Under the Southern Cross I stand,
A sprig of wattle in my hand,
A native of my native land,
Australia, you f*****g beauty
Nathan Lyon had to wait 316 days to sing this song in the dressing room. In the interim Australia played 9 tests and lost 7 of them. Coming as it does after these setbacks, singing the song must have been doubly sweet for Lyon.
After that 5-0 sweep in 2006/07, this is the first time in four tries that Australia has gone ahead in the series. The last time Ashes was played down under, it did begin well, but it fell apart in the last three days as England put up 517 runs for the loss of just one wicket. Though they did manage to level that series at Perth, they were taken apart in the next two tests. In fact, the beating in the three tests was comprehensive- they lost all of them by an innings and more.
The two series that they played in England weren’t as comprehensive as the score line suggested. They lost the 2009 series by 2-1 and the 2013 series by 3-0. They matched up to England in most aspects in both the series, but came up short in the sessions that mattered, which were inevitably won by England. A lot can be deduced from the fact that England crossed on 5 occasions, but didn’t cross 400 even once. Australia did cross 400 twice, but apart from these instances, they never crossed 300 in the series.
A lot of pre series talk was centered around Mitchell Johnson and how he was going to wade into England’s batting order. If his previous exploits in Ashes Tests were anything to go by, he had more chances of coming up short than actually succeeding. The fact that he came to the crease at 132/6 and scored 64 runs in a partnership of 114 runs with Haddin was seen as a positive sign by many. Yes, it was positive, with the manner in which those runs were scored. He resisted the temptation to go over the top and concentrated on staying put at the wicket.
Though it didn’t seem so at that point of time, that partnership marked the first time in many tests that Australia found themselves in a corner and dug themselves out of it. They had made a habit of losing the games from point where they were delicately poised.
Trott’s wicket just before the lunch on the second day and the way they ran through the middle order and lower middle order in the second session was a pointer to Australia slowly climbing back to a point where they dominated the sessions that mattered.
At 77/2 on the second day, there was a danger of Australia collapsing, as the captain was founding wanting against the short ball in the first innings. Clarke imposed himself on the game by attacking the short deliveries aimed at him. The way he and Warner went about attacking the bowlers meant that it was the third time Aussies found themselves in a hole and managed to get out of it.
When Cook and Bell were building their partnership, most of the bowlers looked ineffective, but they didn’t stop trying. They were backed up brilliant fielding. A lot of runs were cut down by good fielding. Siddle managed to break the partnership by finding the extra bounce- by landing the ball on one of the cracks on the pitch- and drawing Bell into jabbing it.
The same bounce also accounted for Cook, but the bowler was Lyon. Mopping the tail off was left to Johnson and his mean short deliveries. Root, Tremlett and rain in that order seemed to delay the inevitable. Harris subjected Tremlett to a short ball barrage and finally got his wicket.
When James Anderson strode to the crease, he was met by a few taunts by Bailey. The umpires intervened at the right time, but that didn’t stop Clarke and Anderson from going eye-to-eye. Clarke said to Anderson, “get ready for a f*****g broken arm”. This was different from the Clarke that seemed to sink into his jumper most of the time when the going was tough for his team. Today was different. Peter Siddle launched into Anderson after he was dismissed by Johnson.
Johnson was a deserving man of the match for the 103 runs he scored in the match and the nine wickets he took by intimidatory bowling. Though he was the man of the match, there were three people running him close for that award. The bowling looks to be safe hands. It is the batting that needs some sorting.
When asked about how they would brace themselves for Johnson in the second Test, Cook put it beautifully when he said, “We have faced Johnson before and have had success against him. There is no reason why we can’t do it again”.
The win for Australia has opened up the possibility of a close Ashes, something that hasn’t happened for a few years now
Image courtesy: Cricket Australia