Ashes to Ashes

9 01 2011

The sci-fi setting of retro BBC series Ashes to Ashes, named after a David Bowie number – as is its prequel Life on Mars, is a 1980s world – a form of limbo for dead but restless police officers.

In a parallel cricketing universe, English cricket has just emerged from a purgatory of its own dating back to the same decade. England last won an Ashes series in Australia in 1987.

Since then they have endured 24 years of hurt on Australian soil, humiliating defeat upon humiliating defeat, mercilessly inflicted, by a seemingly endless conveyor belt of talented cricketers sporting the Baggy Green.

This succession of Ashes failures has of course been relished by a rabid Australian media pack.

At 00.56 (GMT) on Friday 7th January England at last escaped from the flames of hell’s kitchen. Chris Tremlett delivered the last rites of a 2010-11 series, which has seen England in record-breaking form, bowling Michael Beer off an inside edge to wrap up an unprecedented third victory by an innings, and well and truly rubbing Aussie noses in the dirt. Ashes to Ashes dust to dust – indeed!

The non cricketing world will, no doubt, look on nonplussed by the hype attached to this ancient rivalry in an incomprehensible (to them) game for an insignificant looking terracotta urn, the smallest ‘trophy’ in international sport.

Sadly (some may say luckily) for them they will never appreciate the intensity of such historical sporting occasions so intrinsically wrapped up with national pride, the elation associated with victory, in England’s case, or the grieving loss and national depression felt by a defeated Australia right now.   

Aussie journalists have rounded on a national team who failed miserably to deliver, and whose performance has forced hacks, like Will Swanton of the Sydney Morning Herald, to eat the words of their arrogant pre-series predictions.   

Back in November Swanton brashly announced beneath a banner headline:  

10 reasons Poms WON’T win

1. Overrated – Last year “England clean-swept the worst team on the planet, Bangladesh, and then won three out of four Tests against rotten Pakistan. Now they’re portrayed as superstars.” 

Wrong – The English press may have over stated our chances but the team captain, management and players were never seduced by the tabloid copy. Yes they had an inner confidence based on recent results but the Aussies were always paid due respect and never underestimated.  This England team focussed on the job in hand with an intensity previously associated with their adversaries!    

2. Kevin Pieterson “His most recent Test efforts have been the biggest joke………..There’s more than one ‘I’ in Kevin Pieterson and it hurts morale.” 

Wrong –  We all know KP has a big ego, that’s partly what makes him the player he is, but throughout this tour he has subjugated himself to the team cause with great effect:

A double hundred at Adelaide and a series average of 60.00, the crucial wicket of Michael Clarke in the second innings of the same Test and the run out of Shane Watson, at Sydney, which gave England their crucial second innings breakthrough – enough said!

3. No top speedster – England’s “respectable quicks….lack the fear factor…..Every truly great attack has someone pushing 150km/h, like Mitchell Johnson……….none of the touring fast bowlers are frightening”  

Wrong –  Speedster Mitchell Johnson may have won the Perth Test, with 9 of his 15  wickets, coming in that game but elsewhere his radar was all over the place as his final average series average of 36.93 per wicket indicates.

Meanwhile slow coach Jimmy Anderson was the bowler of the series , his controlled pace and swing picking up 24 wickets at 26.04, closely followed by ‘reserve’ fast bowler Chris Tremlett who knocked over 17 Aussies, in 3 Tests, at 23.35.  

Matt Prior, the England keeper took 23 catches behind the wicket, mainly off a consistently accurate pace attack. Bruce Haddin, his Aussie counterpart, picked up just 8!     

4. Passive Captain“Andrew Strauss has to lead by example because his introverted demeanour doesn’t get the blood pumping too much. Only his scores do.”

Wrong –  Straussy did lead by example with his batting, his second innings century at Brisbane was pivotal in the game and series, but amazingly finished up with a relatively low average of 43.85 compared with those around him. But then what would Punter, with his average of 16.14, have given for that!

Skipper Strauss may be a tad defensive at times but he is a model of calm assurance. The proof of the pudding is now sitting in the record books, alongside the legendary Sir Len Hutton and Mike Brearley, he is the only English captained to have picked up the Ashes both home and away. 

5. No Superstars – Graeme Swann is the only Englishman to make a world XI right now. England are successful because they know their limitations. Which means there are limitations.” 

True but who cares? – There is  generally more to a successful team  than the sum of its individual parts! Anyhow after this showing how many Aussies would currently make a World XI?  

And currently England’s only obvious limitation is the dodgy water sprinkler dance routine!

6. Over Analysis – Every breath they take is a part of a suffocating plan. There’s no freedom, nothing instinctive or adventurous. Paralysis by over-analysis.”

Wrong –  Thorough preparation based on effective analysis provided a blueprint  for success. Ironically this was previously the preserve and hall-mark of successful Australia teams. The reality is England out thought as well as out played the Aussies in every aspect of the game.

7. No depth – There’s a vast gulf between their top-tier players and those on the standby list….. Australia have eight Test-standard speedsters in the queue.” 

Wrong:  This is the biggest joke of all! England brought in two fringe players, Chris Tremlett (17 wickets at 23.35) and Tim Bresnan (11 wickets at 19.54), both had a significant impact on the outcome of the series.

Compare that with dependable Aussie speedster Ben Hilfenhaus – 7 wickets at 59.28!

8. Chokers – “They always arrive talking themselves up, vowing they won’t wilt under the heat and pressure and scrutiny, then wilt under the heat and pressure and scrutiny”.

Wrong:  Australia have morphed into the new England! Chokers in chief  were  Ponting, who now has the unwanted tag of  the only captain to lose three Ashes series,  and the captain elect Michael Clarke who averaged just 21.44 with the bat and looked distinctly out of his depth when he had the  opportunity to lead the team, in Sydney.  

9. Warm up – “Everyone keeps rattling on about England’s perfect preparation. They must be having a laugh. Perfectly prepared? Piffle.”

Wrong – The only person out of nick for England was Paul Collingwood but he played his part with some stunning fielding, including an out of this world catch to dismiss Ponting in the 2nd innings at Adelaide, which effectively signalled the beginning of the end for the Aussies, and bowling Mr Cricket,  Mike Hussey – Sydney, with what turned out to be his final ball in Test cricket.

For Australia the only players that looked consistently in nick were Hussey, wicket keeper Haddin and Shane Watson, who invariably flattered to deceive.

10.  Scars: – “Five of their top six batsmen are the same lot who stumbled and bumbled through the 5-0 loss on England’s last trip to Australia. The scarring is deep and real. Jimmy Anderson’s memories of Australia are all nightmarish. He averaged 45.16.”

Wrong: – The only English batsman not to dip his bread was Colly. Alistair Cook, two double centuries and a century, averaged 127.66 and together with Strauss formed England’s most prolific ever opening partnership in an Ashes series, finishing 500 runs clear of the record previously held by Sir Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe.

English batsman racked up nine centuries between them and three of those scarred batsmen, including Ian Bell who scored a maiden Ashes ton at Sydney, averaged 60.00 or over!  

Jimmy’s 24 Test wicket haul has only been previously surpassed, by Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson, way back in 1958-9.

Just how wrong can you be?

 

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One response

10 01 2011
Gerry

Suggest you email this analysis to Swanton! Well done, G.

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