England have beaten Australia before. The Ashes has been going on for nearly 130 years and in that time, we’ve smashed them several times, been humiliated more often than we’d like to admit and there’ve been plenty of draws in between. What happened over the 4 days at Lords was something special though. It was more than a defeat and more than a victory. It was the lowest ebb in Australian Cricket and by default a high in English cricket.
When we beat them in ’09 it was good. Two evenly matched sides going for it until the last days of the series. 2010-11 was magnificent from an English point of view. 3 innings victories in 5 matches? Dreams are made of it… 517 for 1,, 776 etc etc. But this was England, the superior side, playing the cricket of their lives. Strauss, KP, Cook, Trott, Prior, Swann, Anderson & Bell playing out of their skin and being superbly supported by everyone else. Australia in transition (again) with Ponting, Katich and Hussey coming to the end of the line. It was an important victory, a special victory and a half expected victory.
This time it’s different. England, playing well were heavy pre-series favourites for the first time in my life . At Lords Broad was bowling superbly, but not taking any wickets. Anderson had a quiet game. Swann has bowled better for far less. Trott, KP & Cook are yet to fire and Matt Prior looks out of sorts with the bat. Yet we STILL murdered them. Humiliated them. Embarrassed them.
And oh it was sweet. At stumps on day 1 England had once again messed up the first innings batting, closing at a meagre 270 odd for 7. Yet they were still 8/11 favourites with the bookmakers. That in itself tells a tale. The tail wagged and Asutralia’s opening two for a moment batted well. Then Shane Watson’s massive pad planted itself Before the Wicket and Bresnan had broken through.
Thank god for Shane Watson. A stupider cricketer you won’t find. He referred the decision only to see the ball crashing into leg stump. Guffaws from the normally reserved Lords crowd. How can the man (and his team mates) so freely admit that they ‘use’ the DRS badly. There’s not a lot to learn?? The next 40 odd overs saw a collapse reserved exclusively for ‘Club England 1993-1998.’ Awful, awful batting from the home of Bradman, Border, Waugh & Ponting. So awful it was almost too much to watch and feel sympathy. Almost.
After the first test Botham, Lloyd et al were lampooned and derided for their 10 – 0 predictions. Magnificent, bold Australia with their brilliant ‘Boof’ and dashing 19 year old were much better than the complacent England had thought. Engalnd, reliant on Jimmy and thankful to Bell were in trouble as the wonderful Siddle and Pattinson dragged Asutralia within an inch of the test. Or so we were told.
The truth was that an underperforming England still beat an over performing Australia. When England are on form they can smash any team in the world. When Australia are on form they can just lose to an out of sorts England. Except the 19 year old and the much lauded (and overated) bowling attack made Austrlia look better than they are; average.
And so back to Lords where after another early scare, Root and the night-watchmen set about batting on a day where 2 wickets fell, compared to the 16 of the previous. Batting overs. Batting sessions. Batting time. Batting Australia out of the game. Controversy again surrounded Ian Bell when he was ‘caught’ by Steve Smith. Smith, who the much hyped Clarke had used so brilliantly to bowl filth and take 3 English wickets on day 1. Not out get, on with it.
England finished the Aussies off within 4 days. Australia’s best bowler is out for the series. Hubris can be a horrible thing, but I beg you – sit back and enjoy the next three matches as all the pain from 1989 to 2005 is cathartically being washed away, such is the gap in quality and class between these two sides and for once it’s nice to be sitting on the winning side of the fence.
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