Last Summer in England there were many who said the Ashes series was closer than the 3-0 victory to the hosts reflected. The first test in Australia which saw Australia worthy winners by 381 runs proved that this may well have been the case.
In the series in England, Australia’s bowlers did their job and also propped up the batting chipping in with crucial scores that gave the team some respectability, where the team failed was the top order specialist batsmen. England by comparison, also bowled well, but their top order managed to score more runs, mainly thanks to the fine form of Ian Bell, and scored more than their Australian counterparts. Bell was the only batsman to average over 50 in that series. The roles may well be reversed this summer in Australia.
Prior to that when Australia was in possession of the Ashes even when both top orders were scoring runs it was the middle order or tail for Australia that helped steer them to victory, often compiling an extra 100-150 runs whilst England’s lower order struggled to add 50. With conditions being very different in Australia to England this may well be the factor that decides the series.
In England incredibly England failed to pass 400 in any test in the series, while Australia failed to pass 300 in the three matches that weren’t affected by rain. Ian Bell became the man of the moment scoring hundreds at crucial times.
In this first test match, Australia owes its victory to the first innings efforts of Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson. It was their batting that swung the game Australia’s way. Then Johnson was lethal with the ball, finally being used to best effect as a bowler, and he lead the way for Clarke and Warner to take the game out of Australia’s reach. Haddin’s innings though should not be underplayed, he may not have achieved the hundred that Bell managed in England, but had he not stayed at the crease the game could well have taken a very different turn.
England need to sort out their batting order if they are to challenge Australia. The different conditions in Australia and the manner in which Jonathan Trott was dismissed would tend to say that he is not up to batting at first wicket down in this environment. It may be wiser to have Joe Root, who has opened the batting to go in at three. Bell again should bat higher than he currently is, and it may benefit England to have Trott and Peterson come in at five and six.
Australia were worthy winners of that there can be no doubt, England will look to fight back, but let us hope the ugly scenes and verbal slanging that was part of the game are tempered or this series could well be remembered for those actions or words rather than the cricket played. Also, with Australia having been starved of sporting success for a while could spill over into the crowd and the game does not need to witness that.