WACA is where England was whacked in less than 4 days as the hosts Australians leveled the Ashes with 2 tests to go. The Australians pace bowlers came to the party and bowled like a unit, after a very long time, and were rewarded deservedly. I am sure the fist pumping and the pointing out in the middle were not just directed at the Barmy Army and the Media box, some of it might also have been to the selectors who kept chopping and changing. What the Australian team has done is infused a new lease in to Ponting’s job as a captain for at least next 2 games.
Johnson led with both bat and ball. First on day one he scored valuable 62 to take Australia to respectable 268 and then rocked the England top-n-middle order with a fiery 6-for innings with the ball. The other seamers partnered well with him and Ryan Harris joined the party in the second innings as well. With bat, there were the usual suspects, the three guys who have been scoring all along in the three 3 tests: Hussey, Watson, & Haddin. England’s poor display with the bat was the major reason behind the loss in a test match where their bowlers dismissed Australians twice under 300 runs.
Collingwood’ batting form has posed some questions for sure. However, I am sure England would not jump to any conclusion that Mr. Ian Chappell is so eager to make, and drop him yet. He’s too valuable of a player to be dropped. What Ian Chappell conveniently forgets is that Collingwood stood between England and many defeats in the last 18-24 months and saved the games for them. Perhaps England can swap his batting number with Bell. This way KP and Bell can bat together and that would be a nightmarish combination if they are on fire. Collingwood can then become an ideal foil to the lower order batters to hang around and accumulate runs.
It is very difficult to call the winner yet, but I am not going to follow the Australian media frenzy and suddenly call their home side a dominating unit after one game, when for last 3 weeks they were their favorite whipping boys. You have got to accept the fact that along with Australia’s improved bowling, it was poor batting display from England that caused their demise in the third test. We have seen in the first two tests, that when England bats sensibly (not even extra ordinarily) they can easily handle the Australian attack, while Australia’s top order is still struggling with only 2 amongst their top 6 batters are in the runs. I would still put my money on England to win this 2-1, perhaps at Melbourne.
Even though hosts saw some silver lining in the victory at WACA, the poor run with bat from their Skipper and the deputy continues. And also continues Ian Chappell’s hypocrisy and double standards. When Tendulkar failed for a few innings, Chappell rushed to show him an honest mirror, even now, just after a couple of failures, he’s asking for Collingwood to be dropped. However, when asked about Ponting’s poor run of form (averaging 31 over last 15 tests if you take away the 209 against Pakistan) since last ashes series, his reply is “he is just out of luck not out of form”. Wonder if that mirror is only for the non-Australian players. Same thing with the Aussie media, the hosts have just won their first test in last 6 attempts, en route losing four, and they are back again claiming themselves to be the best in the world and addressing the visitors as “Paranoid Poms”.
Melbourne has a exciting game in store for us all fans. It will not only decide the fate of the Ashes but also answer some question outside the cricket fields. Soon after the boxing day test we would have the answers to: who is over confident? which batting line-up is tried and tested? who really is paranoid? An ardent fan like me would enjoy the exciting contest with one simple wish “may the best side win!!!”.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav