It is difficult to beat the other lot when they bat, bowl and field better than you. It’s even worse when they cherish and enjoy the contest and your lot turn up looking like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
England comprehensively punished Australia and deserved their victory. They played better than form suggested and Australia – who are still a better team than England for now – were poor and repeated two glaring mistakes of past England tours. They bowled too short and too wide for too long, expecting their quicks to blast people out as they do in Brisbane and Perth, and their batsmen went hard at the ball instead of playing later as the swinging conditions require.
Australia has a problem with slow pitches; they lost seven Test matches in India and England in 2013, and the following year they lost at Port Elizabeth in South Africa and twice in the Gulf against Pakistan. Now they’ve been utterly embarrassed in Wales. Has Australia recognised this weakness or ignored it?
Few expected Australia could chase down the 411 set by England but with two days to play (the fifth with rain predicted), many more expected a demonstration of resilience. Perhaps a decent fight that might take them close, to at least 300, and if inclement weather arrived – as it did today in Cardiff – then a draw was possible. But they rolled over and died.
At one for 97 going into the last over before lunch, there were clear nerves and anxiety beginning to show throughout England. The huge wicket of Warner on the last ball before the break eased the tension and triggered a force majuere.
Within 5 overs the Aussies were 5/106. When Watson departed, perhaps for the last time ever in a Test match, Australia had lost all of their batsmen and were 7/151. It was a disgrace and none of the Australian batsmen took responsibility to resist the superior fight and attitude England brought to the contest.
Shane Watson’s body language summed up Australia’s approach. He looked encumbered by the world’s problems and trudged about sporting an agonised grimace apparently loathing the task of having to play cricket. Watson was picked because of his superior bowling when compared to Mitch Marsh but when Clarke called on him to bowl in the vital second innings, he failed to lead by example or make an impact. His Test career looks over. Brad Haddin’s keeping (and batting) will also concern Australia.
Although their bowling was erratic on day one Australia actually bowled well in the second innings. Starc was in agony with an ankle injury but steamed in and bowled 145km regularly. He was accused by Shane Warne and others of lacking heart when he left the field on a hot day in Brisbane last summer against India. It seemed this was in the back of his mind and his contribution was admirable. But the damage done is likely to exclude him from the second Test at Lords. Another huge loss for Australia.
Suddenly the two men who England’s batters will have studied the most – Starc and Ryan Harris – aren’t playing and Australia will have to go to Peter Siddle. Pat Cummins is the other man on tour but talented as he may be, Cummins is likely to bang it in shorter than any other. The concern with Siddle is that he’s a bit similar to Hazlewood. At least Johnson is still fit. He bowled very well without luck in Cardiff and Cricket Forth predicts that he will lift on the slope in London.
There’s a direct correlation between Johnson’s form with the bat and him taking wickets and he scored more (77) than Rogers, Smith, Clarke, Voges, Watson and Haddin combined in Australia’s second innings capitulation. With Australia’s bowling seemingly getting weaker the batting will become all the more important.
Let’s get back to discussing England though
The ICC needs to take action against the ECB because there are clearly different rules for Jimmy Anderson; why is he allowed to use a taped up tennis ball and swing it 2 metres? This guy is a legitimate superstar and must be nearing par with other great swingers like Wasim Akram (and your best mate’s parents, didn’t you know?). The Aussies haven’t got a clue. He was backed up well by Stuart Broad who was quick, extracted bounce where others could not and built the pressure that provided the lesser Moeen Ali and Mark Wood with wickets.
Wood is a great find. He has not taken a backwards step against Australia in his third Test and looks a great character and competitor. Ian Bell played himself back into form in the second innings and Ben Stokes has showed Shane Watson what an all-rounder looks like.
The series is not over yet though. Now let’s get some sleep before the second Test.