Well begun and undone!
The half way review of Ashes..
Australian dominance of test cricket has been rapidly diminishing. The same Ricky Ponting, who has led the Aussies for last six years is now considered to be a desperado, hanging to his green baggy cap by his teeth. Its true that great teams comprise of great players and, though, good players come up regularly, great players are rarer to find. Therefore, I believe that the Aussies are going through a phase where they have shaken off their old warriors and are in a process of setting up a new unit, which is as mighty and talented as the one that played in the 90s and the first 7 years of this decade.
The biggest asset for a sportsperson, apart from his talent, is the courage factor and his will to work hard. When it comes to being gutsy, focused and fighting, I believe that the Australians are one up on the rest of the cricketing world. At one point, the way they clinically annexed team after team, one wondered if they were humans or some sort of mechanism resembling humans.
The current Australian team started the Ashes under a lot of pressure. They haven't had any success in the last couple of editions and Ricky Ponting was supposedly clueless. Their bowlers were projected as not having the fire and the way the first test meandered to a draw, a few changes were made. The extremely talented and current pace spearhead, Mitchell Johnson was heavily bombarded. They lost the second test and their epitaphs were written by one and sundry. On a personal level, I also want a new world champion team and the Australian domination of last 20 odd years has become monotonous for me. However, a change can't come unless there is a team that rises upto the level of the Australians in terms of their fighting spirit, dedication to the game and their desire to excel.
I dare say that there is no such team even at present. India, England and South Africa have time and again displayed great cricket and successfully halted the Aussie charge, but, never with the consistency that the Aussies display. Coming into the third test, they needed just one more loss to lose yet another Ashes. Put into bat on a fast and bouncy pitch, they looked like a ship rocking in cyclonic waves. At lunch yesterday, Andrew Strauss would have dreamed of being hailed as the greatest English captain, but, then he didn't realize that an Australian, even if down on the mat, is still an Australian.
A few glaring mistakes, committed out of sheer arrogance and over-confidence and the lower half of the Australian batting lineup worked out a gutsy fight back. There was no exceptional or record breaking heroic display, but, they managed to score enough runs to get a defendable total on a pitch that was conducive to their kind of bowling. I must say that England conceded no less than 70-80 runs extra to what they should have given. Despite seeing that the Australian lower order batsmen were throwing their bats at everything and scoring well off the short pitch stuff, Tremlett and Anderson kept digging it in and the Australians made merry by tonking them down the ground, through the cover region or the square leg/mid wicket region.
Whenever they pitched full, they got the wickets and it was an absolutely unnecessary, but, delightful for an Australian supporter, last wicket stand between Siddle and Hilfenhaus that was ended by the change of pace only.
The Australians made the bowl sing and bite, but, England managed to see the evening off, but, this morning it was all undone. Mitchell Johnson had a prove to point and he proved it in style. Doug Bollinger might be quick, deadly and hailed as capable of taking the mantle of Aussie pace spearhead, but, he neither has the heart of Mitchell nor does he have Mitchell's fitness. As I had predicted yesterday, I see this game going to the Australians and they won't need five days to finish it. With such an emphatic and morale boosting win, they are going to be a handful for England in the next two games.
If England displays some cricket which is worthy of the legend of Ashes triumphs then they still have a chance or it shall be the time for the Aussies to get the Ashes back.
Mind you, if they got the Ashes after the terrible first two tests, they are going to come hard at the World Cup too. The golden era of Australian cricket is not yet over.