What a stunning England Ashes win – it will go down as one of the great performances in a contest which stretches back to 1882. England confounded the critics, England confounded the Aussies who were talking of another 5-0 whitewash, and, although they would never admit it, they possibly confounded themselves. Eventmasters were delighted to provide official Trent Bridge hospitality packages for this historic Ashes Test match.
In the run up the home country had drawn Tests against New Zealand and West Indies 1-1; sacked and replaced their coach; been in a huge row over the exclusion of Kevin Pietersen, and seen Alastair Cook’s captaincy under severe scrutiny.
To overcome so much and thrash the Baggy Cap brigade must have been so special. There is nothing so satisfying as seeing humiliated Australian sports fans. And at Trent Bridge the 3:1 Test victory, with a game to spare, was achieved without Edgbaston’s talisman Jimmy Anderson. Cook had challenged his team to produce heroes, calling for Herculean efforts which would go down in Ashes legend. Broad, Stokes and Root stepped up to the plate. To knock over Australia on the first morning for just 60 was stupendous.
It was achieved through precision bowling, putting it on the spot, enticing Australians into wayward shots. It was achieved with fantastic catching. For Broad to have figures of 8-15 was hard to comprehend, Mind you, this column questioned at the outset whether the Australians could play in English conditions. Could they cope with swing; could they handle movement off the pitch? The emphatic answer was … No.
If commentator and former England opener Geoffrey Boycott said once that Australia’s batsmen were simply unable to work out balls that were seaming he must have said it ten times. OK, it was a great toss to win and Cook put the Aussies in to bat, but they had to do better than 60. Ironic that the only Test England lost was on a flat, slow track at Lords, prepared supposedly to negate the Australian fast bowlers … and their batsmen battered us. Both at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge there was a bit in it for the bowlers yet open to class batsmen to score runs.
We saw Root at Trent Bridge make the bowling almost look easy. A sad farewell then to soon-to-retire Australian captain Michael Clarke. He was magnanimous in defeat. “Alastair Cook and the England team deserve a lot of credit – they’ve shown us how to execute good swing and seam bowling,” said Clarke. “It’s not for want of trying but the boys have been beaten by a better side.
“England when they’ve had momentum have grabbed it with both hands and ran with it. Once you find the edge you need to hang on to those chances and England have done that really well.” Clarke made his Test debut in October 2004 and he has played 114 matches, scoring 8,628 runs at an average of 49.30. That is up there with the best.
Anything around the 50 mark and you can hold your head up high. That average is in fact the 50th highest in all time Test statistics. The phenomenon Don Bradman is out on his own with 99.94, surely never to be beaten. There are a few on the 60 mark – Graeme Pollock, South Africa, George Headley, West Indies, and Herbert Sutcliffe, England. Then a host of names in the 50s including the likes of Lara, Steve Waugh, Ponting, Tendulkar, and, of today’s Ashes competitors Root and Steve Smith.
In last year’s Australia whitewash of England Clarke scored two centuries. He can stand tall. So it is onto the Kia Oval starting Thursday August 20, a well-deserved breathing space for England and a chance for Australia to re-group. Have the Aussies got enough heart left to respond? Will England perhaps if only psychologically take their foot off the gas? England can still improve. Some will say we need another opener, given Adam Lyth’s struggles.
Others point to Moeen Ali, claiming that, despite his feats of runs from No 8, he has much to do to reach the Graeme Swann level in the art of spin bowling. Should leggie Adil Rashid be given a go? I can’t see it. England would be mad to tinker with their line-up at this stage, casting aside members of an Ashes winning side.
What message would that send about loyalty? Only if you felt the Kia Oval was going to be a spinner’s paradise and hence imperative to play Ali and Rashid might you change the eleven. There is no such thing as a ‘dead’ rubber between England and Australia. Everyone who loves cricket will still be mesmerised. Come on England!
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