Warning: Australia’s inevitable guzzle from Ashes urn actually no sure thing
For anyone who wants to go all Glenn McGrath and predict an Ashes whitewash for Australia after their 251-run win at Edgbaston, here is a sobering thought. Away from home, Australias big gulps from the victory cup are almost invariably chased by defeat.
In the current four-year Ashes cycle, only once – against New Zealand in 2016 – have Australia followed an overseas win with another win. In the past 13 years, they have only achieved consecutive wins on foreign soil against New Zealand and the West Indies. Every big win against a major Test nation has been followed by the equal and opposite force of defeat.
The past, of course, is another country with other players. It neednt shackle the present. But recent memories for the current personnel must flash warnings. In South Africa in that 2018 of infamous memory, Australia were rampant in the first Test match in Durban. Their 118-run win was punctuated by David Warners run-out of AB de Villiers, Nathan Lyon dropping the ball by the prone South African champion, a high tide of hubris.
On the major tour a year before that, the first Test match went a similar way. In Pune, Steve Smith played an innings that rates with last weeks Edgbaston double as the best of his career. Lyon and Steve OKeefe spun out a 333-run win and Australia were eyeing off a once-in-a-generation series win in India.
Next up, Australian folded for just 112 chasing 188 for victory in the second Test, ultimately losing the four-Test series 2-1, with one draw.
The pattern goes back a long way, including not just the current players but their glittering predecessors. Away from home, Australia often find winning an insupportable high. Happiness turns to confidence turns to complacency turns to reversal: we, and they, have seen it so often, why are we so sure this time will be different?
In considering what Tim Paines team is doing to stop history repeating itself, we might look at the peculiar circumstances of these Ashes.
As previously, Australia slipped into the first Test as modest Clark Kents and emerged from the phone booth as Supermen. This time, the turnaround was extreme. Whereas in Durban and Pune they dominated the hosts, in Birmingham the Australians only had the better of England for one-and-a-half days, prior to which they seemed on a trajectory of defeat. Thats five sessions of cricket that have suddenly converted Australia into runaway Ashes favourites.
The Steve Smith factor has dazzled everyone. So permanent was his batting in Birmingham, its easy to be seduced into thinking the present moment is an eternal one, that its now inevitable that Smith will go home with 900 runs under his belt and more Bradmania.
But the flipside of Smiths influence is that it can, as Stuart Broad has provocatively speculated, easily go the other way. As inspiring as his success was at Edgbaston, lifting all his teammates, a failure can send disproportionate shockwaves of panic through Australia and put England on top.
One way or the other, the legacy of Smiths supremacy is that his wicket will carry the weight of an entire match.
Another mystery is the unusual gap in scheduling. Most tours now begin with back-to-back Test matches, the contest merely paused and resumed in another venue within days. This time, in the 10-day break after Edgbaston the English team dispersed, and the Australians variously went their own ways or played some low-key days in quaint Worcester. This interruption to normal programming adds an X-factor.
Will the Australians energy be dispersed by the long wait between Test matches? Will England, so many of whom looked World Cup-hungoverRead More – Source