Not many teams in the history of cricket have to come to Australia with the tag of favorite to win a test series. The English led by Alistair Cook were overwhelming favorites to win the Ashes down under. What followed after the first ball was bowled on a spicy Gabba wicket was absolute carnage that not even the most ardent Aussie supporter would have imagined. Here are the 5 reasons why Australia managed to regain the urn and 5 reasons why England spectacularly lost it.
Why Australia Won The Series
1) Darren Lehman
Mickey Arthur was unceremoniously sacked 16 days before the Ashes began in England and Australia needed a mentor more than a coach who would take the team ahead and rally around Michael Clarke. They chose Darren Lehmann, the burly South Australian. He had clear vision and surely enough communicated it clearly to the team. He was a down to earth character who would not hesitate to be in the face of the players if something was wrong. The renaissance of the Australian team began in England and the results were there for everyone to notice down under.
2) Mitch and Co
Watching Mitchell Johnson bowl on the batting paradises in India in the ODI series that preceeded the Ashes one felt the change and maturity in his bowling. He was unstoppable in the series and left more than one Englishman scarred. England did not expect such an onslaught from Mitch and to make matters worse for them they did not get any respite from Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle who were onto them at every opportunity. The amazing part of the bowling attack was the accuracy, which prevented England to get away with the game even when the Aussies were not getting any wickets. Nathan Lyon won his duel with Graeme Swann hands down and finally it looked like the Aussies are getting over Shane Warne and the fact that there won’t be another Warne.
3) Brad Haddin
One of the key reasons for the urn to be the Aussie backyard today is this experienced wicket keeper batsman. Averaging over 60 and scoring 493 runs for the entire series he was there in every rescue act for Australia and standing up when it mattered the most. Not just the runs but the way he got them blew the wind of English sails and the English players had no clue as to how to stop him from scoring. His wicket keeping was faultless and something to notice in his game was how he did not appeal for any catch or lbw when he was sure that the batsman was not out and walked every time he knew he was out. A refreshing bit of honesty, especially after the broad gate in England earlier in the season.
4) Craig McDermott
One of the unsung heroes of Australian success. A very good fast bowler of his time, he has proved to be an excellent bowling coach. He seems to have the knack of understanding what length a bowler should be bowling on different wickets and as soon as he noticed something was not going to plan one could notice him standing on the boundary line and having a chat with the bowler and in most cases it was telling the bowler whether he was a yard shorter or fuller. Not surprisingly Australians were the only team that managed to swing the ball unlike their counterparts.
Another key reason for success was that the Australians were able to make enough runs, which they did not manage to do consistently in England. All the batsmen barring George Bailey scored hundreds at some point during the series. Through out the test series one had a feeling that no matter what the conditions were, there was always somebody up for the challenge. Overall Australia managed to score 10 centuries in the entire series compared to one from England, which in itself explains a lot.
Why England lost the series
1) Batting collapse
One of the main reasons for English failure was their inability to play the Aussie pace attack. They just did not manage to find a way to negotiate the bowling and score runs. Whenever they tried to be aggressive they spectacularly imploded. The biggest disappointments from the Englands point of view were Cook, Bell and Pietersen. The main pillars of English batting could not hold fort. Even more disappointing aspect was none of the English big names could score a century. The only centurion was Ben Stokes who played rather brilliantly in Perth.
2) Jonathan Trott
Loss of Jonathan Trott to illness after the first test was a big loss for England. He has occupied the crucial number 3 spot and scored a bucket load of runs. Strategically Ian Bell should have moved to number 3 spot owing to his technique and ability to punish the loose balls. Instead England missed a trick and hoped young Joe Root to succeed at this position, which proved beyond his reach.
3) Bowling Failure
The strong part of this English team is its bowling strength and surprisinglyapart from Stuart Broad the rest of the attack looked toothless. James Anderson cut a tired figure and could only muster only one decent spell in the entire series. Graeme Swann was ruthlessly attacked at every opportunity and Alistair Cook had no one to turn to in the hour of need to have a check on the run scoring. The retirement of Graeme Swann further dented the English psyche. Apart from Stuart Broad who can hold his head high, the English attack lacked the penetration they displayed earlier in the English summer against the same opposition. One of the only silverlinings was the way Ben Stokes bowled and batted and he looks star for the future.
England’s fielding through out the series looked pretty poor compared to the high standards they usually set. They consistently dropped straightforward catches and fluffed run out chances. Even Alistair Cook who rarely drops any catch at slip dropped catches. A below par fielding performance did not help the cause of their bowlers who were already under the pump.
Alistair Cook is a good captain but Michael Clarke is strategically a much better captain. He has won the tactical captaincy battle with Cook. Through out the series one had the feeling that Cook was waiting for things to happen and Clarke was always ahead of the game with unusual field placements. Already in England one had the feeling that Cook likes to play safe which might not always be the best way to play specially if you are aspiring to become the number one team in the world. Shane Warne once famously said “To win a game a cricket one should not be afraid to loose it”. Only time will tell if Cook will change his style.
Australia will make the voyage to African Safari and they can expect a much stiffer test against Steyn and co. Their batting needs to fire to compete. The question of which team has the best bowling attack will be answered at the end of this series.
England on the other hand has a break and there will be inquest about how they lost 5-0. We might just have seen some of their players for the last time in the English whites.