Ashes 2017: Ruthless Australia’s clinical excellence setting the template of series sweep

Each team has its own mantra they like to follow to ensure success. Australia is no different, and as England discovered, hard work, desire and dedication are simply not adequate to conquer the conditions.

For 15 days, England tried their level best to compete, but had to endure another Ashes humiliation Down Under.

Australian players celebrate the dismissal of England’s Craig Overton (R) in Perth on Sunday. AFP

Australia is extremely difficult to topple in their backyard. The only team to achieve the feat in the last five years have been South Africa. To defeat a team in a Test match, one needs to take 20 wickets, and as statistics prove, capturing 20 Australian wickets has become a major obstacle for visiting teams.

It is a trend that continued during the Ashes with the England bowlers only managing to bowl Australia out on one instance. On the contrary, the Australian attack compromising of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon have had no trouble is dismissing the England side in six out of six innings.

Three Tests on and England have discovered that to win in Australia, you need to score big totals and have bowlers capable of bowling in excess of 140kmph on a constant basis.

Pitches in Australia have become as benign as ever and unless a bowling unit has speed through the air, it is almost impossible to penetrate through an Australian batting line-up that is well adapted to playing on the flat tracks dished out for the Test matches.

One might argue if the tracks are placid, then it also gives an opportunity to the visiting teams to score ample runs. That fact is true, but against one of the most potent bowling unit that Australian has unearthed, it is difficult to convert 350-400 scores into the imposing 500 or 600.

The reason it is difficult to post those enormous totals is because tailenders or lower-order batsmen of the visiting teams simply cannot stand the bouncer barrage of the Australian attack. Not once in the series have the last five English batsmen managed to add more than 100. In Brisbane, it was 5-53 and 5-40, in Adelaide 5-95 and 5-56, and then in Perth, 5-31 and 5-46.

Ever since Australia lost the 2013 Ashes in England, coaching staff, led by Darren Lehmann, made a conscious decision to attack the opposition lower-order with short balls, and it has been an immense success. The tactic works well especially on the hard Australian pitches and with a bowling unit capable of sending down thunderbolts in excess of 90mph.

Wrapping up the tail has become such a crucial part of the game and no other team does it as well as Australia. Facing short-pitch bowling is not easy and Australia have worked that to their advantage.

The benign pitches in Australia have also benefited their batsmen greatly. Apart from Smith, who has scored runs in all sorts of conditions, the likes of David Warner and Usman Khawaja have cherished milking pedestrian opposition bowling units incapable of touching speeds that are threatening on placid tracks.

Australia now have a script that they follow to perfection. It involves good batting pitches, bouncing the lower-order and delivering thunderbolts from an awkward height. Add to it, the rapid rise of Nathan Lyon and it is a bowling attack that resembles the golden generation of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee.

Before the Ashes began, England were aware that they needed to post big totals and as their coach Trevor Bayliss famously said, “We cannot be satisfied with 60s and 70s – we need 60’s and 70’s”. Unfortunately, England has only had two centuries compared to four by Australia. Steve Smith converted his century into a double ton while the likes of James Vince and Mark Stoneman failed to convert to starts into a ‘daddy hundred’.

Two men capable of scoring those big hundreds, Joe Root and Alistair Cook, have been worked out. Cook’s reflexes have slowed and the burden of captaincy seems to have got the better of Root. Credit to Australia, they have ensured both Cook and Root have been deprived of opportunities by some immaculate bowling and perfect strategies.

To be successful in Australia, either you need to be blessed with three fast bowlers that are tall, capable of hitting the deck hard and a batting unit that are not satisfied with hundreds or hope you are miraculously greeted with a green seaming track. England came with none of those traits and paid heavily.

No wonder there is frustration in the England camp. They knew the Australian script to the fine print, but were not able to unravel it. James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with over 900 Test wickets between them, were out-bowled by three men that are yet to play 100 Test matches between them. Smith proved why he is couple of steps ahead of Root and when it came to the holding role of a spinner, Moeen Ali was not even in the competition against Lyon.

Unless England are able to overcome Australia in the three ingredients that they base their success upon, there is a fair chance another whitewash is on the cards.

Published Date: Dec 19, 2017 | Updated Date: Dec 19, 2017

Leave a Reply