Monday, 26 August 2013

An Ashes battle won on the pitch and in the mind

I suspect that when we think back to the Ashes series of 2013 it won’t be with the fondness reserved for the to and fro of 2009 or the sheer Hollywood drama that was 2005.

The Australian fightback was brave yes but when you are beaten and beaten well in the first two tests its almost academic. We should know, English cricket teams fought for 18 years when the Ashes were gone or almost gone!

But 3-0 is 3-0 and while some experts say England did not deserve 4-0 they were within a light meter
reading of notching it up.

Truth be told England have not been brilliant, neither have Australia, but when it came to it, England delivered big time, Australia didn’t.

As a veteran Ashes watcher (ok I am 31 but god England let me down a lot when I was a young pup) what has been interesting is the sentence above – England won the big moments.

Before 2005, England had Australia down but just when the final push for victory began, Warne,
Waugh, Ponting, McGrath or someone else popped up and denied England.

That does not happen now, Australia have competed hard in this series, but when the final push began, they floundered at the hands of Anderson, Broad, Swann and Bell.

At Trent Bridge, the Australians took a lead in the first innings and had England on the ropes, enter Ian Bell with a hundred. In the chase, every time Australia looked to be on the way to victory they lost wickets.

At Lords, they bowled England out for much less than the ‘experts’ said was par, but were rolled for 128 themselves. Even when they reduced England to 30 for 3 the lead was still 263, it was a target they never looked like chasing.

Rain ruined their chances at Old Trafford but in Durham the Aussies were 168 for 2 and looking comfy chasing 299 for victory.

But when the winning post beckoned them, again Australia tripped themselves up and Stuart Broad took six for 20 in 45 balls to seal a stunning win.

I suspect Michael Clarke wanted to set England 250 at the Oval but again Cook’s bowlers chipped away in what was a second innings slog meaning the Aussie skipper had no choice but to offer 227 in 44 overs, rather generous..

What will happen Down Under? I suspect England will play better on quicker pitches but if Australia can go back to the old days and win the big moments it won’t be the cake-walk many expect.

As it stands though, many English cricket fans my age had not seen England win the Ashes in their lifetime, now we are celebrating a fourth win in five series.

Keep it up lads!

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