The Ashes, Second Test, Day Five: Swann Necks the Aussies

Dame Edna, Ned Kelly, Mark Webber, Men at Work, Kylie Minogue, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman and Rupert Murdoch, your boys took one hell of a beating...
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Dame Edna, Ned Kelly, Mark Webber, Men at Work, Kylie Minogue, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman and Rupert Murdoch, your boys took one hell of a beating...

Much like Beethovens’ 5th symphony, this test started and ended with a goose-bump inducing flourish. Thankfully, it also followed old Ludwig’s masterpiece and bollocked along for the duration. When this test is looked back on in years to come, the incidents that people will remember are two bursts of bowling that, five days apart, secured three Australian wickets. But for England fans from Adelaide to Arundel, every last second will be cherished.

As a sporting occasion, The Ashes has most in common with the Ryder Cup, in that it is a bi-annual head-to-head between two long-term rivals. It took the introduction of Seve Ballesteros and continental Europe to make that competition a two-horse race again and, in that context, it has taken the addition of a Zimbabwean, an Aussie and a handful of South African-born players to do the same here.

To the die-hards, the men, women and children who ruin sleep patterns, marriages, bank balances and employment opportunities to follow England in Australia, this is the reward for decades of disappointment. Beating Australia at home in consecutive series may have wrestled the monkey from our collective shoulders, but hammering them in Adelaide by an innings for the first time 24 years is the equivalent of chopping off its bonce and dining on the warm gelatinous brains.

As comparatively poor as this Australian team may be, England were magnificent. In out-playing Australia in all areas, they have not only consigned 24 years of hurt to the annals, but inflicted deep psychological blows that will reverberate over the rest of this series.

The Barmy Army were fairly quiet at the start of play yesterday. Of course they were nervous, rain was forecast, Mr. Cricket was still at the crease and, after all, this is England. The best image of the morning was when Hussey stupidly hooked a perfectly pitched short ball from Steve Finn. As the ball rose high in the air, the only mob of supporters in world cricket went absolutely doolally tap. And when it nestled in Jimmy Anderson’s hands, a disco broke out on the hill.

To the die-hards, the men, women and children who ruin sleep patterns, marriages, bank balances and employment opportunities to follow England in Australia, this is the reward for decades of disappointment

From there, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Hussey was the vital wicket. We’ve seen him bat all day before but, in desperation, he went against type and played a shot that would look average in the Sunday threes.

It was always going to be Swann who bought it home. In taking 5-91, he confirmed his status as the premier spin bowler in world cricket. There is a theory that off-spin bowlers don’t do well in Australia. Swann wasn’t having any of it. He gives it a big rip for an offie, but he also puts the ball in the right areas to make this spin effective. This was his tenth 5 wicket innings, only the second slow-bowler in the history of English cricket to do so. And the Barmy Army celebrated with glee to the strains of Joy Division

“Swaaaaaaaannnnn, Swann will tear you apart, again….” They sang, beer dripping off joyous, sunburnt faces.

Australia are clearly paying the price for taking their eye off the ball when they were in their pomp. With Warne, McGrath and co so dominant for so long, there should’ve been hundreds of budding larrikin leggies and metronome quicks pretending to be their heroes in backyards across the country. Where are they? Ian Chappell, who knows a thing or two about it, commented on TMS that they have to focus on the future. “But there is nothing out there at the moment,” he said as Vaughan and Aggers gloated. “We need to focus on having a great team in five or ten years time.”

Sport is cyclical. Burnley and Preston used to be big hitters in English football. This England team can stay together for at least five years and have a good chance of becoming the best test team in the world. They host India next summer, in what will certainly be the last tour for Tendulkar, Laxman and Dravid. Beat them, and it is between England and South Africa.

Australia have to regroup for Perth. Ricky Ponting was gracious and erudite in defeat, but he is deluded in his thinking that the England bowlers merely executed their plans better. They are better full stop. Australia lack variation and you can guarantee there will be changes for the next test. That is if they can find anyone.

Both sides have one enforced change to make. Stuart Broad is definitely out for the series and Simon Katich looks to have gone the same way. England can choose between Azmal Shahzad, Tim Bresnan and the beanpole Chris Tremlett. Australia’s options are less so, with only Phil Hughes, who got found out by the short ball in England last year, to come in as an opener.

Through good planning, investment in youth and the right appointments in the coaching ranks, England have shown that the devil is in the detail. And it seems that Lucifer is a fully paid up member of the Barmy Army.

The score this morning was 66 for 6.

One more win to retain The Ashes.

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