Saturday, February 15, 2014

Whisper it - the Aussies are back.

As an England fan who was present in Perth and Sydney, watching Australia's performance against South Africa in the opening test has been therapeutic, healing almost.

Whilst England were undoubtedly abysmal Down Under, I was still of the belief this was a fairly ordinary Australian team,

Yes, David Warner is not Matthew Hayden, they don't have a No3 close to Ricky Ponting, there is no Steve Waugh, Haddin will never be Gilchrist and no one will ever be Shane Warne.

These comparisons however do nothing to give credit to the current crop of Australian players who have turned things around so incredibly in the past twelve months.

Whilst in my opinion, the overall skill set of global test cricket has declined - mainly the ability of many players to play studied long innings - and as mentioned this is not a team of the equal of their previous greats, there is no doubt that they are playing a fabulous brand of cricket.

The Australian team - on British shores - has always been respected (hugely so) but not often liked, the level of aggression and domination have been the chief culprits.

Here though, I have to say that whilst there may not be a maverick Warne or a swashbuckling Gilchrist, I honestly and genuinely love watching this Australian team.

Seeing a group of players perform to the utmost of their abilities is a wonderful thing.

Darren Lehmann was hugely criticised - including by myself - for some of his more boorish methods and comments at the start.

Whilst he may or not be the most scientific of coaches - I'm sure he knows far more about the game than he lets on - what he has done is given this group of players the platform to perform to the absolute peak of their abilities and play such an amazing brand of cricket.

England simply couldn't cope with Australia's intensity - aggression is too simplistic a term - and it seems that South Africa are having exactly the same problem.

Yes the Australian top order struggled with Dale Steyn but most teams are going to have problems against him on his home patch.

Until Mitchell Johnson's re-birth he has been head and shoulders the best strike bowler in the world for the past few years.

Australia now however have the capacity to dig in and find someone who will find a performance, something that Marsh and Smith did so wonderfully on the first day to put Australia on top.

It's hard to know what to say about Mitchell Johnson.

I'm sure at some point his wayward ways will return, but for now, every Australian should just sit back and admire a tearaway quick at the absolute peak of his powers, Lillee and Thompson would be proud.

The delivery that removed Graeme Smith was an example of just how unplayable he is right now. It had everything, pace, accuracy and steep bounce, Smith simply couldn't cope and few could.

Once Australia have any team seven down now and one end of the tail exposed, Clarke should simply toss the ball to Johnson.

Tail enders simply cannot deal with Johnson right now, the first ball he gave to Mornie Morkel in he first innings was a perfect example, any batsmen would have struggled with it never mind an opposition fast bowler.

Again, much of the credit must go to Lehmann, the fragile nature of Johnson's performances in the past have been there for all to see but Lehmann has managed to give him a level of confidence he probably didn't know he even had.

To my mind, Michael Clarke is a fine captain on the pitch with thoughtful field placements and wonderful rotation of his bowlers.

Again Lehmann has given him this platform. Clarke it would seem struggled in the dressing room but Lehmann has taken that problem away from him, galvanising a fine team spirit and allowing Clarke to get on with doing the things he does well.

Yes this is not a complete Australian team but right now for me if they push ahead and win this series then they can quite rightly claim to be the No1 team in the world again, and I shall enjoy watching them do so - No Nonsense.