Joe Root (centre) of England covers his head in disbelief as James Faulkner and Clint McKay snatched an improbable victory for Australia in the second ODI © Getty Images
By Shrikant Shankar
England’s current tour of Australia has been nothing short of disastrous for them. They arrived in Australia in November 2013 as the favourites to win the Ashes, but were trounced 5-0. The One-Day International (ODI) series was supposed to be a fresh challenge with new players, but that too is not going according to plans. Australia out-batted England in the first ODI in Melbourne to win by six wickets. In the second ODI, England were the better team for large parts of the game, but ended up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Thanks to Eoin Morgan’s wonderful 106 off 99 deliveries, England posted 300 for eight in the second ODI in Brisbane. Their bowlers took wickets at regular intervals to restrict Australia first at 120 for five and then 244 for nine. There were six overs remaining and only one wicket for England to take to win their first international match on tour. Australia needed 57 runs with James Faulkner and Clint McKay in the middle. For the people who watched what ensued in those last six overs, it was worth the entertainment.
Faulkner is making a name for himself as a flourishing finisher while chasing in ODIs. After his heroics against India and Ishant Sharma in an ODI in 2013, England should have been aware of his pyrotechnics. A combination of poor bowling and extraordinary batting led Australia to victory with three balls to spare. As mentioned above, this was by far England’s best performance in the whole tour, but again this did not lead to them winning a match. When a team has been at the end of some pastings and then come close to winning and still lose, that does not bode well for confidence.
With only three matches to go in the ODI series, Australia seem certain to win the series, even if it may not be by another 5-0 margin. And for England, it is important they ensure they manage a win from somewhere in the ODI series. Headlines and articles will already be ready with two 5-0 victories for Australia. This is already turning out to be England’s worst tour Down Under in history. When they last lost 0-5 in the Ashes in 2006-07, they managed to win the corresponding ODI tri-series which also involved New Zealand.
This time, there are only three matches remaining. For this Australian side, victory means more than what it meant for the legendary team of 2006-07. They have not enjoyed a long patch of success, so, any victory is welcomed and they are hungry for more. They are nowhere close to the class and ability of the great Australian team, but the will to win and get to a high level is the same if not more. Australia will look at this as the beginning of something great which can culminate into them winning the World Cup on home soil in 2015.
Important series await England in the future as well. Tests series against West Indies and Sri Lanka may not have garnered much attention prior to the 2013-14 Ashes. But now they have gained more importance and only outright victories would do for the England fans and even the cricketers. Then after that comes the mega series against India which includes five Tests. India are a different side than the one which toured England in 2011. England were a better team back then and India were in transition. But if England lose to India in 2014, it will be a massive blow for them.
Winning is a habit and losing is also a habit as Brad Haddin said recently. England are in that losing habit now and there is no easy way out for them. Confidence is low and going into the future, it does not look good for them. The road to getting back to being a very competitive team is long and will be very hard, but they have to overcome all the hiccups on the way.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)