by no means as wide as people like to think: three of the four Tests were very competitive.