Sunday, 24 November 2013

Too Much Mitch For Stiff Upper Lips

Johnson MOM - 64 & 39; 4-61 & 5-42
The momentum that was building during the failed England tour - that few would believe, let alone acknowledge - boiled over in Brisbane as Australia handed England the second largest thrashing of all Ashes Tests played at the Gabba.

It was so comprehensive that England go into the second match at Adelaide at a massive psychological disadvantage. They were not only thrashed on the scoreboard but most of them left the crease with that same air of resignation and fear that Mike Denness' 1974-75 team did. This time, there was no one playing the Tony Greig role.

Man of the Match Mitchell Johnson was the main reason England have had their egos shredded. He was very fast and very dangerous. He has been these things in the past but has lacked consistency because of the ease with which opposition teams could get under his skin, rather than the reverse. The Gabba revealed a mature Johnson, still able to rattle quality batsmen with his pace and length but no longer susceptible to comment. There was a moment on the fourth day when he was ripping and tearing at the young Yorkshireman with a name destined for Australian sledging, Joe Root. The young man likes having the three lions on his chest and scored a match winning 180 opening the batting at Lords in July. There was no Johnson then. Knocked over easily in the first innings, he walked into lots of short stuff from Johnson as England collapsed on the last day in Brisbane and tried what he was told by team management and chirped away mid pitch, in between deliveries.

The stage was set for a Johnson tirade and bile to spat across the 20m but ... Johnson just smiled ... and then winked.

Who could have thought a wink could be so dangerous?

England blown away by storms
Perhaps, towards the end as Australia pushed for victory in between Brisbane storm cells - which roll across the city in spring and summer causing havoc like American GI's once did - perhaps, in that last half hour, things got a little out of hand. George Bailey was a irritation to Jimmy Anderson in a way the Englishman is not used to. Anderson complained to the umpires and Michael Clarke intervened twice. The first time he suggested Anderson face up and prepare to get his arm broken. The second there was finger pointing. This all seemed unnecessary in the context of the match and frankly, unlike the Australian skipper, but perhaps he wanted to his players to see he will back them - as Ponting did - or perhaps he has just had enough. Or perhaps it was both. When Border put on his mongrel pants, Australia began a period of dominance that outlasted his career and the career of the next three Australian Captains.

A little ugly. A little over the top. Just a little.

Australia played muscular cricket for four days of this Test. After collapsing on the first day, Brad Haddin and Johnson stuck their chests out and refused to be dominated so the bowlers would have something to bowl at. The bowlers delivered taking twenty wickets for 315. David Warner and Clarke batted brilliantly in the second innings, as did a strong supporting cast. Stuart Broad and Alastair Cook along provided something of their quality. The rest were exceedingly ordinary. Graeme Swann and Matt Prior have never had a worse Ashes Test. Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell were removed with casual ease. Despite his last day defiance, Joe Root has a lot of work to do.Jimmy Anderson bowled a lot, did little.

The Australians have one selection issue to ponder. Shane Watson was out twice to dreadful shots, dangling outside off stump when set two minutes before a break and then slog-hooking in the second innings. They were shots of a man no longer needed. There is a theory that one should change a winning team. Garbage. Drop Watson and include Alex Doolan at three. It is future oriented for the Australian team and Doolan. Watson has had enough chances. He alone was the one Australian batsman who looked out of place.

Leave the rest and feed Johnson raw meat. Give him Siddle's share.

Its nearly thirty years since I have seen cricket from an Australian team this intimidating. Fast bowlers who have batsmen waiting their turn nervously, an off spinner who asks questions with bounce as well as spin, a batting line up who can hurt you from anywhere ... and a captain with tactical acumen, batting talent above the ordinary and the cahones to stand and spit in your face in the heat of battle.

That team was Chappellis 1974-75 Australians. This mob aren't there yet but they have the same whiff.

Right now, I'm not sure, if Mike Denness was in the losers dressing room at the Gabba, he could tell the difference.