England win a timely reminder for Australia

England’s 2-1 series win over India last Monday was one of its best achievements in years and a timely reminder for Australia heading towards next year’s Ashes contests. It was a performance as surprising as it was noteworthy.

India is certainly no world power, but, on its own patch and given the paranoia England’s batsmen often have about spin bowling, it was some comeback after the thrashing it received in the first Test at Ahmedabad.

Alistair Cook deserves huge praise. He had big shoes to fill when Andrew Strauss called stumps on the captaincy back in August, but he’s come through his first full-time assignment with flying colours. He had a lot of help, and the coaching staff and selectors keep making good decisions.

England’s woes during the first Test were encapsulated by the chaotic approach of Kevin Pietersen. It was bad enough that the prodigal son had to be eased back into the fold after his indiscretions of the English summer, but the charismatic South African seemed to be totally confused about how to play spin on turning wickets.

His brilliant 182 in the next Test, the selection of Monty Panesar and the continued run scoring achievements of Cook turned things around. What looked a hopeless cause for the English and a possible 0-4 whitewash became a triumph of monumental proportion, and in the process India’s cracks were laid bare.

While all this was going on Australia was holding its own nicely against South Africa. Michael Clarke was continuing to lead brilliantly from the front, our pace attack was posing questions of some of the Proteas’ big-name batsmen and our opening combination was rotating centuries. But then came the disappointment of the final afternoon in Adelaide followed by the humiliation of Perth.

The reality is that there isn’t a great deal between the top three Test nations of the world provided Australia gets its selection and preparation issues right. South Africa and England have been doing that for some time, while we are either desperately unlucky or too often prone to a bad decision.

One of the interesting comparisons between next year’s Ashes protagonists is the quality of young batsmen coming through. Phil Hughes is certainly capable of fulfilling expectations for us, but it can’t be said that the likes of Usman Khawaja inspire a great deal of confidence about our long-term batting prospects.

On the other hand England have discovered a couple of crackers in Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. Root showed incredible temperament under pressure to bat for 229 balls for his 72 on debut, and Bairstow is a real ball-striking talent. And they are both young men in their very early twenties.

South Africa’s batting depth brought England to its knees back in August and it did the same to Australia in Perth. James Anderson has come out the other side for England while Peter Siddle has done likewise for us. The key next year may well be which of the next tier of bowlers is fit and ready when the action starts in July.

If Australia is to regain the urn next September we need to be making all the right decisions between now and then. We can’t have another selection situation like Perth, and we need Nathan Lyon to help out when most needed. Mitchell Starc could well be the difference between winning and losing, while England’s pace attack isn’t what it was last time around.

But whoever we put on the park we know one thing is for sure: gone are the days when England was a rudderless rabble with no heart.

It is now a well-organised unit that knows how to win under adversity. It will provide a stern challenge on its own turf, one that true cricket fans have been looking forward to for a long time.


  1. Good article. That turnaround was stunning. Thrashed in the first Test, and then to come back like they did. Wow. Australia will have its work cut out come the winter

  2. Yes, England will be a mighty challenge for us, but first off we go to India. How will we fare? Lots of Q’s re both sides. How long can India carry Tendulkar, and to a lesser degree Sehwag? Will Lyon be our number one spinner? His previous appearance in that neck of the woods, in his debut series V Sri Lanka, he bowled well. What does India hold for him in 2013, and who are our other spin options? Which pacemen will be fit, and avaialble to bowl in this series? All up it will be an intriguing contest. Look forward to it.


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