Jimmy Anderson wants to punch George Bailey in the face and Michael Clarke wants Anderson’s arm broken. No, this isn’t some awful WWE wrestling match or even Dave Warner on a Saturday night. What was said and not what was achieved in the first test wrongly dominated the back pages.
Australia haven’t hosted a tightly contested Ashes series since the 1982-83 summer. England was either hopelessly negative or Australia was wilfully dominant. In recent years, the Aussies have been overmatched because of a meek talent-pool and stunningly poor decision making by Cricket Australia. The truth be told, The Ashes in the modern era has been predictable and often disappointingly one-sided with the exception of 2005.
Australian cricket and, heck, test cricket needs a champagne series. Cricket is lacking true star power as the Little Master, Ponting and Lara no longer wield the willow, and Shane Warne no longer texts. Kevin Pietersen excites spectators but he struggles to avoid public scorn, anyone South African is under-appreciated (seriously, listen to the Channel Nine commentary team’s pathetic attempt to heap praise on Graeme Smith’s brilliant leadership and toughness. They’re definitely still livid by Smith’s abrasive cockiness in his first tour to Australia) and public opinion of Michael Clarke remains polarised (Is it because we couldn’t understand why Clarke would rather bang Bingle then live and breathe Australian cricket?).
The ICC’s decision to fine Clarke for his on-field altercation is a classic example of a paranoid authority trying to protect its brand. Clarke’s incident in isolation barely merits discussion. While vulgar, worse language has been used on the field. What was surprising was Australia’s number one cheer-squad, Channel Nine, allowing Clarke’s exchange with Anderson to be aired.
Well, here we are in late November, and David holds a 1 – 0 series lead over Goliath. Australia went nine tests without a victory, so it was crucial the Aussies broke through in Brisbane with the win. England suffered its first test defeat in 14 tests. Was it a loss England had to have to sharpen its focus? It’s difficult to say. What we do know is that every Melburnian’s worst fear of a dead Boxing Day test match is now unlikely. For Australian confidence, corporate advertising, spirit of competition and the wider impact on test cricket, the result in Brisbane was the right one, for everyone.
England are proven winners even if its brand of cricket is dull and uninspiring, much like Peter Jackson’s sellout of The Hobbit. Yet, with Jonathan Trott’s sudden departure leaving a glaring hole at number three and Australia’s ease with playing Swann, can England regain control? The Ashes is going to come down to which batting pair, Clarke and Warner or Cook and KP, can have more success. Pup never found his batting rhythm over in England and Warner never really left the pub. Warner, in particular, looked at peace in the middle of the GABBA (much like he would with a frothy in hand) – he was aggressive but in full control, dictating the bowler’s actions. During Australia’s nine test winless stretch, Warner and Pup never scored a century in the same match. Seems like a losing formula, to me.
England opened the door to Australia on day two of the first test with some hideously negative tactics and now they must find a way to level the series on an Adelaide highway. As both sides find themselves in unfamiliar territory, the first session of the Adelaide test will be crucial in influencing not only the result of the second test, but, also, the entire Ashes series.