How quickly fortune can change! Three days into the first Ashes Test, Australia was right on top... leading England by more than 200 runs, having gotten 10 first-innings English wickets without even letting the second new ball become due, centuries for batsmen who had had question marks over their places in the squad and there seemed to exist a tremendous amount of optimism in the media all over the island nation.
Two days later, the tables have as upside down as upside down can be! Whereas less than 77 overs were needed to take the first 10 English wickets, Australia couldn't prise out more than 1 over almost double the number of overs in the second innings. The captain led from the front, then the vice-captain overtook him and went further ahead... and meanwhile, the South African born No. 3 continued his dream run against the Aussies.
Since England won the final 2 days of the drawn Gabba Test, there is naturally a lot of optimism now in the English media and there are talks about momentum and psychological advantage... But putting all this aside, what else can be deduced from this match?
England batted for a total of 228.5 overs and scored 777 runs for the loss of 11 wickets at 3.40 runs per over. Australia, on the other hand, batted for a total of 184.4 overs and scored 588 runs for the loss of 11 wickets at 3.18 runs per over. Given that 302 of England's runs were scored by Alastair Cook (that's 38.88%) and 136 of Australia's runs were scored by Brad Haddin (that's 23.13%), it is surprising to see England scoring a good 0.22 runs per over more than Australia over the duration of the match.
So the numbers too, prima facie, showcase England as the better side over the Test match. But the catch is, they were just slightly better. 'Slightly better' will not be good enough to win the urn, maybe just good enough to retain it.
Australia's problems are being talked of loudly and clearly all over the cricketing world at the moment. But England should realise that they have problems of their own. Australia, even at their worst, can put up a huge fight. England's worst fear right now would be a scenario where Ben Hilfenhaus finds his rhythm (which he is soon bound to), Mitchell Johnson producing one of his once-in-10-Tests brilliant efforts, Doug Bollinger returning to the squad with decent match practice (sorry Peter Siddle, but you are not going to be getting hat-tricks everyday... everyday's not your birthday), Marcus North finding grip and turn with his off breaks and the English batting having its once-in-10-Tests batting collapse... all in the same Test.
But then, England will also be cheered up by the fact that the above scenario is unlikely to occur in the 2nd Test... since it is at Adelaide. So what I am left wondering about now is that if Brisbane has produced only 22 wickets over 5 days (10 of which fell under a cloudy Day 1), what is going to happen at Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne? The flip side is that these venues might just provide the impetus needed to spur a certain Graeme Swann back into the thick of things.
Frankly, the first Test was a let down from what I expected. I hope Adelaide delivers a better show...
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