On The Path To a White Wash

Friends, are we going to witness another whitewash again? If you are thinking about the India – SA ODI series, I personally think, we don’t need another article to predict that!

The focus for this week is the Ashes. England have lost the first two games, one of which, was on a very placid pitch. The next one is at Perth, where  England have not won a match since 1978. That leaves only the other two venues Melbourne and Sydney.  Venues apart, taking a serious look at what really went wrong for the English, one must say it is more at the mental level than the skills.

 The English seem to have played both the games with more of a defensive mind set. The early loss of Cook in 3 of the 4 innings did not help their cause.  Loss of a reliable number 3, Jonathan Trott, to stress and the timing of it, did not help England in the 2nd test. Lack of a solid platform from the top order has shown up in the performance of Kevin Pietersen too. He has not been his aggressive self that we are normally used to. Not sure what the instructions are for him, from the team management, but we can see his natural instincts have been compromised in the interest of ensuring that the team does not lose a wicket. The surprise opener Carberry has been taking a very defensive approach to begin with, which is understandable as it may be the pressure of the first Ashes Tour. His strike rate on this tour, so far is a reflection of the same. With one opener who allows the opposition to dominate him because of his defensive mind set and the other not consistently performing and  two one drop batsmen in 2 tests have not helped the English cause on the tour so far. Joe Root seems to belong there as, within the limited time out there at Number 3, as he is does not seem to be ruffled with both the physical and verbal barrage and carries a smile always. Given the nature of the batting order, the most consistent and confident batsman amongst the English is not preceding KP, but in fact succeeding him. The only batsmen who seems to be in the zone and also comfortable being there is Ian Bell. He is carrying forward his consistency from earlier on in the English summer. The failure of Prior and the lower order to counter the pace of Mitchel Johnson did not help either.

That brings us to the other side of the coin, which is the bowling. Between the two teams, nothing much has changed between the English summer and this one. But the English have been over working their trusted bowlers Anderson and Swann,  to the extent that they have bowled more overs than anyone else in world cricket since 2010-11. That leaves Broad as the only other potential wicket taker. Given his record, nothing spectacular was expected, but his burst of wickets in the Brisbane test is still welcomed . He still has age on his side to catch up with his other team mates. The fourth specialist bowler position has not seen a consistent face in the series so far and seeing a fresh face in contention is a good sign. The 5th bowling spot is being taken by, a can-also-bowl kind of player. This will have a huge impact overall on a long 5 Test series, if there are only 3 main strike bowlers. This is were Australia has a huge advantage. Apart from Siddle, Harris,Lyon and rejuvenated Johnson, they also have Watto, Smith, Clarke to take the load, even if the English batsmen manage to stick around that long at the crease. The perfect mix of intimidation and bowling wicket to wicket by Siddle and Harris is definitely a huge advantage for Johnson.  Johnson has so far been very consistent with his line and length which was the weakest link for most part of his career.

This appears to be a pretty balanced Australian side based on the performances so far. They bat pretty deep these days and also most of them score at a much faster rate, which helps in adding up to the total in a fairly quick time. Apart from Siddle and Lyon everyone in the lower order can swing their willow around to make some useful runs. Their contributions have been the key difference in both the games so far. Australia at this point has no need to change their batting order or bowling options, given the way things are going in those departments. If the English top order continue to play into the hands of the Australian bowling and their lower order does not contribute, I am sure, we are all looking at another whitewash.

– Saikumar Singaraju [Sai leads the efforts of our expedition team in the Cricket Galaxy . Join him on twitter here.]

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