If someone said that to you two months ago, you would have thought either they had too much to drink or had gone mad. Well that is exactly what has happened in a series that begun so promisingly on the 5th of December in Adelaide but ended prematurely on Day 3 of the New Year’s Test Match at the SCG.
Going back in time to August 2013, England had just wrapped up a home Ashes series 3-0. The Australian cricket team was in shambles with Mickey Arthur ousted and Lehmann brought in. At the time, Cricket Australia Chief James Sutherland commented, ‘The obvious question is why make this change…the simple answer at the moment is the performance of the Australian cricket team has not been up to standard.’ The knives were being sharpened. Heads were on the line. Change was inevitable.
Australian cricket was at an all time low having lost 7 of their last 9 test matches. A nation that was once the envy of world cricket had dropped in the test rankings to a lowly 5thbarely ahead of the West Indies. Clarke was staring down the barrel and Cricket Australia was running out of options.
Meanwhile England basked in their home Ashes glory and all the pre-series talk ahead of this series was whether Australia would win a test or not. The other major headline was the English Cricket Team’s 82 page book titled ‘Test Catering Requirements,’ outlining their dietary demands for the Australian Ashes tour. And whilst England were more focused on ensuring their players were served eight salads, four hot meal choices, three side dishes and two desserts, Australia kept a low profile. The fact remains that its Mitchell Johnson’s cherry, not Goji berries, which has been the problem for England this series.
No one gave Clarke’s boys a chance, except perhaps Lehman and the players themselves. It takes a lot of grit and resolve for a team to turn things around, but there is no doubt Boof Lehmann’s calming presence in the dressing room has worked wonders for the Australians.
‘I think the atmosphere and the belief and getting guys playing a good attacking brand of cricket was essential for us with where we wanted to get to,’ he said in the aftermath of the win in Perth. ‘We’re brutally honest,’ Lehmann says. ‘But they keep learning and that’s all we want to do. The way they’ve all gone about it on and off the field has been exceptional.’
But it is one thing to talk but quite another to also be able to walk. ‘The way we wanted to bowl to each particular batsman from one to 11 and the way the bowlers went about it, was exceptional,’ says Lehmann. Look at the margin of victories in each of the test matches that Australia won: 218 runs in Adelaide, 150 runs in Perth, 9 wickets in Melbourne and 281 runs in Sydney. That itself tells a tale.
It was a disaster of a series for England and one in which they were comprehensively beaten and bruised in all three facets of the game – batting, bowling and fielding. More tellingly, they were also mentally crushed by their opponents.
Bell, Pietersen, Cook and Carberry all averaged less than 30 runs with the bat, which is dismal by any standards. Anderson struggled with the ball and England used three spinners in a series that brought about the surprise retirement of Graham Swann before the Boxing Day Test.
The positives for Australia have been plenty. They played an attacking and aggressive brand of cricket and more importantly won all the key moments of the series. Mitchell Johnson sporting a ‘Chopper’ style moustache tormented the English batsmen with his pace, bounce and aggression. He had a magnificent series picking up 37 wickets at an astonishing average of 13.97. He was ably supported by Harris (22 wickets), Lyon (19 wickets) and Siddle (16 wickets). The batting too was dominated by Australia, with Warner leading the charts with 523 runs followed closely by the 36 year old Haddin (493) and Rogers (463).
A five nil whitewash over the old nemesis England would have been exactly what the doctor ordered for. ‘It’s an extremely special occasion. We couldn’t foresee 5-0 after the England series but I said then the work we were putting in behind the scenes – we were going to get the rewards,’ said Clarke after the game.
Michael Clarke will sleep tonight as a content captain. He may have followed Sun Tzu’s advise documented in his now famous Art of War: ‘Appear weak when you are strong and strong when you are weak.’ This team was hailed as being the worst Australian team in history just six months ago. And now this remarkable turnaround. Then again, strange things happen in sport.
The truth is – tougher tests await Australia. Facing South Africa away with Steyn and Morkel primed up and ready to go will be a tougher test for Australia’s batsmen. The bowlers too will have to work harder with the South African batting built up on the backs of the monk-like Amla and his support cast of De Villers and Smith.
For England, Alastair Cook mustered enough courage to offer this to his fans. ‘When you hit rock bottom the only way is up.’
Navneet Ganesh is the Founder of Infinity Cricket
He is a cricketing enthusiast and is passionate about its development and growth.
Infinity Cricket was launched in 2010 with a vision of ‘connecting people through cricket.’
Infinity Cricket organizes the largest ‘open’ T20 cricket events in Melbourne: the Summer Infinity T20 Cricket Tournament & Winter T20 Challenge.