“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and
some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.” - Shakespeare
The Ashes are over.
A definitive statement that, although factually accurate, could have been written 25 balls into the Trent Bridge Test. That we have waited until Day 3 to print it appears somewhat over cautious.
However, a short match doesn’t mean that interesting stories are lacking. To the contrary, the result of this match, plus the nature of how it has played out invite conjecture as to both England’s and Australia’s cricket into the future.
The scoreboard story is that England won by an absurd margin. Australia made a paltry 60. Cook then declared his first innings closed leading by two hundred and enough. What happened after that was largely irrelevant.
It included another Rogers half century, another Australian middle order collapse, another Clarke failure and another tick for England’s “New Era”.
Stuart Broad was the perennial villain-cum-hero. More precisely, his first 19 balls made weekend ticket holders grimace. For their money was now poorly invested.
8/15 isn’t a 4th grade maths fraction. It was Broad’s bowling figures. You won’t see numbers like that again for a long time.
Joe Root’s crime was to make another hundred, but a few hours after Broad’s demolition act was completed. Under normal circumstances, we would be bestowing greatness on this young genius.
But this was not a normal circumstance.
For teams do not get bowled out in 18.3 overs. That is not how Test cricket is meant to work.
Hubris was flowing well before this series begun. But ignorance and ego is a powerful combination. Australia had the wrong team, the wrong game plan and the wrong preparation.
The Duke ball used in England has more pronounced characteristics than that of the Kookaburra. It seams a bit. It swings more often than not. We now know that it hypnotises Australian batsmen. It acts like a magnet that attracts the edge of their bats.
A moving ball requires a different technique to conquer. Soft hands. Play it late and under the eyes. The beautiful art of letting the ball go.
A gaggle of skills that the Aussies either don’t posses or chose not to use.
In Australia’s 1st innings, only 8 of the 111 balls bowled would have hit the stumps. They would have lasted longer if they strode to the crease without bats.
The pitch looked like it had tricks. It had none. It was a quality English deck. It gave some assistance to the seamers. It carried well. But it was consistent.
The English batsmen didn’t necessarily conquer it, but they didn’t succumb to it. The Australian batsmen showed it no respect and paid the price.
The ultimate insult was Ben Stokes taking 5 wickets in Australia’s 2nd innings. An all rounder succeeding after Australia had dropped both theirs.
An all rounder making a difference, despite his Test bowling average exceeding 45.
Australia failed to pay any heed to what’s required in English conditions. Clearly their win at Lord’s has been held up as a false idol.
It has cost them a Test match. It has cost them the Ashes. Some say it will cost many of them their career.
On the other hand, England’s pre-Ashes upheaval has proven to be well founded. A new administration, a new coach, a new team and a new belief.
Winning a World Cup is nice.
But England will say that winning the Ashes is much nicer.