Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Broad margin of victory for England

3-0 with a test to play and England have been comfortable winners of the Ashes, or have they? Whilst the batting in particular has not been of a classic Ashes standard, it has been a hugely intriguing series so far and far closer than the scoreline suggests.

Thinking back to the series as a whole, other than the hugely lopsided Lords Test, most of the games have been fairly even with Australia probably edging it on 'sessions won'. Indeed the Aussies made the very same point in the closely fought 2009 series. England it seems however have the edge in the pressure situations.

There are also two ways of looking at this England performance, one is that the batting looks atrocious and the bowling below the level that they thought they were at. The other spin of course is that England have comfortably beaten Australia with many of their players performing badly below par and if they re-find their form, then look out Australia.

For Australia it must be a very odd position to be in. Michael Clarke, whilst conceding that England have been the better team must be wondering how on earth he has been on the receiving end of such a hammering. One can say that Australia have been unlucky but in their tours of India and England their record is a dismal P 8, W 0, D1, L7 so far in tests. Only a certain amount of those statistics can be attributed to luck.

Much of Australia's problem appears to have been is they came into the series with no actual idea what their best team was and what their batting order should be. Nathan Lyon and Ryan Harris in particular have been two of Australia's best performers with the ball yet neither was included for the first test with Lyon missing out at Lords too. No one also is quite sure what Phillip Hughes has done wrong.

Whilst England have employed the same top 7 for each test, Australia have rejigged their line up for every game with only Rogers, Haddin and Clarke retaining both their places and batting slots.

Another interesting point is that whilst England are 3-0 up, very few of their players have emerged with any credit from this series. Of the batsmen, only Ian Bell could say he has excelled with Kevin Pietersen performing only in spurts. Cook and Trott have disappointed and Matt Prior has not contributed in any way whatsoever with the bat.

If you removed Joe Root's huge knock at Lords then his numbers look horrendous and Johnny Bairstow has emerged with his fragile reputation tarnished even further. Both will have big target signs on them for the Australian fast bowlers if they are indeed selected for the Gabba.

Of the bowlers, Jimmy Anderson has disappointed hugely after the first two tests, Finn was dropped unceremoniously whilst Bresnan has been his usual steady self. Stuart Broad had been largely disappointing until his match winning performance at Durham. Broad can be enigmatic, grumpy even but he remains a match winner.

Having said that, only Graeme Swann the spinner can be said to have performed consistently and reliably during the series so for England's oft vaunted seam attack there is much to ponder.

For Australia, Clarke has led and led well both in the field and with the bat. He has been the recipient of a couple of wonderful deliveries but other than the first innings in Durham has not really given his wicket away cheaply. He has also captained positively in the field.

Rogers and to an extent Watson have done what they can to give support and Warner has been a positive influence on the team since his reintegration. The team looks far more solid without Ed Cowan but one must really question whether Kawaja should be there at the expense of Phil Hughes.

Lower down, Brad Haddin should take huge credit for his performances on this tour both with bat and glove. He was meant to be the poor relation to Matt Prior but has outplayed him in all facets of the game.

Australia's seam attack has pleasantly surprised with Ryan Harris in particular mercurial at times. Siddle has performed as hard and as honestly as you would always expect with him. Starc and the rest have performed to an acceptable level and Watson has provided genuine 'all rounder' back up.

The spin option has been the weakest spot in the Australian line up since a certain S.K. Warne left the scene with players such as Xavier Doherty hopelessly short of the mark. Ashton Ager proved a false dawn - for the moment - but Nathan Lyon has provided some reliable if unspectacular off spin.

Lyon has held up one end pretty well, taken some crucial wickets including Kevin Pietersen twice in the last test. If Australia use him in the same way that England used Ashley Giles in the context of controlling an end to give respite to the quicks, he could become a very useful player for Australia.

Should England finish things off with another victory at the Oval then they will be favourites to repeat their heroics down under from 2010. This blog however has a feeling that Australia will prove a far tougher nut on home turf especially given the brittle nature of the batting line ups meaning that drawn matches are highly unlikely.

4-0, 3-0 or even 3-1 should be seen as a very comfortable margin but there is a strong suspicion that things might be very different come the end of the Sydney test in the New Year - No Nonsense.