First things first.
What a victory. The English have comprehensively spanked the Aussies to take back the only thing that really matters in cricket for both countries.
After getting the pitches right, the bowling couldn’t have been better. Full credit to Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steve Finn and Ben Stokes for standing up with some individual performances that each came at the right time for the team.
It’s a shame the same can’t be said for pretty much any of the Australians. At Lords, we thought Steve Smith and Chris Rogers were making the stand that would give us the momentum needed to get everything going in the right direction.
As it turns out, Smith will have to find another series on seeming pitches to squash his flat track bully tag. Our bowlers will also have to learn to shake off a bad spell and come back with a clear head.
While losing the world cup at home would have hurt, winning the Ashes away would have been the perfect remedy.
Would I swap it? I just don’t know.
Winning that World Cup at home was a once in a generation opportunity. We will get another crack at the English over there in four years, and four years after that.
It’s probably not the loss that hurts, not many teams have won away from home over the last five years. It’s the way we lost. It’s the expectation beforehand and it’s the hindsight we have now that hurts.
After England came and went from the last tour, hindsight said that they had a few players who just didn’t have that one more tour in them. Are we now thinking the same?
Jason Gillespie will be giving himself a big pat on the back after calling this Australian side ‘Dad’s Army’. Watson, Haddin, Harris and Clarke are all gone, and Rogers is yet to formally announce anything but it’s expected he will call it too. Already five out of the first XI, never to be seen in test cricket again and probably a few more to come. Well done Dizzy…
Knowing what we know now, would we have left them all at home? No way… Except Watson, he didn’t need to travel to Brisbane for the first test against India last year. While Haddin hadn’t scored a run in 18 months and I’m a big fan of the move to Peter Nevill, I think Haddin was 100% in our best XI when we left for the Windies
If Harris came out of retirement tomorrow I would still give him a crack. We will never know how much his loss hurt us, but we can guess. There can be all the talk we want about Johnson and his X factor, but without Harris, he pretty much fell apart. Imagine Harris putting it on the spot at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge. He is custom built for English conditions.
I know a few people saying that Rogers needs to stay, I’m not so sure. There is no questioning what he brings to the team, but we have a few very good top order bats coming through. Kahwaja, Burns and Bancroft are all scoring runs on the A tour. There has to be a time to make the change, I think it’s now.
Then there is Clarkey. Haters are going to hate, but I hope those guys pull their heads in. I am a New South Welshman and for a good period of his career, even I had a hard time getting on board. There was something about being the anointed one from his time in the junior ranks, that didn’t sit well with the public. He was a bit flashy, had his fast car and was quickly under the wing of Warnie and Brian Lara. There is definitely worse company to keep, both of them being two of the all-time greats, but he had just come into a side moulded by Steve Waugh and captained by R.T Ponting. Flashy wasn’t exactly what we were looking for in a future captain. As his career progressed there was no doubting he was born to play test cricket. He was putting the runs on the board pretty consistently and had played some good match saving innings.
Then came Lara bloody Bingle….. I felt that was a real problem for the general public. It was the icing on his flashy cake. There was a collective sigh of relief when she threw that $200,000 engagement ring in the toilet, even if we were laughing our heads off while he had the sewer tanks at his apartment block drained. It was one of my favourite centuries he scored after he flew back into New Zealand straight from dealing with it.
The real turning point for me came in the middle of his purple patch, his 329* against India at his home ground, the SCG. It’s one of those innings that I remember so clearly. It wasn’t just his effort to score a triple century at home, it was his declaration.
Everyone knew it had to be coming. Australia had enough runs to the job and we were getting close to just using time that we could have used to bowl at them. The other thing was Don Bradman and Mark Taylor’s top score of 334. Everyone was starting to wonder if he was going to bat just past it, or bat a long time past it? Australians had been a little bit critical of some of Lara’s batting records because they felt he batted his team out of the win for personal records.
So was Clarke going to follow one of his mentors? He was on 329* and the drinks break came, he said that’s it. He had a goal and stuck to it. He had his triple and the team had to finish the job and win the test. The other obvious ones were his 161 against South Africa, where he famously survived that brutal piece of bowling from Morkel and his 128 after Phil Hughes passed away.
As for his timing for calling it a day, I think Clarke has nailed it. Here is a guy who watched Ponting play on two years too long when the team was ready to move on. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake.
People will say he should have gone 6, 12 or 18 months ago, but we needed him. There is no doubt that he brought more to this team than filling in a batting spot. His captaincy has been talked about over and over. Alastair Cook has copped a bashing in the past for being boring and reactive, sometimes not even reactive enough. I think it’s fair to say that Cook has decided to get on board with the gravy train of inventive and proactive captaincy that has been used best by both Michael Clarke and Brendan McCullum in recent times. How much could England have done with that for the last few years, in all forms, not just the last couple of series?
If Clarke went to Bangladesh and scored a couple of tonnes, it would only have made it worse. His timing was perfect. We got done fair and square, and he gave us an insight to his thoughts when he said “you live by the sword, die by the sword”.
Thanks for the commitment Clarkey. Let the haters hate, you will find more than enough support at home and in the record books.