England win the Ashes with ease, can we do it again down under?
If England’s cricketers are looking to win over new Aussie friends ahead of the Ashes return tour Down under this winter, I think it’s fair to say they are going the wrong way about it.
Reaction to James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Kevin Pietersen apparently relieving themselves on the Oval pitch at midnight after an evening on the lash was a bit over the top and would have surely been shrugged off as the piffling incident it was in isolation.
But it did come at the end of a series in which the visitors have been wound up so tightly by perceived slights and injustices it is a wonder some of them didn’t explode with frustration when Alastair Cook held aloft the precious urn to a background of fireworks and popping champagne corks.
It’s a long list: Broad’s refusal to walk when he was so obviously out; blatant time-wasting in the field; dodgy umpiring decisions and DRS reviews; an arrogant attitude (according to Shane Warne); the Oval crowd booing Michael Clarke, even though such a fantastic final day’s play was instigated by the Aussie captain’s bold declaration after England’s first innings go-slow. And more besides.
What would have stung most, of course, was the margin of the series defeat. Clarke told Michael Atherton at the presentation ceremony that England had outplayed Australia throughout the series, but he said it through gritted teeth.
Three-nil flattered the home side and the Baggy Greens will, I am sure, be bristling at the reaction of sections of the English media who have gloated over the bare result. A photograph pinned up in the dressing room of Sky presenter Charles Colvile and his smug smile will be motivation in itself for the Aussies to come out all guns blazing at Brisbane in November.
Many England fans will, quite understandably, be happy to rub it in after the years of physical and verbal batterings they took from Australia until it all turned around in 2005. And they won’t be at all concerned about a backlash – it’s not like pulling a tiger by the tail, is it? More like a koala bear.
But I’m not so sure. Yes, it was 3-0 and you can’t argue with that, but the Ashes stats also suggest two teams very closely matched. In fact, Australia had four of the top six run-scorers in the series, while paceman Ryan Harris was the most effective bowler on either side with 24 wickets from four games.
It has been pointed out that England won by such a convincing margin despite some of their players not being at their best. The hard, bouncy Australian pitches will see them come good, so the theory goes, especially Cook, who ran riot on the last tour Down Under.
But maybe it would be wise to give more credit to the impressive Aussie bowling unit. Maybe they have worked out Cook, Joe Root, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior. And maybe they will also work out Ian Bell in the return series.
Lots of maybes, but one thing’s for certain: the Australian team are hurting right now and longing for revenge. That might not be enough – in the end it’s what happens on the pitch that counts – but right now I would be more inclined to take Coral’s 13/8 the Aussies winning back the Ashes next winter than even money England retaining them.
Written by Jon Freeman