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The Ashes 2013-14

December 10, 2013

This Australia, that England

Matt Davies

Man-for-man, the current Australian team is quite similar to England's 2005 Ashes side © Getty Images

So Australia have a solid opening partnership of two left-handers, one of them more aggressive in his play than the other. They have only one arguably world-class batsman who also doubles as an inventive captain. There is a batsman who has made his name with some great one-day innings, a sometimes unstoppable, big, blond allrounder. A pugnacious keeper is present, a reliable but unspectacular spinner, a work horse of a seamer, a fantastic fast bowler who can be injury-prone and one of the more mercurial pace bowlers the game has seen in recent years, but with the capacity for brilliant hostility. They play with controlled aggression and seemingly no fear, with some good bowling plans, against a team with pedigree and class who have dominated for a while. Does that sound familiar? If it does, you may be thinking of one particular team from 2005. A team that wasn't Australia.

This Australia team reminds me of England's Ashes-winning team of 2005. In Mitchell Johnson they have someone capable of unsettling England's batsmen just as Steve Harmison did at Lord's eight years ago. The blood that Johnson has drawn may be more metaphorical than literal (though we haven't seen what he can do at Perth yet), but it has been no less effective. The bowlers, also, as a unit, have worked excellently to plans to both dry up the runs and take wickets of class batsmen, as has been demonstrated by their bowling as a unit to Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, which has been just as good as Andrew Flintoff's around the wicket attack against Adam Gilchrist. Michael Clarke has also supported his bowlers excellently with some unorthodox fields and well-timed bowling changes, reminiscent of Michael Vaughan's much lauded captaincy in 2005, though unlike Vaughan he is unarguably a world-class batsman and has shown it, whereas his spiritual predecessor was not at his best, bar Old Trafford, in 2005.

So there are some comparisons to be made here, especially in the way Australia have been playing the game in this series, in terms of their attitude. They have a confidence that belies their recent history against their opposition, and a level of aggression that seems to be creeping under the skin of their opponents. While I doubt that Cook will storm off the field in Melbourne giving a foul-mouthed rant to anyone who will listen about substitute fielders (although it's fun to imagine that from Cook), England do seem rattled just by the sheer force that Australia are directing their way. This is not like South Africa's defeat of England where they were clinically ground into submission by an undeniably better team, this has been the cricketing equivalent of the Powell Doctrine - a use of overwhelming strikes executed with maximum speed, which is exemplified by David Warner and Johnson, as well as Clarke's overnight declaration in Adelaide. It is not beyond the realms of thought that England would have batted on into that fourth morning, yet Clarke knew he had enough, and knew he had the artillery.

Of course, the results after two Tests don't quite resemble 2005. England were crushed at Lord's and only narrowly won at Edgbaston, so is it really that similar a situation? Well, there are some differences. The 2005 Australia team had been a real No. 1 side, without question, whereas the current England team's stay at the top was short-lived. Also, no matter how good you consider James Anderson to be (and he is good), he is no Glenn McGrath - the destroyer at Lords - and Graeme Swann, even at his best (which we've not seen for quite some time now), will never replicate the sheer unstoppable force that was Shane Warne. Also, England were fighting against more history than Australia are now - Australia can look back more fondly on more recent times than the 18 years of hurt that England had to overcome. Australia also seemed to show far more fight and grit in that series, perhaps because of the confidence accrued over those 18 years, while England's recent Test series have not always gone to plan (Pakistan in the UAE, South Africa at home).

So there are quite a few similarities to the make-up of the teams and the way they are playing, but the circumstances in which this series is being played is far different. This is why I, an England fan, can't even anticipate a whitewash the other way next time around. In fact, unless something changes in the England camp and they start playing with the same brazen attitude of the Australians, it could be another Australian period of dominance that is established by this series.

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Posted by   on (December 13, 2013, 0:40 GMT)

I think you're clutching at straws a lil bit trying to compare the current Aussie team to the England 05 side. IMO, The only real similarity between the two sides is the aggressive approach to batting. In 05, England understood they were up against a formidable bowling line up who with the likes of Warne and McGrath was almost certainly going to taking plenty of wickets. In response, England took up a much more proactive approach and take on the bowlers to up the average run rate. there is no better example of this in action than Englands 400+ on day one of the Edgbaston test.

Australia have sort to do the same this series, particularly taking on Swann. With them being 2-0 in the series, it is a tactic that has worked incredibly well for them thus far.

Posted by   on (December 13, 2013, 0:00 GMT)

England won 2 test matches in 2005, cooincidentally they were the 2 test matches McGrath didn't play. Although, I'd suggest it wasn't actually a cooincidence!

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (December 11, 2013, 7:06 GMT)

@Favell I sure hope noone in the English side has had their finest hour in this series yet, otherwise we'll probably only have about 9 days of cricket left to watch.

Posted by replyramdas on (December 11, 2013, 6:08 GMT)

As a Indian, I can enjoy this rivalry thoroughly...First time in my life I am supporting Australia :)

Posted by Favell on (December 11, 2013, 2:52 GMT)

Thank you for a thoughtful and intelligent piece Matt, but there is great hope in Root and longevity in Bell, Broad, and Cook is still to have his finest hour in this series. As an Aussie, I am pleased to see the scales tipping back our way, but I am wary of the future. Our young bowlers are still breaking down, the up and coming batsmen have stopped coming and, man for man, Australia have the older side. Frankly, I'd rather the aggression without the mouth; there have been some ugly scenes out there and the copy-cat kids start at a very young age these days. To be sure, the Aussies have the upperhand but beware the wounded Lion. If this series turns out to be a dominant one for the Aussies I wouldn't put my house on it lasting.

Posted by kepler22b on (December 11, 2013, 1:23 GMT)

Matt, wow! Don't give up hope just yet. As an Aussie, I for one am not assuming 'total victory' until this test is over. Cook is too good a player to keep getting out. Anderson will be better in Perth. Carbery, Bell, Root and Broad have played well.

We still have batting problems and have had the rub of the green with English fielding mistakes. The clear difference has been the bowlers. Perth has historically been bad for you but Melbourne and Sydney should see you restore some pride (although I welcome the chance of a 5-0 drubbing)

Posted by   on (December 10, 2013, 23:26 GMT)

No, the current Australian team is better than the England team of 2005. They have restricted England under 200 3 times in the last 2 matches. Its a shame

Posted by   on (December 10, 2013, 23:09 GMT)

A really interesting comparison. It does show just how much the chemistry of a side can elevate a good side to a better one. Vaughan's boys weren't amazing, but they made up to more than the sum of their parts, as are the Aussies right now, and as have the Kiwis for a long time now.

Posted by ShutTheGate on (December 10, 2013, 22:22 GMT)

Big call Matt, As an Aussie fan I hope that you're right.

Even if Australia win this series I think they will struggle to regain them when the your England next. My reasoning for this is that we have many ageing players and while I think we have the bowling depth our batting depth is a concern.

Posted by chitti_cricket on (December 10, 2013, 19:59 GMT)

Agree with this writer, we may see another Aussie dominance in future with Mitchel Stark and co also in fringes this team looks to have enough fire power as old Aussie teams. Only their batting looks to me to not have such great names as Pontings, Gilchrists and More Waugh Brothers on top of solid openers like Taylers, Haydens, Langers, Slatters etc. If they develop current lot into them then Australia is world beaters again and no team in world looks even closer to them in that case. This England team did not truly develop the backup players and they in recent 5 years lost great players like Strauss, Colingwood, Vaughan and good bowlers like Harmison etc.

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Series/Tournaments: England tour of Australia | The Ashes
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