Contrary to all expectations, the Australians dictated terms in the just concluded first Ashes test at the Gabba. England were handed a 381-run defeat with a day to spare. There is no pleasure in being held in continuous media focus on the negative points for long. But the Australians have endured the bad phase with great creditability. The victory of the Aussies in the first test is an emphatic answer to a largely held feeling that Cricket Australia was going downhill.
When Clarke and his men came home after their Ashes tour in English summer, there were all kinds of talk in cricket media about the dismal state of Australian cricket and an unprecedented come-down of the Aussies. But those, who said such things, did not see the whole truth.
Though the 3-0 series result, in favor of England in the Ashes series indicated an Australian whitewash, a closer look at the scores and proceedings reveals a different story. In the first test at Nottingham, during July 10-14, 2013, Australia needed 311 in the fourth innings for victory. When the 9th Australian wicket fell at 231, England had all but won the match. But the defiant Australian last wicket pair threatened to steal an amazing victory from the jaws of defeat. There was raw panic in the English camp as Brad Haddin and James Pattinson seemed to carry on forever. With the score standing at 296/9, just 15 runs short for the victory, Haddin was declared out, caught behind. The appeal was not vociferous and it took multiple TV reviews before the third umpire could reach a decision. Many people thought it was not a catch. Though England won the match by 14 runs, the capabilities of the two teams were evenly matched.
It is true that Australians were completely outplayed Lords’ second test, but they bounced back strongly in the third test at Old Trafford, during August 1-5, 2013. The English bowlers were treated with disdain, as Australians posted 527/7 declared. Then England were dismissed for 368. In the second knock, Australians batted quickly and set a target of 332 runs for England. Overnight rains and delayed start helped England avoid a defeat but Australians had an upper hand as their bowlers took 3 English wickets for 37 in the fourth innings.
In the fourth test Australians led until the better part their second innings with an easily attainable target of 299. They had a solid start and until Clarke fell at 174, they were cruising on course. Unfortunately, the middle order collapse in the next 90 minutes swung the game in England’s favor. Therefore to say that Australians were outplayed is not completely right.
The final test at Oval was almost a repeat of the Old Trafford. Australians put up a great show in the drawn game and did not allow England to dominate.
In the first T20 game soon after the test series, Australia beat England decisively, but lost the second T20. Honors were equal here. In the ODI games, which followed, the first match ended without a ball being bowled. In second ODI, Australia beat England in the second ODI by 88 runs. Though the third ODI did not produce a result and England won the 4th in the 50th over, Australians wrapped up the series 2-1, with a win in the final ODI at Southampton.
Therefore, the impression created by media about Australian cricket’s complete relegation on the sidelines is not entirely true. Going by the account of their performance in all formats of the game, the Aussies demonstrated their tremendous batting prowess during their tour to England. They continued their solid batting display on the India tour subsequently; where they put up amazingly high score in most matches of ODI series and the only T20 game at Rajkot. Cricket experts, who thought that Australia’s tour to India would be detrimental to the preparations for the return Ashes series, beginning in November, were duly silenced.
At the Gabba four days ago, Australians reaffirmed their batting supremacy in beating England by a large margin. But they are carefully avoiding any big boast about things to come in future. Instead, they are quietly working towards a grand return and recognition of their past cricketing glory. Man-of-the-match Mitchell Johnson justified his recall with great performances with the ball and the bat, and Michael Clarke led from front by scoring 113 in the second innings. Helped by another centurion David Warner, Australians set a formidable target of 561 for England.
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