It has been an exhilarating month-and-a-half for cricket aficionados. The two Test series in the antipodes, Australia and South Africa, witnessed enchanting, entertaining cricket from all sides.
The Ashes, whose history goes back over a hundred years, and the Sumo tie between the Goliaths of modern day cricket, India and South Africa, were a treat for the eyes. The Ashes more so, for the excellent Hot Spot infrared camera views. No complaints about umpiring decisions there.
The quality of cricket was better in the three matches between the sub-continental giants and the Proteas but the Australians and the English managed to enact some history of their own.
Alastair Cook’s aggregate of 766 on this Ashes tour is a record for English batsmen second only to Wally Hammond in 1928-29. His form has been Bradmanesque, reminding historians of Bradman’s 900+ runs in the English summer of 1930.
The Ashes are over. The Ashes are done. Ponting is gone, Ponting might return. We just don’t know, do we?
An Australian captain would be ruefully ambling off into the sunset cast out for losing three series to old foes, the Poms, but when the rest of the team resembles the walking wounded, dejected, downcast, even aghast and the replacement is a Pup who has not yet outgrown the litter, the skipper can hope to live (or die) yet another day.
The axe has not yet dropped on the Punter despite his dismal showing amidst the ruins of his leadership. No runs but ruins, indeed.
The upcoming World Cup has stayed the death sanction and Michael Clarke will have to wait till August to know if he has the job. Australia are still No. 1 in ODIs, hanging in there by a frayed thread.
The visitors were more prepared than their old rivals. Working with bowling machines that replicated the speed and trajectory of Michell Johnson’s bowling action and batting in the nets when knackered tells a story of determination and the willingness to drag themselves the final bloody yard to secure a prize that has eluded them for over 20 years.
The last time England clinched a series Down Under in 1986-87 winning 2-1, Ponting had not yet attained adolescence.
The Australians were felled not just by the opposition but also by their own insipid batting and lackluster bowling. Panicky selections added to the confusion in the ranks.
One inspired spell of fast bowling by a rumbling Mitchell Johnson helped them level the series 1-1. Alas, a swallow does not make a summer. The Poms recouped and hit back with a vengeance.
There was no doubt which team had the measure of the other. The Aussie selectors reached out for potluck and could only throw up an Usman Khawaja.
Khawaja promises much and is the first Muslim to turn out for Australia. Much was made of the latter fact. The last South Asian male cricketer to represent the continent was Dave Whatmore, who was born in Sri Lanka. Just to put things into perspective.
The British are much more integrated in their approach to sport.Mark Ramprakash, Nasser Hussein and Monty Parmesar have all donned British colours.
Kevin Pietersen scored a double century in the second Test at Adelaide and promptly went to bed. He intermittently woke to score a couple of 50s and an odd 30—his double gave him a series average of 60—and provide us the odd gem how his sacking as captain was responsible for the turnaround in the team’s fortunes under Strauss. That statement was immediately contradicted by his teammate James Anderson who went on to describe Alastair Cook as more talented than the South-African born cricketer. Who’s joshing whom, chaps?
The difference in the two sides starts at the top of the batting order.England’s trio aggregated 1518. Their counterparts could muster just 800, roughly half;this includes Phillip Hughes’ and Usman Khawaja’s contributions.
For Michael Hussey, it was sweet redemption. However, it was a case of too much expected of his broad shoulders for the too little produced by his batting partners.
Shane Watson has been criticised for not converting any of his 50s into big hundreds. The censure is unfair especially when you note that 435 of the 800 runs scored by the top three came off his blade.
Can England wrest the No. 1 spot?
Brad Haddin came to the party averaging 45 for the series. For England, Matt Prior and Ian Bell were solid , recording a century apiece.
The only failure with the bat, Paul Collingwood, bid farewell to Test cricket.
Mitchell Johnson was the pick of the Aussie bowlers claiming 15 victims in 4 Tests, followed closely by Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris with 14 and 11.
Contrast that to 24,17,15,14 and 11 for James Anderson,Chris Tremlett,Graeme Swann,Steve Finn and Tim Bresnan respectively and you have a pretty good idea what the Kangaroos lacked in the bowling department.
Australia ran through 17 players, handing caps to Michael Beer and Usman Khawaja.England’s only real setback was the injury to Stuart Broad. It was temporary—Tremlett and Bresnan proved more than adequate to the task.
The English now await a real Test this year when they take on India at home. England believe that they deserve the No.1 spot. India will be hard-pressed when they tour West Indies ,England and Australia in quick succession.
The Australians are left licking their wounds. The process of rebuilding will begin in earnest post the World Cup.
|It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.|