“Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust. If Lillee don’t get you, Thomson must”. This was coined 40 years ago when Ian Chappell’s Australians were steamrolling Mike Denness’ England during the 1974-75 Ashes Down Under. The shoe is on the other foot now and England supporters could well be saying, “Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust. If Anderson don’t get you, Broad must”.
Cricket is known to throw up miraculous results, but England winning the Ashes, however unbelievable it may appear to their skipper Alastair Cook, is no miracle. To the pundits, Australia lost it rather than England won them. Michael Clarke’s men getting bowled out for 60 on Day One before the luncheon interval at the recent Trent Bridge bears testimony to this line of thinking.
Australia’s batting has been disastrous. Save doughty opener Chris Rogers, none of them can be too proud of themselves and their inability to conjure up big scores in swinging conditions has exposed them. Discount the Test at Lord’s, the venue of Australia’s sole victory in the series and the series aggregate of Steve Smith, the batting star of that second Test, looks feeble at 92. And Clarke’s series tally of 117 is abysmal. He will leave the game after the Oval Test as the only batsman in Australia’s top 10 run-getters not to have witnessed an Ashes win in England. A little over a decade ago, Clarke slammed a Test debut hundred against India at Bangalore. Scoring a hundred in his last Test appearance would be satisfying, but only just that.
Meanwhile, England has quietly adorned the cloak of invincibility at home and credit must be handed out to Alastair Cook, who kills the opposition with his brand of calm leadership.
Australian cricket is at its nadir. Another worrying aspect in context of the Ashes is that their last Test series win in England was achieved way back in 2001 much before Clarke got the captaincy and even before his predecessor Ricky Ponting took over from Steve Waugh.
It won’t be nice for England and other teams to gloat, but the fact is that the Australians are quick to bring up the foibles and weaknesses of other teams. Their tails are cut.