With England wrapping up the series over their Australian counter parts in Durham on Saturday and claiming their ninth consecutive ODI victory, the question has been raised over the significance of the series and what it might mean in terms of Ashes cricket over the next couple of years. With two Ashes series planned for 2013, could this ODI series be providing Michael Clarke’s side with valuable experience in English conditions?
The current ODI series had come under a fair amount of criticism before it began for a number of reasons. Firstly the overkill of one day cricket has left many punters disillusioned with a format which seems to be dying a slow death. This series was planned during the era before Andy Flower (at a time when England were dreadful at one day cricket) and is part of a reciprocal agreement which sees England play an ODI series down in Australia just before the 2015 World Cup. As such it seems a shrewd move from the ECB, providing competitive practice in the same environment that the World Cup will take place in, something not achieved in the sub continent prior to the 2007 tournament.
Given the thrashing that England have given to the Australians it now appears a more than useful run out for an England side looking to move on from the shock retirement of Kevin Pietersen. The opening partnership of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell has flourished against two new balls and Eoin Morgan has re-established himself as a world class middle order batsman whilst the stability of Jonathon Trott at number three has been an under-rated factor. The bowling unit is undeniably world class and look comfortable defending anything above 250. Steven Finn and Stuart Broard have bowled with real pace and aggression, James Anderson has relished a new ball all to himself, whilst the steady influence of Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann have provided the skipper Cook with options for any situation. Add Graham Onions, Chris Tremlett, Stuart Meaker and Jade Dernbach to that list and it’s almost an embarrassment of riches.
Australia on the other hand look all over the place, a batting line up short of quality, experience and nous is matched by a bowling attack who simply cannot sustain any pressure. Whilst David Warner may win games single handedly on his day, there is nothing to follow if he does not come good. Shane Watson is always good for a sixty, but seems incapable of converting to match winning scores and skipper Clarke has batted too slowly in tough conditions. George Bailey, Peter Forrest and the ‘keeper Matthew Wade have been found out all too easily. Clint McKay has probably been the pick of the bowlers and everybody was disappointed to see Pat Cummins sent home early through injury but as a unit they just don’t carry the weight that Aussie attacks used to. They have called up Mitchell Starc to replace Brett Lee for the final game tomorrow, Cook and Bell will not be losing much sleep over that prospect.
Coach Mickey Arthur said following Saturday’s defeat, ‘I think we’ve been a bit submissive this whole series. We’ve allowed [ourselves] to be bullied, and we’re better than that. I don’t think we’ve had a presence this series.’ Times have changed, it used to be the Aussies doing the bullying.
So what does this mean for next year’s Ashes battle? Mickey Arthur doesn’t think too much, ‘I think our Test team is really good, it’s really settled, it’s got that hard edge.’ But many of these players will be back next summer to do battle in white clothing and this heavy series defeat could leave some mental scars. England have been dominant and will hold the psychological advantage. Australia will come back strong, of that there is no doubt. Michael Hussey will return and Brad Haddin will keep wicket, a large chunk of the test team will have been part of the Aussie side that lost heavily in the last Ashes series and they will want revenge. We may even see Ricky Ponting back on these shores for one last time. At the moment though, it’s advantage England.