England on course to achieve unique treble

Last Updated: Thu, Jul 12, 2012 13:33 hrs

As one who has admired the indomitable Aussie never say die attitude for years I have been sorely disappointed by their lack of fighting spirit of late. The phrase "no match is lost till it is won" is so true of the Aussies but in the last couple of years even as they have fallen off the pedestal a strange lack of fighting qualities has been palpable.

Losing three Tests by an innings in the Ashes series at home in 2010-11 – something that has never happened – was bad enough even as they had slid to No 4 in the Test rankings. In ODIs however they were still ranked no 1 as they took on England in the just concluded series and yet lost the five-match series 4-0 with one game abandoned.

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Had rain not washed out the game at Edgbaston it is quite conceivable to believe that it would have been a 5-0 rout whereupon England would have taken over at the top of the rankings. So it is with a great deal of good fortune that Australia are still clinging on to that No 1 spot but the way they have been faring of late it surely is only a matter of time before they slid down the order here too.

Never has Australia been outplayed in an ODI series as they were this month. Indeed it is the heaviest defeat suffered by Australia in any bilateral series in the 41-year history of limited overs internationals. They were strangely submissive and that is not a quality that Australia are associated with.

Generally even when they lose they go down with their guns blazing with a couple of heroic shows by their players. There was hardly a crumb of comfort this time around. They lost all games by margins that brooked no argument, were outplayed in all departments of the game and there were no redeeming features worth remembering. This was a colourless Aussie unit, lacking in direction and purpose and bowing to the inevitable all too tamely.

Just one fact will underline the manner in which Australia were hopelessly outclassed – England’s No 7 batsman was not called upon to bat in a single match. And if they had injury problems which meant that they could field a settled playing eleven, England too were without Graeme Swann for the last two matches. Any way one looks at the result it was nothing but meek surrender and that’s another phrase that is not normally associated with the Aussies.

It must have been particularly galling for Michael Clarke as he had to endure his first series loss as skipper. He seemed to be the man to lead Australia back to the golden days. An ebullient, charismatic player Clarke the natural successor to Ricky Ponting seemed to be on the right path when he led his team to a 4-0 clean sweep over India in the Test series at home last season.

But it is now clear that while India are on the downslide, England’s fortunes are on the upswing. That is another way of looking at how the series was won and lost. England are No 1 in the ICC rankings in both Tests and T20 and the confident manner in which they are performing these days it does seem only a matter of time before they make it a unique treble at the top.

England had a dream series. They proved that a side could do well in ODIs with basically a Test team, with players who are solid rather than spectacular. Their planning was methodical and it is difficult to say which came out better, the batting or the bowling. Perhaps it will be accurate to say that both departments performed admirably.

All their five main batsmen were among the runs and there was a certain method in their approach that was admirable. Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell laid a solid platform for the stroke players Eoin Morgan, Craig Kieswetter and Ravi Bopara to take charge midway through and at the end of the innings.

The four man pace attack of Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Steve Finn gave the Aussie batsmen no respite with their accuracy and movement off the seam so much so that Graeme Swann had a minor role to play in the two matches that he figured in.

The Australians depended too much on Shane Watson and David Warner at the top of the order but with the English seam attack bottling them up or dismissing them quickly they never really got the start they required particularly in the wake of a weak middle order in which Clarke was the only player with class and experience.

The fact that the Aussies could only notch up five half centuries in the four matches (as compared to eight on the England side) tells its own sorry tale. Like the batting the bowling too didn’t have a settled look and again the fact that Clint McKay with five scalps was the leading wicket taker underlines the inability of the bowling to make any sort of impact.

There is an urgent need to regroup and find answers to the problems otherwise it will only be a matter of time before England or South Africa take over at the top.  In the meantime a resurgent England will be confidence personified as they take on South Africa in a high profile series later this month.

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