1. Feeble facial hair: Thanks to Movember, Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson had the chance to uphold the long tradition of badass Aussie bowlers using their massive whiskers to psyche out visiting English batsmen. But the pace duo missed a trick by sporting lame pencil efforts for the first test at the Gabba, taking a solitary wicket between them as Fred Spofforth, Australia’s original big-moustached assassin, revolved in his grave.
2. Threadbare Aussie reserves: The days when class acts like Tom Moody, Stuart Law and Brad Hodge could barely get a look-in are over. The Aussies might still have a couple of Mercs on the drive, but they’ve got next to sod all in the fridge.
3. Crap fielding: Time was when the Australians were so good in the field you pictured the nation’s youth asking Santa Claus for slip cradles and rousing themselves at six every morning for mass catching drills. But after years of guffawing at hapless English fielders, the Aussies aren’t looking too clever themselves, with Michael Clarke and Mitch Johnson both grassing easy chances in a slipshod display at the Gabba.
4. Passive Ricky: Prior to this series England had suffered a staggering 29 batting collapses in their last 26 tests Down Under. A couple of early wickets on day five at Brisbane would have given Ponting’s side a reasonable chance of engineering another and luring Australia’s fair-weather fans along to the ground for some ritual late-afternoon Pommie-baiting. Thankfully, the skipper’s defensive faffing and glum demeanour helped keep them at home.
5. Spin kings no more: Never mind Warney; less-fabled tweakers Stuart McGill, Tim May, Greg Matthews and Peter Taylor and have all put the heat on England at various times in the last 25 years. But if the efforts of the honest yet limited Xavier Doherty at the Gabba are anything to go by, the new generation of Aussie twirlers won’t be winning any mind games.
The Aussies might still have a couple of Mercs on the drive, but they’ve got next to sod all in the fridge.
6. No early shoeings: Previous Ashes tours have invariably kicked off with the Poms being embarrassed by full-strength state sides under express orders from Aussie top brass to duff them up. Strauss’ side cantered through their warm-ups, however, chalking up two emphatic wins and a comfortable draw.
7. And no injuries: Another tour staple, from Goochie’s poisoned finger in 90/91 to Devon Malcolm’s bout of chickenpox four years later and Simon Jones’ wrecked knee. Throw in the odd call-off or two for personal reasons and you’ve got some key ingredients in a series-long recipe for disaster. Once again, though, Strauss’s men have so far bucked the trend by staying fighting-fit and focused.
8. Shot selection: In his first 19 tests fast-medium hatstand Bruce Reid never picked up more than four wickets in an innings. In his 20th, against Goochie’s side at the MCG in 1990, Reid took 6 for 97 and 7 for 51 by doing little more than slinging the ball outside off stump and waiting for the inevitable edge. On the basis of their exemplary decision-making in their mammoth second dig in Brisbane, the current crop of tourists won’t be falling for that old trick.
9. Australian compliments: “Probably the hardest Test bowling I’ve ever had to face”. No, not Atherton on McGrath and Warne, or Gooch on Alderman, but Haddin on Broad and Anderson. Jimmy’s mesmerising spell at the start of day three even had the gnarled ex-Baggy Greens populating the Channel 9 commentary box giving it up for him, the last place you’d expect to hear an England seamer come in for praise.
10. Sherminator no more: Despite averaging a creditable 33 batting at 3 in a desperate losing cause four years ago and hitting four 50s in the process, Ian Bell has always been identified as a weak link by the old enemy, who saddled him with a crap nickname to boot. Yet, as his classy first-innings 76 at Brisbane showed, the mild-mannered Belly is ready to dish out some payback.
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