I’m a bit late with this post, but The Ashes finished the other week, with England winning 3-1. I stayed up all night to watch almost every ball of every match on TV, and to say my sleeping patterns are messed up is a bit of an understatement, but it was worth it to watch a bit of history being made. England totally outclassed the Aussies in every way. The only times it looked close was when one of the Australian players had a rare moment of individual brilliance, such as Siddle’s hat-trick in the First Test, or Johnson’s bowling and Hussey’s batting in the Third Test at Perth, which combined to produce England’s only defeat. England played like a proper team with everybody contributing something, all the batsmen, with the notable exception of Paul Collingwood, got at least one century and, apart from Stuart Broad, who only played in the first two matches due to injury, all the bowlers took more than 10 wickets in the series. England’s fielding was also far superior to Australia’s. Collingwood, in particular, went some way towards making up for his lack of runs with several good catches. The problem Australia had was that if they batted poorly they weren’t able to make up for it in the field and vice-versa, and this was primarily because once England got on top they didn’t let up. Their three victories were all by an innings and all followed a similar formula: They bowled Australia out for a low first innings total, then kept on top by following it up with a big score in their own first innings, gaining a huge first innings lead in the process, they then bowled Australia out a second time for a relatively modest second innings total and won the match, only needing to bat once. Australia had the chance to do this themselves in the First Test, they bowled England out cheaply and batted well to get a 221 run first innings lead, but they weren’t able to win the match because of a combination of their ordinary bowling and superlative batting from England. It was great to watch Australia go from being in a potential match winning situation after the first innings to England declaring on 517/1 just before tea on the final day. It was definitely something that wouldn’t have happened the last time England toured Australia, when their batting line up was much more frail and prone to collapses, and Australia’s attack, with Warne and McGrath, was much more potent. During this series the roles have almost been reversed, Australia’s batting looked frail, and England’s bowling looked much more likely to take wickets than Australia’s. With Swann and Anderson, England even have their own pairing of spinner and seamer which would worry any opposing batting line-up, they are currently rated respectively as the number two and number three bowlers in the world. All right they’re not legends of the game like Warne and McGrath, at least not yet, but they fulfil a similar role for England as those greats did for Australia in the past.
I’ve yet to decide whether I’m going to watch the One-Day series or not, I definitely prefer the longer form of the game, and it’s a long series as well, seven matches (!), which ends in early February. I really should be trying to return to a somewhat normal sleeping schedule. To make matters worse the Cricket World Cup starts soon after as well, and I’ll probably end up watching most of England’s games in that. Luckily the times are a lot friendlier than with the tour of Australia, most of the matches start at either 8:30 or 9:00 GMT, England only have a single group game at the much less friendly 4:00. The first match of the tournament is on February 19th between India and Bangladesh, but England’s first match is a few days later on the 22nd, against the Netherlands. The final is on April 2nd, so if England make it that far, which is a possibility if they play as well as they can, that’s well over a month of watching a cricket match for most of the day. Which should be fun.
Update: Well, I wrote most of this the other day but I didn’t put it up on the site until now. Since then England drew the Twenty/20 series 1-1, and have lost the first match of the ODI series. That loss was pretty much solely due to an extraordinary unbeaten 161 by Shane Watson, so I’m not too worried about England’s chances in the rest of the series. They may have lost but they posted their highest ever one-day total in Australia, and the match was at the MCG, which is one of the biggest grounds in world cricket, so hitting sixes is more difficult than at other venues. They also dropped Paul Collingwood, which was a bit of a shock, but on current form was probably the right decision. England could have done with him in the field though, as a few catches went down, Australia missed several stumpings too, so both teams made some fielding errors that may have changed the outcome of the game. It’s probably a good thing that Australia have won the first game, had they lost I think they may have started making changes as they did in the Tests, and they would have been very low on confidence too, and hence probably wouldn’t have given England much trouble. It’s good for England’s preparation for the World Cup if Australia provide a strong challenge.