Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ashes fever

Is it that England are really very good, or that Australia are really appallingly bad?  Between October 1988 and November 2010, Australia lost only three Test matches by an innings.  Barring meteorological miracles, by some time tomorrow they will have lost three more in the space of six weeks.  We're seeing something remarkable here.  With the exception of Perth, on which subject more in a minute, England haven't just been the better side, they've been overwhelmingly better.  Specifically, Eng;and have been streets ahead in three areas - top order batting, swing bowling, and spin.  Win the battle of the new ball and you're a long way towards winning the game.

Australia have been woeful in this series - the only top order batsman that looks like making runs has the worst conversion rate of fifties to hundreds of any Australian batsman ever, plus an attitude towards running that's reminiscent of the great Sir Geoffrey himself.  Ponting was dire, out of touch with bat and in the field, Clarke has been gunshy and stiff, Hughes isn't a Test match batsman, Smith is batting too high at 7 (and since he was only brought on to bowl in the 102nd over, you do rather question what he's doing in the side at all) and Khawaja, though a good prospect, made two pretty 20s and 30s and then got himself out.  Only Hussey has looked good this series, and he's knocking on 35.

But this shouldn't detract from England's performance here.  Len Hutton famously said that in order to beat Australia at home, you need to perform 25% better than them.  England have managed that and to spare.  Almost every doubt expressed prior to the series (would Cook be able to cope with the bounce, would Anderson be able to bowl with a Kookaburra ball, would Swann be able to make an impact) have not just been countered, but stomped on.  Cook has scored more runs in this series than any Englishman since Wally Hammond, Anderson has taken more wickets than any Englishman since Frank Tyson, Swann bowled England to victory at Adelaide just in time to beat the rain.  The only weak link in the side has been Collingwood - who has now nobly done the right thing.

A good way of measuring dominance in a series is to make up a composite team.  In the 2010/1 Ashes series, you get 10 Englishmen and only one Australian, Hussey.  The only difficulty in choosing the team is in deciding between Finn and Tremlett. Roll on India


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