Cow Corner

The view from Down Under: Australia aim for Ashes whitewash

Michael Clarke Mitchell Johnson

Spirits were understandably high in the Australian media ahead of the fourth Test, as they look for a series whitewash after reclaiming the Ashes at Perth.

And it's hardly a surprise they are basking in both their success and the apparent disarray of the England side, with Graeme Swann joining Jonathan Trott in leaving the tour. And the 3-0 scoreline, of course.

For Australia bowler Ryan Harris, the Melbourne Test will be all about putting bad memories to bed. The Boxing Day match back in 2010 saw Australia bowled out for just 98 in their first innings, on the way to a comprehensive defeat as England retained the little urn.

Harris wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald:

Here's what I remember about my last Boxing Day Test, against England three years ago. A big bang and a snap as I was running in to bowl. It wasn't the most pleasant feeling and I knew straight away I'd broken my ankle. The weird thing was I'd had a scan only that morning and nothing had shown up...

The feeling around this Boxing Day Test is a huge contrast. It's the total opposite to last time, knowing we have the series wrapped up. That's a great feeling, but we've still got a big job to do to make sure we close out the series. Knowing there's going to be a massive crowd behind us is amazing. The amount of support around us from the public, after some tough times over the past year, has been unbelievable.

I reckon the fact the series has been decided might allow us to soak up the atmosphere a bit more, but even though we've got the urn, the pressure is still on to make sure we go on to win the series four or five-nil.

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The theme was continued by Malcolm Conn, Australia's England-goader in chief, in The Sydney Daily Telegraph. Conn not only praised the 'Christmas present' of the Ashes, but also the 'efficiency' of its delivery, coming as it did before the Boxing Day Test.

And Conn focused on the absence of one Englishman in particular from the 'celebrations', writing:

We're a bit sad that Graeme Swann won't be around to celebrate with us, having suddenly called it quits to cultivate his life's calling in vaudeville. Test cricket has been a handy little five-year hiatus for the old-fashioned offie, claiming 255 doosra-free wickets with a straight arm, the most in the world during that time...

Gra Gra is going to be missed, particularly at press conferences, when the words "batting time" and "bowling in good areas" were thankfully never uttered. Shane Watson is particularly devastated at Swanny's unexpected departure, remembering with misty-eyed nostalgia the 22 clubbed off his final over in Test cricket, which included three sixes.

We also love Swanny's inability to hide his contempt for the game's most self-infatuated cricketer, Kevin Pietersen. It's okay Graeme, we know you've had to go all cryptic and PC for suggesting unnamed cricketers had disappeared up their own backsides. We know you weren't talking about any of your English chums because KwaZulu Kev is South African.

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Despite this Test essentially being a dead rubber, Robert Craddock of News.com.au thinks it will still be a thriller, pointing to the 'magic and mystery of the Boxing Day Test, in which heroes, villains and plot twists come from everywhere and the memories endure through the ages.'

Craddock writes:

Since the first Boxing Day MCG Test between Australia and England in 1950 which Australia won by 28 runs the fixture has grown to iconic stature.

Boxing Day Tests have been occasions when Australia has reinforced its status as the heavyweight cricketing champion of the world and other less august times when it scrambled desperately for small pickings which tasted honey-sweet. Such a time came in 1987 when Australia - with its fingernails about to be kicked from the cliff-face - finished nine wickets down in a drawn Test against New Zealand to enable it to win the series 1-0.

Tailender Mike Whitney became an instant national hero for his two off 18 balls which held rampaging Kiwi superstar Richard Hadlee at bay. In 1995, umpire Darrell Hair no-balled Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan seven times for throwing...

In 2006, in his last Boxing Day Test, Shane Warne bowled England captain Andrew Strauss for his 700th Test wicket, then a world record...Perhaps an even more famous moment came in 1994, also against England, when he clinched a Test hat-trick.

Now another hungry group of Australians is craving for more moments of glory.

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Finally, Australia captain Michael Clarke was asked about former coach Micky Arthur, who was sacked on the eve of the Ashes series in England last summer, by the press. And while Clarke answering in an ostensibly diplomatic manner, there seemed to be little doubt about his opinion of the South African:

It is Christmas Day and I have nothing bad to say about anybody.

Now is not the right time to talk about that.

The more you talk about a past coach or a past player there are implications that offend the current coach or the current player.

And if you don't say what the past coach or the past player wants to hear you will offend them. I would prefer to offend nobody and not get involved."

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