My house mates thought me mad for staying up into the early hours of the morning to watch the first Ashes test match, and based on the shocking performance from England’s cricketers, I find it hard to disagree. Spineless, lacklustre, and weak, are undoubtedly appropriate words to describe England’s batting, and if ever there were a case of a team succumbing to pressure, the test at Brisbane is a prime example.
The glory of the summer came to a grinding halt, as I watched in disbelief as Australia rattled out England’s middle order in merely ten minutes. Where’s the England that brought us eight straight years of domination?
The Ashes this year has already displayed plenty of drama. The loss of Jonathan Trott is a sad one for England. While his recent performances have not been his best, ever since 2009, Trott has provided England with stability at the number three spot, and his presence will be missed in the England camp. On top of Trott’s departure, are David Warner’s outlandish and abrasive comments about him; branding him “weak” and “poor.” It’s sad to see Warner has learnt nothing about sportsmanship from his disgraceful past behaviour, when he punched English Batsman Joe Root in the face. The game of cricket is a gentleman’s game, and sadly Warner fails to live up to the high standard of etiquette the game prides. This feeling isn’t just one sided, from our side of the water. Last week, Australian legend, Steve Waugh, publicly condemned Warner’s behaviour as ‘crossing the line’ and ‘disrespectful.’ Right you are, Steve. Australia has been very aggressive in both their cricket, and their taunting of England players post victory at Brisbane. While there is no suggestion Warner contributed to Trott’s decision to leave, Waugh believes the hosts could be more selective with their on-field sledging.
Comments coming from the Australian dressing room allegedly have a strong sense of arrogance, illustrated when Australian Captain, Michael Clark, indicated he wanted his bowlers to break Jimmy Anderson’s arm. Clarke was found guilty of breaching the International Cricket Council (ICC) code of conduct for using obscene or insulting language and/or gestures. It’s a shame to see the Australian Captain resulting to thuggish and brutish comments. While, yes, the Ashes have a proud history, particularly on Australia’s part when against England, of fiery tempers and hard fought battles, this was a step too far, the fine, in my opinion, completely justified.
For the first time in Ashes history, the ICC has publicly urged players from both camps to calm down on explosive antics. Both teams would be better for taking this advice. However, Australian pace bowler Mitchell Johnson has ruled out any talk of an ashes truce, saying on the intense sledging of Johnson that he thinks “it’s worked for [them]. [He] definitely think[s] they’re rattled by it. They don’t like it at all.” Johnson has stated his intent to keep tempers bubbling, but the question is whether Australia pay the price for this deplorable tactic of haranguing England players, and them talking with much pomp and superciliousness.
So will Australia pay the price for early arrogance?
The answer all England fans want to hear, and what I truly believe, is yes. England have been portrayed as the underdogs for the upcoming second test at Adelaide, but England are still bookies’ favorites to retain the ashes down under. We must remember the remarkable talent and potential England has within its’ line up, enough to pose a serious threat to Australia’s Ashes hopes. If I had to choose the best 11 from both sides, only a few Aussie players would make my team. Kevin Pieterson has the potential to change the course of a game, with his destructive hitting and confidant scoring, whilst Bell and Cook can be called upon to bring structure and quality to the batting. In terms of bowling, England’s arsenal contains much more ‘fire-power’ than Australia, with Broad and Anderson constantly delivering wickets, and Swann holding the potential to spin England to victory. Some may argue these claims vague, but their records render such assumptions true.
Much speculation has been left as to the structure of the England XI line up in the 2nd test due to departure of Trott. Ian Bell, superstar of the summer Ashes, will be moved up to number three, a role I believe will suite him perfectly. Bell is a natural stroke player who can take command of high-pressure situations, and should take up the position with ease. Bell has even affirmed this himself, saying after having spoken about it, he’s “absolutely willing to go to number three.” Bell’s contender, Joe Root, should stay where he is at number 6, a place naturally suited to him, and it is here where Root can demonstrate his true talent. But what of the new boy Gary Ballance, who averages 52.17 after 64 first-class matches, is unproven at the test level and his debut will be very interesting.
England need to make a statement in the next test. Not only do we need to beat the Aussies, we need to knock all this pompous arrogance out of them. The difference will be that the England boys will do it with true style and class, without the threats of breaking peoples arms, and labelling players as weak and poor.
Whatever the line up, Australia need to be prepared for a fired-up England when they face each other in Adelaide, and on behalf of all England fans, I hope England thump the Aussies.
England, it’s time to shine, and time to rise.