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England must find a way to shed their mental block against Australia

Alastair Cook-led England side have struggled to make their mark in Australia © Getty Images
Alastair Cook-led England side have struggled to make their mark in Australia © Getty Images

By Abhijit Banare

Australia have too many players suffering from the psychological damage of playing against this England team. In 2009 England won with a side containing Alastair Cook, Graeme Swann, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad. The same players were there in 2010-11 when England won 3-1 in Australia, winning by an innings on three occasions. Now Australia are 2-0 down after two games against the same side. Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Phil Hughes, Steve Smith, Peter Siddle and Brad Haddin only know failure against England”

These were the exact words by Michael Vaughan in his column for The Telegraph in July 2013 when Australia were outclassed in the first leg of the Ashes.

Time flies fast. It’s hard to fathom that in just six months the same theory now applies to England and Alastair Cook as a captain too. Mitchell Johnson instilled fear in the first half of the Ashes 2013-14 and from thereon, England are in a self-destruction mode on their own. Johnson suddenly looked like a threatening bowler even before he bowled the first match of a Test. England would have been relieved to end the painful Test series.

But there was a always a fear that the result may have been left behind not the mindset. There was a renewed vigour in the first One-day International (ODI) which was punctured by Aaron Finch. Just when things brightened up in the second game with Australia nine down for 250 odd, England once again squandered an opportunity. It wouldn’t be completely fair to say that England choked, but one can be assured that in the last three overs, there was a sense of deja vu for England. Faulkner had already won half the battle in the mind by bludgeoning sixes, shots which landed on the first tier of an already large ground.

There was no rocket science involved that it was England’s match to lose at Brisbane. At 244 for nine, Australia’s chances were as slim as James Anderson surviving a Mitchell Johnson over. Eventually, it is the confidence that decided the outcome. James Faulkner, had just one option left i.e. to swing his arms to almost every ball and hope Clint McKay survives.

The consecutive sixes in the 45th over by Ben Stokes just fuelled Faulkner’s positivity which resulted in his six-hitting spree. The world cricket has now realised that Faulkner is turning out to be the most frustrating player an opposition could ask for. It’s not once, but thrice he has shown how effective he can be at the end. Two of the three situations have resulted in a win.

More than Faulkner’s wild swings, it was the bowlers inability to get their length right. Faulkner stood like he was there to win the game whereas, England looked as though they were hoping someone will finish off the tail eventually and in the end, none could. There’s nothing new in what unfolded at Brisbane. It was a clear distinction between a team playing like a winner and the other hoping for win.

Where do England go from here?

There’s no denying that England will likely lose the Sydney encounter once again and the series. As Vaughan suggested six months back about Australia, in contrast, England need a change of guard. If they had to take some positives from the second ODI, it was the two batsmen who didn’t feature in the Test series — Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler who were impressive. Considering the situation of the team, one can infer that these two players were playing without baggage. But it would take more than two players to win the game.

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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