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England lost the third T20I against Australia by 84 runs on Sunday. This was England’s 12th international loss out of 13 matches in their 2013-14 tour Down Under. Lesser England teams have shown more fight and won many hearts against far greater Australian sides in the past, despite losing. Shrikant Shankar writes that it just does not compute how this England side could lose so many matches on tour.
Everyone had clearly stated that England were the better team prior to their first Test against Australia in their 2013-14 tour Down Under. England were supposed to win the Ashes 2-1 or 3-1 and then carry that momentum forward. The one match they were certain to lose was the third Test in Perth. That match turned out to be England’s best performance of the Test series as they managed to drag it out till after lunch on Day Five. Poor shows after poor shows followed each other. The Ashes was lost 0-5.
Then came a chance to redeem themselves in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs). But that series was lost 1-4. Then Australia won the three-match Twnety20 International (T20I) series 3-0. If not for Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, England would have lost that sole ODI win in Perth. Somehow their bogey ground — the WACA — in previous tours, turned out to be their most cherished venues, relatively. A total of 10 international matches were played throughout the tour, but England only managed one victory.
It is quite incomprehensible that this England setup failed so miserably throughout the tour. Lesser England teams have done better in their previous tours of Australia. That too when Australia were in the midst of one of the greatest dominant eras as a team in any sport. When England entered the 2006-07 Ashes without the inspirational Michael Vaughan, one could imagine Australia winning the series 5-0, at least in the back of their head. That score line was not expected this time around. Australia captain Michael Clarke and many current players said so themselves.
One actually felt pity for that England team. This England team have been ridiculed over the last few months. After the 2006-07 Ashes series loss, England went onto win the ODI tri-series against Australia and New Zealand. They showed some fight and steel in the 2002-03 Ashes series Down Under. This series will be nothing short of a high level of abjection for them. All predictions and performances were put aside as Australia wrote their own script.
The T20I series may not have had that much importance, but the Ashes surely were. Losing that in the manner they did would hurt for a long time to come. No amount of near future success would help mend the scars. And one should not make any mistake — there will be scars, physical and mental, as the series has come to a close. The physical side of it was largely done by Mitchell Johnson.
How can one man change the course of an entire series and create a template against England for the entire tour? Whatever the answers, Johnson did it and rightly won the Man of the Series award. Man for man, England had the better batting and bowling attacks. But in the end it was Australia who performed. This Australian side is still nowhere near the class of their legendary predecessors and that is why England’s overall 12-1 loss is so hard to comprehend.
Team director Andy Flower was sacked/resigned and a new chapter will begin in English cricket. The road to glory this time will take a while, but a new way of playing the game must be made as the template. Uncertain times lay ahead, but if the right decisions are taken, the rewards will arrive.
(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)
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