Australia in England 2015 September 2, 2015

'We thought we'd broken their back'


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Rod Marsh has shed new light on Australia's failed Ashes campaign by admitting they felt they had the series won after a vast victory over England in the second Test at Lord's.

Following a heavy opening defeat in Cardiff, the Australians regathered to more than double the margin in the second match with a 405-run thrashing, and celebrated their first victory at Lord's since 2005 with plenty of gusto. But the series ledger was merely 1-1, and after their batting was obliterated on seaming pitches at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, the heavily favoured visitors finished empty handed.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion following his delivery of the 2015 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, Marsh was asked by Mark Nicholas whether complacency had crept into Australia's defence of the Ashes urn won so convincingly at home two years before.

"When we left Lord's I thought 'we will win the Ashes' because we'd played that badly at Cardiff, we played that well here, then we were just going to win," Marsh said. "If that's complacency, then yes we were complacent. But I think we all thought we'd broken their back at Lord's with such an emphatic victory. Geez we were wrong. We were that wrong!"

Marsh's admission is sure to leave plenty wondering how the series was allowed to unravel, when Australia had gone 14 years without winning the Ashes in England. Fellow selector Darren Lehmann has publicly conceded that the selectors made several errors over the series, including the dropping of Mitchell Marsh for his brother Shaun on the opening morning of the pivotal Trent Bridge Test.

There has also been heated debate over the delayed selection of Peter Siddle, who looked comfortably Australia's most dangerous bowler on seaming pitches when belatedly chosen for the dead Oval Test, while critiques of the tourists' batsmanship in the prevailing conditions have largely concluded that greater grit had to be shown.

In contrast to Marsh, England's captain Alastair Cook said his side knew from the moment they defeated Australia in the first Test that they were capable of winning the Ashes. It was a belief that did not waver even after the Lord's drubbing, for they had seen how Michael Clarke's team could struggle in even moderately helpful conditions for James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

"Australia came as firm favourites, but as a player and as a team you need to have a bit of substance in your belief," Cook said as part of the same panel. "You turn up to Cardiff and you look at the Australians and like we always do we probably build up the opposition in our own minds a bit. "Australia beat West Indies more convincingly than we did, they had an outstanding run of games. In my mind I thought we could win if we played to our absolute potential.

"When we left Cardiff we knew these guys were beatable, and that was the big difference. We'd done it once, it was just whether we could do it consistently. But I know we could win the Ashes because we'd just beaten them, and we could put Australia under pressure in our conditions.

"Everyone looked at each other at the end of that game, we had a few drinks in the dressing room at Cardiff, and that was the most important message I could get across to the guys. We've proven we can do it once, if you can do it once you can do it three times. They clearly ignored everything I said and we got hammered at Lord's three days later, but at the end of the summer we proved it."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Simrat on September 4, 2015, 12:30 GMT

    sounds like what bane told to the dark knight...."i broke you how did you came back". cricinfo plz publish

  • kieran on September 4, 2015, 10:02 GMT

    @Beertjie, I hate to say it, but I think the oft abused platitude "we didn't execute our skills" was the major factor in the loss. It's too easy to say, as many have, that they failed to plan or were just arrogant. Both Lehmann & McDermott have a lot of experience in England, it's naive to suggest they don't know which lengths to bowl, or how a batsman needs to play (that line of thinking also suggests Rogers wouldn't be passing on his knowledge). The quicks did spray it around, the worst mistake was to go with Starc & Johnson, two guys who frequently lose their radar. Hazelwood was in the team because repeatedly hitting that full length is his strength, and he was uncharacteristically inconsistent. I don't think Australia are obsessed with pace (neither Hazelwood or Siddle is "fast"), no more so than England who speak glowingly of Wood bowling 90mph.

  • Ragavendran on September 4, 2015, 9:31 GMT

    @All: The Australian bowling was not the problem behind the Ashes defeat. The batting failed twice in the first innings of 3rd and 4th tests. Not sure what Peter Siddle could have done to prevent it. Had the batsmen put on 250-300 runs on board, Hazlewood and co. would have done a much better job.

