It was wet and grizzly when the England players arrived in Melbourne but they all seemed to be wearing their shades. It must have been a big night in Adelaide, especially for those who had experienced the humiliation and desolation of four years ago when England lost the unloseable match at the Adelaide Oval.
How they deserved their celebrations. The Test victory in Adelaide was the most complete performance I can recall from an England team. From the moment that Jonathan Trott set the ball rolling in the first over with his run-out of Simon Katich to the perfect, final off-break delivered to Peter Siddle by Graeme Swann I can recall only two demonstrable errors.
There was a very hard caught and bowled chance to Jimmy Anderson off the bat of Mike Hussey on the first day and an equally tricky catch to Matt Prior behind the stumps (Hussey again) on the last. Otherwise England were flawless in the field, ruthless with the bat and relentless with the ball on a surface that might have had bowlers weeping for mercy – except when Swann had the chance to benefit from Dougie Bollinger’s footmarks.
This was a brilliant performance marred only by the injury to Stuart Broad, which has caused the all-rounder to head for home. Broad had very grotty returns during the nine days he participated in the series – no runs and two expensive wickets – but don’t be misled. The feeling was that the pendulum would swing his way shortly.
Despite the dearth of wickets he had been an important member of the bowling unit. England really have hunted as a pack in Australia and relished each other’s success.
So the only dilemma for the tour management is over Broad’s replacement. Chris Tremlett may well be the man. He is the nearest to a like-for-like replacement (though he cannot stare quite so meanly) but Tim Bresnan – a workhorse into the Fremantle Doctor? – and Ajmal Shahzad, strong and eager, have their virtues too.
By comparison there are so many options being floated about what the Australians should do after their crushing defeat. The campaign to reinstate Shane Warne as spinner/captain/messiah is plainly a stunt, although such is the feverish level of debate that no one is quite prepared to stake their life that it won’t happen.
But just the mention of Warne gives a hint of the desperation here. There is already a feeling of resignation about this Ashes series among the locals. No one seems to think that Adelaide was an aberration. Instead through gritted teeth it is acknowledged that England are better and a bewildering number of names are tossed out as possible replacements in the Australian side. All good fun really.
Of course, all that could change if whichever eleven their selectors come up have two good days at the start of the Perth Test. But there will be much agonising before that match starts. It is an interesting time for Greg Chappell to return to the international fold as a full-timer selector/talent developer.
Now that Australia need two victories to recover the Ashes they will surely be hoping to play on some livelier pitches. At Adelaide it needed Bollinger’s clumping size elevens to give the bowlers some assistance. It has rarely been the Australian way but Ricky Ponting would not object to the pitches being spiced up somehow, and with his side having yielded 1137 runs while taking just six wickets you can understand why.
Traditionally at Perth the sheer pace of the wicket has been enough for the bowlers to prevail. But recently the WACA pitch has changed in character. The bounce has not been so extreme and there has been some turn for the spin bowlers, which is probably not a combination that suits Australia just now because, Warne aside, they don’t appear to have a clue who their best spin bowler is.