Australia won the series and the England players will say that you can't let-up for a second against them; that they crush you, if you do. But that's bollocks. They're a great side, but to bestow on them machine-like qualities and robotic flawlessness is to show too much respect. You can't beat a side if you think of them like that.
The truth is that this Australian side is very good, but there's an argument that this might have been one of England's better chances to win in Australia. Here's why.
Statistically, Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden are one of the greatest opening partnerships of all time, but that's going back over quite some period. Currently, they're pretty ordinary.
Langer hit what was really quite a lucky 82 in the first Test. By simply posting a third-man England could have halved his tally. In the second innings, his hundred was the equivalent of putting the boot into a prone victim after your mates have beaten him up.
Hayden's just hopeless. He's the next to go.
This is the first reason why this series presented an opportunity for England. There is, quite simply, no way on earth that the inclusion of Phil Jaques in place of one of these two wouldn't improve the Australian side considerably.
There aren't too many issues here. Australia have Ricky Ponting and Ashes hero, Mike Hussey
playing for them. However, alongside them was Damien Martyn who was in the final, underwhelming throes of a great career. He was replaced by Andrew Symonds who's confirming everyone's view that he's a great one-day player, but no more than that.
Unfortunately for England, Michael Clarke's not going to get any worse and Ponting and Hussey have a long way to fall to be classed as merely 'superb'. Weak links in Aussie batting don't tend to last long, so the other middle-order spot is unlikely to remain a chink in their armour.
Adam Gilchrist's breathtaking hundred distracts from an otherwise poor year with the bat. Again, he's one of the greats, but on current form, you'd fancy your chances. He's done a lot over the years, but that's in the past.
Some things never change. Next.
There's definitely a theme here. For as long as we can remember, Glenn McGrath has been untouchable. He didn't go for runs and he took wickets. Reliable? If ever you could count a bowler, here he was. But it doesn't work that way any more. Glenn McGrath has occasionally looked vulnerable.
Batsmen have attacked him. Ricky Ponting has even been forced to remove him from the attack for his own protection. This is unheard of. On his day, he's still pretty much the best there is, but now there are off days. You don't often get the opportunity to fell a champion. England could have dealt a severe blow by doing this. There probably won't be a second opportunity.
Brett Lee's paradoxically turning into quite a conservative selection. He's still a tearaway fast bowler who goes for runs, but he's a better batsman than Warne. England's number seven averages 23.91 with the bat. Australia's number nine averages 21.86. If only he took more wickets.
Stuart Clark won us over very quickly. We characterised him as an ageing, ineffective Jason Gillespie/Michael Kasprowicz substitute. In fact, he's a younger Glenn McGrath. Top that.
So why did England lose?
For all that we've written on Australia's failings, they don't compare to England's
. Plus, Australia's big performers have done better than England's big performers. Ponting and Hussey broke England's bowlers and Stuart Clark has fortified a previously faltering attack.
We'd like to think that this is the final hurrah of an ageing side and that England will meet an inferior, younger side come the next Ashes. In truth, we think that this side has already aged and that their replacements will revitalise them.
Maybe we're just being pessimistic because we're miserable about England losing the bastard Ashes again.
Labels: Ashes, Australia, failings