  • Mashuq on September 4, 2015, 8:30 GMT

    @HATSFORBATS, You are correct in pinpointing Clarke's decision to bat first at Edgbaston as a key mistake, but this was compounded by his own batting failures. They expected too much from Voges (he would reproduce Rogers' consistency) but coming in after Clarke had failed was always going to be tough on a newbie. This was Boof's second Ashes tour, yet he couldn't spot the differences between the kind of challenges posed by the English pace bowlers and his own lot in seam-friendly conditions. McDermott has a lot to answer for, too. It really was a case as you so well put it of doubly damning your cause "when your selectors fail their duties, the middle order fails to fire, and the quicks spray the ball around when consistency is required." Certainly "a poorly planned and executed tour" but I am not so sure now that the lessons will be learned especially if everyone remains in a state of denial. Start by giving England due credit and don't get carried away by sheer pace in all conditions

  • Jay on September 3, 2015, 16:32 GMT

    I am sorry if you find it irrelevant but does anyone know if Haddin found out what the fuss was about?

  • Gregory on September 3, 2015, 12:18 GMT

    @hatsforbats - yes, agree. While Aus certainly have their problems (serious lack of talented young batsmen at the moment!), Eng have their share as well. Lots of talk about Eng's "young" side. Well, there can be a difference between a "young" side, and a "good young" side. Root, Stokes, Broad - all excellent. Apart from that, potential problems everywhere. Cook almost certainly past his best; Bell probably almost finished; Anderson probably won't play in the next Ashes; Lyth a disaster; Moeen Ali an extremely useful player, but sooner or later Eng will realise they need a better spinner (and he's not quite test quality with the bat); Bairstow, Finn, Wood - the jury's still out (I remain unconvinced that Finn is not still the talented but inconsistent phenomenon we know and love...; and Wood has to get his body right). Very difficult to replace guys like Cook, Bell and Anderson in a hurry. S. Africa will be a big test.

  • Dennis on September 3, 2015, 12:10 GMT

    Logically England should get better with an young side gaining experience as the days go by. However, the only youngsters whom I believe are going to be are Root, Stokes, Butler and Ali provided England treat Ali as a proper batsman with bowling options. I don't think England are going to put much faith in Bairstow or Cook's partner. From the batting perspective Root and to some extent Ali are consistent. Can't say the same with Stokes and Butler. Stokes can perform well in a series, however, they might be either in Batting or Bowling departments. There are very few games where he comes up trumps in both. Butler is very consistent in failure at the moment and is difficult to see how he improves playing against spin. With all this promise, the OZ squad with few new players in 2019 looks much better than England to win the Ashes.

  • Tom on September 3, 2015, 10:59 GMT

    I think this is about as close to an apology as anyone is likely to get from Rod Marsh. Darren Lehmann's "learning curve" apparently also did not extend to thinking Cardiff was anything more than a "minor hiccup". Add in continuous whinging about the pitches and you have a side that underestimated their opposition and were slow to recognise their own shortcomings.

  • kieran on September 3, 2015, 9:11 GMT

    @Landl47, a bit presumptuous to declare the "young England side...will only get better" don't you think? Lock in Cook, Root, Stokes, & Broad for the next 3+ years, the rest of the side is far from settled. England were the better side in this series (though very average in two tests), but they have a tough schedule ahead; this England side could just as easily get worse.

  • Ray on September 3, 2015, 7:13 GMT

    @On September 3, 2015, 6:10 GMT: "Is being confident bad?" No, but the way that you express it can be. Irrespective of whether ".. on current form" is appended to the end of the sentence or not" "Eng (won't) come close to us" is arrogant, and if you make statements like that, then you had better be able to back them up on the field: The Aussie side of the early 2000s (especially Hayden) were full of this sort of stuff. Fans of other nations may not have liked it, but the results spoke for themselves. Unfortunately - from an Australian perspective - this current side's "confidence" was misplaced; they are not that good. You reap what you sow.

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