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Whilst the two teams were evenly matched on paper, the 2013/2014 Ashes series in Australia was a far cry from England’s muted victory in the summer. In a stark contrast, this time it was the Australian team who made England look clueless.
It only took until the first afternoon in Brisbane before things started going wrong for England.
An impressive bowling performance from Stuart Broad put the Aussies on the back foot at 132-6, but with Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson at the crease, they reached 295. A disciplined bowling performance from Australia dismissed England for 136, a lead of 159. Hundreds from Warner and Clarke broke England’s spirit as they declared at 401-7 and despite 65 from Alistair Cook at the top of the innings, England were bowled out for 179 having lost 7 wickets for 49 runs. Mitchell Johnson claimed 9 wickets in the match, a completely different bowler from the one who was utterly hopeless just three years ago. Continuing his excellent form throughout the series, he bowled with express pace and his slingy action proved incredibly uncomfortable for England’s tail on numerous occasions.
Disappointingly, this was the story for the whole series. Good Australian bowling and English batting collapses. England only reached 300 twice in the series and surprisingly both occurred in the 4th innings of matches, pointing to the fact that the pitches were not hard to bat on, just that the English batsmen got themselves out.
To compare the teams, the Aussies scored 10 hundreds and England only one, courtesy of Durham’s Ben Stokes, in what was his second test match. A player for the future in Ben Stokes and the good form of Stuart Broad were the positives for England in a series that the touring side would like to forget.
In the Bowling department England were completely outclassed. Despite England’s attack being a real asset over the last few years, in this tour they were undisciplined and ineffective. Broad alone rivaled Australia, England couldn’t settle on a third seamer and James Anderson bowled uncharacteristically short and without swing, claiming just 14 wickets and average of 43.
Aussies’ Mitch Johnson and Ryan Harris averaged 13.97 and 19.31 respectively. There was a difference in the spin department too as Australia attacked an out of form Swann, whereas Lyon was allowed to bowl by England and took 19 wickets at 29.
This poses the question of tactics – Michael Clarke attacked the England batsmen relentlessly and took the game to the bowlers. On the other hand the England bowlers were impotent and the Cook’s ability in the field was poor. He followed the ball with catchers and catches were dropped – Australia took their chances and had a noticeably better attitude to fielding.
It has been said that this series is the end of an era for the English team and I believe this is the case. The Flower-Strauss partnership built a good team that briefly reached number 1 in the world on the back of drubbing India and were widely praised. Since Strauss’s retirement however, some of the players entering the side have been, without disrespect, temporary patch jobs and whether Cook and Flower are at the helm or not, a new team needs to be built around younger players like Stokes and Root.
After the first test in Brisbane, Jonathan Trott left the tour as he suffers from a stress-related illness similar to Marcus Trescothick some years ago. Then, after the third test, Graeme Swann retired from all cricket to compound England’s misery. Having never felt fully operational after the elbow injury he sustained, Swann said he couldn’t continue and made a brave decision that has to be respected. With Matt Prior dropped for poor form, Jonny Bairstow was given the gloves, but neither man impressed with the bat.
The future of England cricket starts now – there are good young players available, such as Sam Robson, Gary Ballance and Jamie Overton, who will surely feature for England in the future and with the new selection panel, there may be changes in store. It remains to be seen whether Andy Flower will continue as coach or whether divisive batsman Kevin Pietersen will continue to play a role, but if England can develop a cut-throat winning attitude after this atrocious performance, the future could still be bright.