Joe Root’s England were just not good enough to beat the Aussies in their lair.
The right to keep the Ashes urn has gone to Australia already though the series seems to have hardly started. An emotional Steve smith said he wept like a child after the win because that is when all the pent-up feelings burst forth as memories of his Ashes debut seven years ago and how he was sledged then by the Poms flooded his mind. It’s not often that the English team beats the Aussies in the sledging game but the young Smith seems to have picked up a mental scar in his very first match. He has had his revenge with his first Ashes win as skipper.
Joe Root’s England were just not good enough to beat the Aussies in their lair. Back in the days when the umpires were not so neutral and there were no referrals to ferret out the wrong decisions, it was twice as hard to beat the Aussies on their turf. Clive Lloyd used to say this freely while airing the opinion that you had to be twice as good as the home side to win a Test series in Australia. He liberally used the race card to motivate his men who used to take particular delight in putting one over the Aussies.
To beat Australia Down Under you need fast bowlers who can scare the opposition. This is one reason why India never stood a chance except when Ajit Agarkar, at a gentle medium pace, found enough movement on a particular day in Adelaide to bowl the Aussies out in the fourth innings and India had this great opportunity to bat Australia out of the next Test in Melbourne when Virender Sehwag gifted his wicket at the end of day one after a phenomenal innings. A big double ton from him then may have given India the once-in-a-lifetime chance to beat a full-strength Australian team in an away Test series.
The conditions call for brute strength to last a full series Down Under where the true and sporting pitches offer very little lateral movement. The pure fast bowlers stand the best chance if they can last the distance while the spinners tend to come into the game late or sometimes in Sydney and Adelaide where the surfaces tend to offer turn as they wear. England had nothing to offer by way of pure pace. Their pace duo are great movers of the ball in English conditions but in Australia struggled as an aging pair, more so because Broad was not pulling his weight.
The Australian team, including its support wing, worked very hard to revamp their attack with the pace combination of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, all young, hungry, vital and fast, as Michael Atherton said. Even so, the difference between the two sides was Steve Smith who, like Virat Kohli, believes in leading from the front. He is averaging 142 in the series now.
Smith’s golden patch of form began at the ‘Gabba where he had to graft and fight for his runs while rescuing his side from a bad start. That seemed to stoke his instincts for combat and thirst for runs so much he went on to play the major innings that settled the return of the Ashes on the batting beauty at the WACA in Perth, sadly hosting its last Ashes Test as the cricket is soon to move to a new stadium nearer the Wrest Point casino.
Would Ben Stokes have made a difference? Perhaps as it was not as if Australia dominated the three Tests right through. There were moments when one great innings in the late middle order or one prized wicket to break a blossoming stand could have restored the balance, particularly in the Brisbane Test. What the Stokes incident did was to demoralise the Englishmen long before they set off for the series. But then the price must be paid for boorish behaviour by celebs and the English make it a particular point to ensure that the law applies to all equally. A celebrity in most other countries may have managed a reprieve. In UK, another tall poppy had been cut down to size. There are no comebacks from a pit like this for Team England. They have to wait to get back home to become competitive again, which they will be in their bowling conditions.
The enormity of the task of beating Australia in their lair may have already dawned on Team India. But before that comes up the other task of trying to win in another continent where India have not won a Test series – South Africa. While our batsmen have been known to flourish in Australia, it is the Indian batting that may struggle as the home side is famous for putting a good deal of moisture into the pitches in their preparation. Will Virat Kohli and team be up for this challenge in the New year?