Australian players celebrate their most famous Ashes win in recent memory © Getty Images
By Abhijit Banare
Welcome to the Australian version of the Ashes 2013-14 highlights. Never in the wildest of your dreams did you think that this Australian side would rout England losing just one out of the 13 fixtures played across three months. Quire predictably, there were many heroes, Mitchell Johnson, Michael Clarke, Darren Lehmann and others. Below are the highlights of a historic series for Australia.
Ridiculed but confident of a turnaround
Lost to India 0-4, lost to England 0-3, what kind of a team does he have? ‘This Australian team has a mental block against England’, read plenty of statements available online which ‘slammed’, ’attacked’ and ‘assaulted’ Clarke and his team’s abilities. But the Australian skipper promised that the return leg of the Ashes would be theirs. Many laughed back then, but that is team effort for you.
Mitchell Johnson, the Ashes Hero
Many believed Mitchell Johnson was the major difference between the two sides © Getty Images
37 wickets at an average of 13.97 in five Tests. This is the kind of fast bowler every captain dreams to have. It was neither a sudden burst of form nor some mystery deliveries which earned him Man of the series. It was culmination of round the clock hard work and it was visible in the matches he played in the run-up to the Ashes. The Indian Premier League was the first of them. A day after Sachin Tendulkar last played for India, he mentioned Johnson as the man to watch out for. Johnson reminded of the West Indies pace quartet who earned their wickets more by instilling fear than their immense abilities with the ball. England were totally outclassed by Johnson’s moustache and the ball just did some basic tasks of knocking down the stumps and zipping past the batsmen’s head.
Channelising anger through their performance
In the quest of regaining their lost glory, Australia imbibed one more of their lost charm: Sledging! The series was filled with each player having a word or two for the English side. Clarke started it off for James Anderson and David Warner, Johnson and others did well to keep up with the war of words. During all this while, they didn’t let their performances slip and were well aware of their plans.
David Warner and Brad Haddin
Brad Haddin’s resurgence as a wicketkeeper and more importantly, as a batsman made a significant difference to the Australian batting © Getty Images
It was Australia’s batting which had let them down big time. This time around, apart from Clarke, it was one more batsman at the top who gave them blazing starts and put pressure on the England bowlers who were already burdened with the poor batting. Warner, the top-scorer for Australia in the Ashes, and another batsman who made a huge difference was Brad Haddin. The wicketkeeper-batsman battled personal and on-field struggle to emerge as the anchor of the Australian middle and lower-order batting. Every time there was a batting collapse at the top, Haddin was there to rescue the team. Five fifties and one century at No 7 speaks volumes of his contribution.
Michael Clarke’s leadership
Michael Clarke’s intensity as a captain was exemplary throughout the Ashes © Getty Images
In a span of months, Clarke has seen what the worst and best moments of being an Australian captain are. And so has the maturity to deal with issues within the team. From leading a torn apart dressing room and solving controversies of his players more than playing, Clarke managed to regroup the entire team with the help of Lehmann and at the same time led from the front by scoring runs and captaining with authority.
What’s in a coach?
Accept it or not, it takes more than just nominal coaching abilities to bring a turnaround as much as Darren Lehmann did. He was not just a coach but the one who restructured the entire team framework and did the first basic task which many teams fail to protect: Making a team sport an enjoyable process. Lehmann, as a former player, absorbed every essence of the Australian dressing room and gave back the players their identities they longed for. Once the team learnt to stick together, the rest was history.
It’s 5-0 for Australia
After the victory at Perth in the third Test, a 5-0 win was always on the cards. But credit to Australia’s determination that they didn’t falter even once in their quest for regaining the Ashes. The intensity and attitude was intact even in the dead rubbers at Melbourne and Sydney.
Finch-hitter smashes England
Aaron Finch didn’t let the English even sneak in a foot through the door, as he pummeled them around the park during the ODIs © Getty Images
More often than not, you run away from one problem and end up getting trapped in to the other. England somehow ran away from Johnson and here came Aaron Finch, ready to dish out another thrashing to England. He started off with a scintillating ton. England’s woes continued as they were beaten once again. They did manage to register their solitary win in the fourth ODI, but it was too late for them as the series ended 4-1.
Back as the No 1 side
Never mind how incompetent India were failing to win even a couple of matches in a format where they were perceived to be the champions. Full credit to Australia, in keeping up with their momentum and completing a 4-1 win over England. By virtue of the win, after the progression in the Test rankings, they reaped benefits in the 50-over format becoming the No 1 ranked side. There were plenty of permutations to bank upon in the middle of the series, but India preferred to keep it straight by losing their encounters and allowing a safe passage to the Aussies to bag the top spot.
The 3-0 T20 win
Australia finished the series with a scoreline of 12-1 after winning the T20 series as well © Getty Images
A 3-0 Twenty20 series win summed up the entire tour making it 12-1. In fact, George Bailey smashing Jade Dernbach in the last over was symbolic of how the Ashes turned out. Two of three matches were convincingly won by Australia. Ahead of the World T20, the Aussies couldn’t have asked for better practice.
(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)