Three test matches prior to the biggest test match of the year coming up in that hallowed cricket ground called MCG, I had predicted a 2-1 series win for the Aussies. At a time when everyone was confident England would continue their Ashes dominance of the last tour, I thought I was going out on a limb. We are half-way into this series and Australia have exceeded the dreams of even their most optimistic followers. England has been ripped apart like a deer hunted down by a pack of wolves. Many would say I am being too generous towards England. Such has been the ferocity that has been unleashed by Mitchell Johnson and company.
It all started with Mitchell Johnson in Brisbane where he had the English dancing to his tunes so well that one thought they were auditioning for a sequel of Grease. Soon, Johnson was joined in his hunt by other members of his pack – as is often the case when a easy prey is sighted. The hunt then took such gory and macabre a turn, that one would advise the weak-hearted and pregnant women and little children from staying away even from the highlight reel. The Australian batsmen piled on the runs, with David Warner making multiple hundreds, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith and Brad Haddin making important tons and Watson, Rogers and Bailey chipping in with critical contributions.
The bowlers have rallied similarly behind Mitchell Johnson, who should already be a shoo-in for the Man of the Series award. In the initial stages of the match in Perth and the final stages of the Adelaide match, it did look like the English batsmen had found an answer to the Johnson barrage. However Ryan Harris and my pre-tournament pick for the bowler of the series, Peter Siddle made sure the English batsmen don’t get too comfortable in the land Down Under. Towards the end of the match Johnson, who probably got bored with the trivial task of dismissing England’s best, got back to doing what he has been doing so well all this series – sending those Pommies back to the pavilion.
As comprehensive and complete as Australia’s attack was, England’s capitulation and surrender was absolutely meek. Thanks to Graeme Swann and his grandmother [no, this is not a joke like Boycott’s mum! this is real!], we know there are big issues that the English Cricket has to address. At some point on this tour they transformed into the Indian team of 90s or Pakistan team of, well anytime other than when Imran Khan was in charge. The only good thing that can come out of this is that English Cricket – their batting in particular will have more flair.
Jonathan Trott has taken a break of absence, to put it gently. Grame Swann has bid adieu for good. Most ex-players from England want Kevin Pietersen out of of the team. The rest of them want Andy Flower out. You can see how it would be tough for even the most optimistic of people to see a light at the end of this tunnel and not see a bullet train from Japan bearing down on Alastair Cook and his men. The other Cricket experts at Cricket Galaxy have pronounced the worst for the England team – a 5-0 white wash.I always revel in taking the road less travelled and want to see a way out for the English cricket team. So, what is the silver lining for this English Team?
The biggest thing the English have got going for themselves is that precious and mysterious commodity called Pressure. The pressure is on the Aussies and the new-faces in the England team need to look at how Ben Stokes stood up to the opposition in that brilliant knock of his in the final innings in Perth. Across the oceans, they can look at how the Indian Team has stood up to a team that was supposed to wiped them out in 4 days. This is where senior players like Cook, Pietersen and Broad will have to deliver. It is absolutely mandatory they deliver so that the young troops can rally around them. Cook will have to get out of his comfort zone and put pedal to metal – both as batsman as well as a captain. If there is one kind of batsman the Aussie bowlers love it is the kind of player who sits back and plays defence. Check Sachin Tendulkar’s and Brian Lara’s average in Australia. Then repeat that for Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis.
Same goes for Broad and Anderson. As much as the outside the off stump line is testing, if you do not get in-line with the stumps and attack the batsman, they will eventually settle down and come after you. England need to make the Aussies play more balls early on in the innings. They definitely need to mix up their lengths on a more straighter line and not let the batsman settle down. Monty Panesar and Tim Bresnan need to bring in some much needed energy that this deflated English team needs. I am going to bank on the English team to get their act together and use pressure to their advantage.
Prediction: English team to put up a much better showing and get one across the Aussies.