Cow Corner

The View from Down Under: Aussie mongrel set to devour England

Anticipation of a series victory is palpable in Australia as a salivating home nation gears up for the third and potentially decisive Ashes Test in scorching Perth.

Michael Clarke's side are just one victory away from prising the Ashes out of English hands and there is a very real sense that the WACA, with its fast and bouncy wicket, is the ideal place to do just that.

Mitchell Johnson in particular has been singled out as a possible match winner once again, with the quick bowler the man most responsible for bringing the "mongrel" back into the Australian team and "injecting Australia's psyche with a bit of confidence", according to Aussie legend Glenn McGrath.

Australia play best when they've got a bit of mongrel about them, when they play hard out in the middle, when they don't give an inch, when they play an aggressive brand of cricket. It's something that has been missing for a little while and they're back there now. They are a team I'd be proud to be a part of.

What he [Johnson] must do is not get carried away and still execute his plans, but there is no reason that Mitch, alongside Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, can't keep doing that. I've been saying for the last few months that Mitch was going to have a huge impact on this series, so I'm not surprised by the way he's played. I'm backing him again to have a big match in Perth.

He had the English batsman jumping about on what was supposed to be a fairly docile track at Adelaide so I can't wait to see him on the speed gun at the WACA!

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Still, despite the overriding expectation, there remains a certain sense of caution in some quarters, with memories of past failures still raw. Clarke himself, in his column for Sydney's Daily Telegraph, stressed this week that he and his players will not be taking anything for granted in Perth - and nor should his team's supporters.

We can feel the excitement building as we prepare for the Perth Test already 2-0 up in the series. We have also been feeling the heat from the time we stepped off the plane. This is going to be a tough Test match.

I know there is a great sense of anticipation around the country about winning the Ashes back and we'd love to do it in Perth. History says we have a fabulous record here and we have certainly taken a lot of confidence out of winning the first two Tests.

But history won't mean a thing when the third Test starts on Friday. It's about us creating our own history. And it won't be simply a matter of bombing away with our fast bowlers.

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Clarke is the focus of much attention on the morning the first day, with the Australian captain set to reach 100 Test appearances. It's quite some feat - matched, in an odd quirk of fate, by his opposite number Alastair Cook on the same day - and one that has given the media a chance to assess how far the Sydney-born batsman has come.

As Andrew Webster writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, Clarke has not always been held in the highest regard by his team-mates and the Australian public. But he has been through a lot and changed to the point that he has now found the affection of the side he leads and the nation he represents.

Here he stands, on the eve of his 100th Test, having crafted timeless centuries in the first two matches of the series, knocking on the door of an expected victory that will deliver Australia the urn for the first time in seven years.

But it's more than that. With the possible exception of his other close friend Shane Warne, no Australian cricketer has been so maligned for being the man so many people think they know.

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Greg Baum in The Age writes on a similar theme, under the headline 'Clarke rises to greatness in the face of resentment'.

Like it or not, like him or not, Clarke embodies Australian cricket. Anxious always for improvement, public and media tend to dwell on what he is not. On the occasion of his 100th Test match, he should be celebrated for what he is, a formidable Test cricketer, the best Australian of his generation, one of the best in the world.

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Plenty of people queuing ahead of the gates opening #Ashes pic.twitter.com/qdXnjwdCgD

— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) December 13, 2013

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While praise has, rightly, been lavished upon both Johnson and Clarke for their roles in Australia's remarkable turnaround from also-rans to terrifyingly brilliant champions this series, new coach Darren Lehmann should also take credit. Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter FitzSimmons sings the praises of Lehmann, pointing out how far the team has come since the days of Mickey Arthur as coach and those infamous homework assignments.

He has brought back, not a drinking culture, but an encouragement that the team at least regularly gets together to have fun. Somehow, he has somehow worked it so that Michael Clarke and Shane Watson aren't going at it like cats in a sack - perhaps helped in part by the move to no longer have the captain as a selector as well. He has given them real ambition, not just lip service. In the words of Clarke, ''We were still working hard but I think we've prioritised and been very realistic with where we sit as a team and we don't accept being ranked fifth in Test cricket.''

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An online poll conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald

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Confidence is not universal though, with the Sydney Morning Herald's Matt Buchanan presenting 11 reasons why England will win in Perth, including, at number seven:

England are due. Thirty-five years without a win and it has to end sometime.

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And Robert Craddock admits in the Courier-Mail that anything is possible in Perth and that we can expect an entertaining, action-packed Test match.

It's the heat, the flies, the dynamic deck and the distress signals coming from a proud English team turning to ruin that tell us something is about to blow at the WACA. Cricket, wild west style, is nothing without controversy which often comes in the most bizarre forms. The odd Tests out in Perth are the ones where there is no drama. Conflict and controversy are part of the show here. But even by Perth's standards there is special tension in the air this week as Australia prepares to unleash its "bomb the tail'' game plan on the world's bounciest wicket against an English team fighting to retain their dignity as much as the Ashes which they will surrender with a loss. Surely they can't just fold again.

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Enough of the nice stuff. Let's continue to beat up on our friendly poms & get that little urn back @MClarke23 ! Good luck boys #ashes — Shane Warne (@warne888) December 12, 2013