Hanging heads and drooping shoulders, an image that encapsulated England’s disastrous Ashes down under © Getty Images
By Abhijit Banare
Hello and welcome to the highlights of England’s phenomenal tour to Australia spanning from November 21, 2013 to February 2, 2014. If you are an England fan, then you may proceed, if you are an Australian fan you would love to absorb and enjoy each and every point in this article and also read the Australian version of the report here. If you are an Indian fan, just relax and enjoy someone else’s misery. And the best part of this article is, everyone else apart from the Big Three can also read it till the end. So here’s England’s forgettable tour described in a nutshell.
England arrive in Australia with two things
Well, England’s 82-page recipe consisting of their dietary requirements is not one of the two things I am talking of. On a serious note, the two things were, confidence they carried after a 3-0 victory in England and the burden of Ian Botham’s (now embarrassing) 10-0 prediction! The visitor’s started off positively with some impressive performances in the three warm-up games. The preparations were well on course, except for Stuart Broad. The Australian media was licking its lips to pounce upon Stuart Broad and use as many disgusting words available in the ASD (Australia’s Sledging Dictionary). But the England team, high on confidence remained unperturbed.
The start of the whitewash by a black mustachioed Johnson
‘He bowled to the left and bowled to the right but the England batsmen couldn’t bat right’. It was not just the start of England’s disaster but the rise of Mitchell Johnson — the Man on a Mission. England often boasted about their awesome pace attack, and the dream continued with Australia’s nemesis, Broad picking a six for 81 in the first innings. But they paid little heed that the opposition was sharpening its teeth as well. Johnson literally blew away the English side thereby kickstarting one of the finest bowling performances in Tests in recent times.
The depressing blow to England’s No 3
Michael Clarke did sledge James Anderson at the end of first Test; the Australian aggression, however, took a toll on the English batting with Jonathan Trott returning home with a stress-related illness. A little controversy ensued as David Warner had sledged at Trott during the second Test. But Trott’s departure was just the beginning of the crack in the fragile mental strength of the English side. They were once again taken apart by Johnson. What once looked like just a test defeat at Brisbane now fuelled the media at home to sharpen their critiquing skills. Cook remained defiant and so was the confidence of the team (externally). A series defeat ahead at Perth loomed large.
England slip in to the cracks of Perth
That final wicket of James Anderson (right) ended all English hopes for good © Getty Images
It all boiled down to the ‘bouncy’ Perth wicket for England to survive the Australian pace onslaught and the in-form Johnson. The heat at Perth and the cracks on the pitch were too hot to handle. Ian Bell and Ben Stokes put up a stiff resistance but the defeat was inevitable with yet another frail performance by England. George Bailey dived to a catch offered by James Anderson and that was it for the English side, Australia had won the Ashes but there was scope for landing two more blows and make it 5-0.
Ben Stokes becomes England media’s Andrew Flintoff
If there was anything that England could think positively about after 74 days of misery, it’s the all-rounder Stokes. His 120 at a testing Perth wicket under torrid weather and then a six-for in the fifth Test made him the ideal all-rounder since Andrew Flintoff. Much of England’s future will be pinned upon him.
Graeme Swann bids adieu
Even Graeme Swann’s jolly behaviour during the press conference when he annpunced his retirement came as a shock © Getty Images
The second casualty of the Ashes tour was the retirement of Graeme Swann after the Perth Test. The off-spinner’s decision left everyone in shock. With a smiling face and maintaining that same humour, Swann faced the media and England were in doldrums. Swann’s retirement was once again an eye-opener for England who don’t have a reliable spinner. With Monty Panesar spinning his own story off the field, England have a task on hands.
Kevin Pietersen vs Andy Flower
They were thrashed 5-0 and the swords were out between coach Andy Flower and the maverick batsman. It ended on a bitter note, with Flower ending his coaching stint by resigning just days before the tour came to an end. It once again showed that having match-winners is of no use if the team management can’t effectively deal with them. Special players require special treatment and Flower’s disciplined methods seemed to be too hot to handle for the team.
Same old story in ODIs
An exasperated Alastair Cook headed in to the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series and the fortunes remained the same. The Aussies, who rested their key players at different stages of the series, were still confident and strong enough to give the same treatment. The England batting was once again not good enough with Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler being the only ones to make notable contributions.
Ravi Bopara keeps England’s misery burning
Ravi Bopara (left) choked in the final ODI in the final moments, as England lost another chance to grab a consolation win © Getty Images (File Photo)
Purely on the basis of performance, Ravi Bopara would fit well in the South African side — of course for choking! 217 was the least Australia could have served England to end the ODI series on a high, but even that chance went begging. With eight required in nine deliveries, Bopara facilitated a bizarre stumping. The five-run loss was not only a painful blow to the demoralising tour so far but also set them up for the T20 series loss. Fine end to the ODI series on Australia Day though.
Smallest punch in the shortest format
Sigh! By now the T20 series loss looks like a miniscule part of the grand disaster that culminated in the months preceding it. T20 was the best possible opportunity for England to make amends but the blunders continued.
Well, at best, let’s hope everyone else in the team lies back at home, watch some sheeps in the farm and unwind themselves. Errr! Isn’t Cook exactly doing that?
(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)