The nightmare scenario for England of losing the Ashes 5-0 is now closer to a reality after another comprehensive drubbing from Australia in the second of a five match series in Adelaide. England are trying to become the first side since 1890 to win four Ashes series in a row but they will have to win the remaining three fixtures to achieve that distinction only once before ever achieved in Australia.
There are now back to back Tests in Perth and Melbourne. There is no let up as those matches are followed by a match played at the Aussie bear pit of the Sydney Cricket Ground next month. The Perth match is quickly followed by the Melbourne Test which always starts on Boxing Day. England now have to win all three matches to continue their run after winning the last three series between the great rivals.
After the controversy and puerile behaviour of the 1st Test there did not appear to be as much psychological warfare in Adelaide. Even David Warner realised he has overstepped the line with his comments about Jonathan Trott’s state of mind. Warner did not know how Trott was failing to cope but hopefully on reflection he will not be proud of suggesting Trott was scared.
England have now scored less than 200 in each of the first innings of the two Tests played in a series to date. Trott looked so badly out of nick that even he would not have made much difference to the outcome of the latest match. England have got to play better from now on. It must be frustrating for the bowlers that their colleagues have not put enough runs on the board to attack with the bowling.
Adelaide was supposed to be a pitch with a draw written all over it. However, England had to score more than 400 in the first innings to set up a stalemate. Australia’s first innings tally was better than par and they were able to declare with two days to go to set up the win. England batted better in the second innings but too many players, including Kevin Pietersen, played poor shots to lose their wicket. Modest totals of 200 or less will not make England competitive against confident opponents.
The last few weeks have been a golden spell for Australian sport. They were awesome in the Rugby League World Cup, not conceding a try in five matches and dominating the final against New Zealand in a match they looked like winning from the first minute. The cricketers have now done their bit and there will be no let up as they strive to complete a ‘greenwash’. The local press are right behind their side and any indiscretions will be overlooked if the humiliation of England continues.
England beat Australia 3-0 at home last summer. However, the key decisions and moments went in their favour and given more luck for Australia it could haven been a tied series. On paper England looked a far stronger side but the return matches in Australia have shown there is little between the sides, but Australia have batted more consistently during the first two matches. All the main batsmen have contributed and the bowling has improved the overall position of the sessions in favour of Australia.
Mitchell Johnson has emerged as Australia’s best bowler, which is ironic as he was the butt of the Barmy Army’s wit before he began to take England wickets. He is the fastest bowler in either side and is making Jimmy Anderson look slow and ineffectual. Johnson has now taken 17 wickets in the first two Tests and his heading for a haul of 40 wickets if he can maintain has line and speed over the next six weeks.
Michael Clarke is leading by example and has now scored 284 runs at an average of 71. His overall Test average is 52 so he is a player who is better than par in the context of his career record. He has been criticised for being unadventurous but his tactical declarations have set up two wins in the early part of the Test series.
It must be difficult for his opposite number, Alistair Cook, to inspire and motivate his colleagues when he is struggling with the bat. Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff have succumbed to the pressures of captaincy but Cook looked to have maintained his own form while leading the rest of the squad. That knack has now been lost and his side need Cook to get a big score in the next match in Perth.
Ian Bell scored three centuries last summer but he will be disappointed with his dismissal in the first innings at Adelaide. He kept the score together in the second innings but the damage had been done and he could not prevent Australia winning the match by 218 runs. In the history of competition between the sides Australia have now recorded the best joint winning margin of the first two Tests of an Ashes series.
The England bowlers were nothing special in the first two matches but there are not many options for the 3rd Test. Monty Panesar has probably done enough to keep his place but when Anderson struggles England do not have an alternative strike bowler who can take five wickets and make inroads into the Australian top order.
Even though Trott was out of form in the 1st Test his consistency and solid batting will be missed during the rest of the series. Michael Carberry is an adequate opener but a big score at three or four is required to give the lower batsman time and a margin of error to score a big hundred and take the side past 400 in their first innings.
Australia have only beaten England 5-0 twice in an Ashes series. On current form that could happen in this series and the weather is unlikely to intervene. With another 15 days at most of interrupted play Australia can continue to dominate and join the squads of 1920 and 2006 by winning each match in this series.