Australia lost the first test of the ashes. They were outplayed in pretty much every department. Cracks that have been lingering under the surface for the last year finally came to the surface. The successful Australian cricket team suddenly looks broken.
The bowling in the first innings was to put it bluntly rubbish. On an up and down wicket, that should have favoured the bowlers, Australia’s pace attack couldn’t bowl line and length. They couldn’t build any pressure simply because they bowled so many bad balls. The number of poor short balls and balls down the legside was criminal. Something you expect to see in a 4th grade, not a test match. Part of that is that the attack had both Starc and Johnson. Its impossible to overstate how much this attack missed Ryan Harris.
Both Starc and Johnson bowl a lot of bad balls. You can’t really play both in the same side, it leaves your attack far too brittle, far too erratic. It showed. Of course you can cop that when they also bowl jaffers that take wickets regularly. In the case of Johnson he didn’t.
Australia’s batting was more or less “normal”. Despite the team’s success, Australia’s top order has collapsed far too regularly. Collapsing is what this top order does best.. Most of the time the tail has covered those deficiencies. This time that wasn’t the case. Relying on 8-11 to score 100-150 runs was never sustainable.
The truth is the success of this Australian team since the last Ashes series in England was never going to last. It was an old cobbled together team, a team of the moment, not a team that was going to grow. It worked for a while. Purple patches of from, great rearguard recoveries and luck played a part. It was a good time, it wasn’t going to be a long time though.
The success of this side started with Johnson. Johnson hit career best form and destroyed England in Australia. Australia won back the Ashes. It was one of the most breathtaking displays of fast bowling witnessed in recent times. It was amazing to watch. Johnson almost singlehandedly mentally disintegrated England. By the second test, England were rabbits in the headlights. They never recovered. But it was Johnson, it couldn’t last. It didn’t. Since then, it’s been a slow decline. While 2009 Johnson isn’t quite back yet, 2009 Johnson isn’t far away either.
Haddin had a late renaissance in that series.
Since then though, the fact he is old and in decline has become more and more apparent. His batting left him pretty much entirely after that series. For a while his keeping was still good. Signs that is was declining were there for those who wanted to look, but he was solid. That’s no longer the case. For most players, in most sports, that happens. 37 is old to be an elite sportsman. It’s no disgrace, but its probably safe to say that he can no longer claim to be the best keeper in Australia. Nevill is better. Heck, Wade may even be better. That’s not a good thing. Haddin is now really only there because he is the team’s talisman, a much loved mascot, not as a player.
Over the last 18 months Smith has been immense.
Everyone else has just been adequate. It’s been enough. It isn’t any longer. It wasn’t in the UAE against Pakistan either. While a lot of people seem to have written that series off as an aberration, it clearly illustrated the issues with the team. To be honest, its a credit to the team and Lehmann that the cracks were papered over for so long. More than a year on, those cracks now look terminal. It’s not a surprise. The team is old. The foundation the success was build on was never really solid in the first place. This time, there will be no second renaissance. Time catches up with us all. Haddin is shot.
Watson is shot. Completely shot. Clarke looks shot. He is out of form, he might regain it, but at the moment, he is part of the problem. Johnson is once again shot. Johnson is Johnson. Rogers is still serviceable, he is retiring after this series. He knows his time is up. Voges is old, you can’t build a team around a man of his age and this Australian team needs to be re-built.
That should start that now. Watson and Haddin shouldn’t play at Lords. Nevill and Mitchell Marsh are better. If Australia wants to win the ashes, it needs to turn things around quickly and new blood is probably needed. I simply can’t see this team bouncing back as it is. In the matter of one game, the cracks that have always been there, suddenly look irreparable.
Whether those changes happen in this series or after it, those changes need to happen. Come the Australian summer, this Australian side should be very different. At the very least, Rogers, Voges, Haddin and Watson should be moved on for younger, brighter, more energetic players. Mitchell Marsh, Joe Burns, Chris Lynn and the like. There are question marks over Clarke, at the least, he should no longer be captain by then. There are question marks over Johnson. He was out-bowled by a younger version of himself in the first test. He doesn’t have long to find the elusive magic potion that sometimes turns him into the best fast bowler in the world overnight, before deserting him just as quickly.
The second test starts on Thursday. Can Australia bounce back? Or is this when those cracks cause the entire edifice to crumble into dust. Either way it will be interesting.