Cow Corner

View from Down Under: Aussies beware, England not a proper test

Another successful start put Australia in a commanding position after day one of the fifth Ashes Test in Sydney as the hosts move inexorably towards a 5-0 whitewash of England.

The mood of the nation is understandable upbeat, given Brad Haddin's déjà vu performance with the bat and Steve Smith's first ton at the SCG, but with that has come a warning in one of Saturday's newspapers.

David Polkinghorne, writing in the Canberra Times, is all too aware that the wave of euphoria currently sweeping the nation could yet prove to be short-lived, and suggests that talk of a great Australian side is a little rash - though given the subsequent England collapse that followed, there is probably even more hoopla about this Australia side by now.

Whoa Betsy! Easy there girl, we don't want the Australian bandwagon getting out of control. Now don't get me wrong. I love beating the Poms as much as anyone, but we're getting ahead of ourselves when it comes to our standing in the Test cricket world.

There's been all sorts of crazy headlines, with some past greats leading the charge. Glenn McGrath reckons this is the greatest Australian bowling attack he's ever seen. Adam Gilchrist was equally gushing over Brad Haddin's keeping performance in the Perth Test. And with headlines claiming ''Wins overseas key to greatness: Clarke'' you'd think our current XI hadn't lost a game in years.

It all seems a bit premature. We just need to put the brake on the bandwagon and stop it careering out of control.

Sure, our bowlers have completely dominated the England top order and left their tail curled up in the foetal position muttering, ''Please, not again, Mitchell,'' over and over again. But the best in recent history? Really?

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On a similar theme, the Daily Telegraph's Richard Hinds also brings a little perspective to Australia's series victory by pointing out that the opposition hardly provided a sterling test for the hosts - and that the it would be an entirely different story had their opposition been South African.

As the top order again folded on a green-ish wicket against some skilled bowling, a hitherto repressed thought crept uneasily to the surface - what would Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel have done to Australia on this deck?

It is a party-pooping notion that robs a successful team of the benefit of the considerable doubts it has overcome. But even as Haddin and Smith repaired the damage, one that must be considered if Australia is not to wander gormless and self-satisfied into a South African ambush next month, as England did here.

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Illustration: Simon Letch (via Sydney Morning Herald)

Meanwhile, Malcolm Knox of the Sydney Morning Herald devotes some time - actually, it's quite a lengthy article - to England's failings, highlighting Alastair Cook's defensive approach as key in their demise.

Where it all went wrong for England seems, in retrospect, clear. The pitches prepared for their home Ashes series resulted from a short-term, defensive, and ultimately self-defeating mentality. Having won a series in India and seen Australia crushed there, England's leadership decided to bring the subcontinent home. On dry, crusty wickets James Anderson and Graeme Swann could exploit Australia's proven batting weakness against reverse swing and spin. If difficult surfaces meant the effective sacrifice of England's own batting to neutralise Australia's, this was the price to pay for a home win, which they duly achieved.

The shortcomings of this approach were incipient even in that series. Aside from Ian Bell, the English batsmen became short on runs and confidence. Matt Prior, their lynchpin, was struggling with bat and gloves on pitches that were a keeper's nightmare. Their defensive attitude, once ahead in the series, was auto-asphyxiating. Rather than attack Australia when they were down, England played in fear of yielding. Their batting at Old Trafford, Chester-le-Street and the Oval, apart from Bell and occasionally Kevin Pietersen, was as lacking in enterprise as anything seen since. Alastair Cook's captaincy was, as usual, behind the curve. His tactics, which Shane Warne correctly described as an absence of tactics, were justified by the end: a 3-0 series scoreline. But that satisfaction was based on perceptions of an Australian team that was already out of date.

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Carly Adno in the Daily Telegraph also focuses on the tourists, although she chooses to single out an Englishman who has actually managed to make a good impression on the host nation: Ben Stokes.

In the face of adversity, the youngster has displayed some characteristics that have resonated with Australians, chiefly an ability to show some heart when those around him fluttered.

There have been precious few highlights for England during this Ashes series, but Ben Stokes has at least provided promising signs for the future.

He, along with James Anderson and Stuart Broad, justified Alastair Cook's decision to bowl first in Sydney on Friday - in the first session at least, when they had Australia 4-94 at lunch.

The Kiwi-born all-rounder has scored England's only ton of the series and on Friday, playing in just his fourth Test match, claimed six wickets to bring his total tally for the series to 13.

Described by former England captain Michael Vaughan as "the find of the series", Stokes has provided Cook with the perfect fourth seam-bowling option. But it's the 22-year-old's fighting attitude - in a team that has shown so little fight - that has seen him stand out.

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And finally, David Sygall in the Sydney Morning Herald looks ahead to Australia's next Ashes series in England in 2015, giving his thoughts on the likely make-up of the squad.

Australia's next Ashes squad has lock-ins at either end of the order, with no small amount of grey areas in between.

Australia’s options

1. David Warner

2. (Chris Rogers) Phillip Hughes/Nic Maddinson/Jordan Silk

3. (Shane Watson) Phil Hughes/Usman Khawaja/Alex Doolan

4. Michael Clarke

5. Steve Smith

6. (George Bailey) James Faulkner/Travis Head/Chris Lynn

7. (Brad Haddin) Matthew Wade/Tim Paine

8. Mitchell Johnson

9. (Ryan Harris) Mitchell Starc/Patrick Cummins/Chadd Sayers

10. (Peter Siddle) James Pattinson/Ben Cutting/Jackson Bird/Nathan Coulter-Nile

11. Nathan Lyon

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