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The Ashes is done and dusted!

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Doing all things right and not encoring mistakes was the formula that Ricky Ponting had in mind when England touched Australian soil for Ashes. Speculations were in the air that Kangaroos are too little too over-aged and weary in their bowling resources to earn Ashes back. But with a 206 run victory at WACA in the 3rd Test, they proved everyone wrong by showing the intensity, grace and willingness to blow punch after punch to snatch it back from Freddie’s boys. It was all about one team doing what they did best and other team kept repeating their mistakes with utmost proficiency. Australians were excellent, but England was below par. Poor selection and injury scares also left them disillusioned and fearful to launch into groove. Australians lost that Ashes urn in 2005 because they were shoddy in two or three places. First, they behaved like philanthropist in their run-giving pattern; secondly, they dropped crucial and timely chances in slips and closing positions, and thirdly poor leadership decisions. This time they are not in mood to repeat any of those follies to grind England to the core.

As far as their ability to put lid on the jar is concerned, this has something to do with the composition of English batting line-up. They are far too many batsmen in that line-up with attrition in their minds as the first and foremost choice of building up innings. Bell, Cook, Strauss and to some extent Collingwood rely too heavily on grafting runs than scoring them freely. Australians cashed in on this weakness of England big time. Absence of Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan were the telling blows for the Ashes campaign of England. Both are experienced, both know how to absorb pressure, have fair rate of success against Australians and more importantly both know how to bring best bowlers under pressure through scintillating shot making and free scoring. Departure of both experienced batsmen from the scene made it all too troublesome for Pietersen who is the lonesome warrior standing between Australia and Ashes after his skipper’s dismal form with the bat continued. Warne and McGrath are big names of the game because, one, their skill and, two, their control. They not only produce wicket-taking deliveries, but they both also maintain control, giving very few and seldom bad deliveries and pass wicket less periods without conceding more than 3 or 4 runs an over.

We might have been critical of Ponting for his defensive field placements on number of occasions in three tests, but that was part of strategy to maintain pressure and not allowing game to slip away at any stage or at any cost. In 2005, England received suggestions from every corner of the world from veteran players and critics that they had to attack Australia from the word go. This is the part of psyche of successful athletes who are not too familiar with the art of losing that they are afraid of counter-attack. Australian bowlers lost that battle when they had nothing in their hand to respond to English attack. Trescothick, Flintoff, Pietersen and Vaughan jumped on them and they had no answers of those unusual happenings. This time around Australians moved well ahead of time and movements of their opposition.

Another thing which Australians did with utmost of ease is the recognition of their own loopholes. From the beginning, they knew that they have experienced but an ageing bowling attack that cannot absorb the work load without big runs on their back. Realization of this chink in their armor made them work hard to pile runs after runs after runs helped by the wayward and ill-disciplined English bowling exponents and poor squad selection. Major architects of those monumental scores were Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting which joined later by Michael Clark, Gilchrist and Hayden in their assault on depleted English resources. But the chief contributors of this annihilation of England are Mike Hussey and Ponting. Mr. Cricket scored runs in the series so far with an average of 138.33 with 1 hundred and 3 fifties, and Punter scored his runs with an average of 104.80 with 2 hundreds and 2 fifties. Ponting scored all of those runs in usual effervescent and belligerent style, whereas Hussey grafted each and every run with enviable efficiency and concentration. Not only that he did perform one more role with touch of grace and workman like attitude is to keep the spirits of the team high through his continuous chirping and chatting. It seems his late inclusion in the side at an age of 31 has made him want every single opportunity to count. His overall Test career average is gigantic eye-bulging 86.33 in 14 matches with 5 hundreds and 8 fifties. No English bowler seem to conquer his guts and will to keep going through out the series thanks to his long tenure as first class cricketer in competitive Australian cricket circuit. It may be a cue for Asian teams who opt more for young talent than mature and seasoned first class cricketers performing over a longer period of time in first class cricket and sharpen up their talents and temperament.

One more fellow who cannot be forgotten from the list of heroes of this Ashes for Australia is Stuart Clarke. Some said that he adds nothing except sameness to Australian attack considering his similar bowling action as of McGrath and line and length stuff. But earned accolades from almost everyone through his innocuous looking but deceptive mode of bowling. 16 wickets in 3 matches with best average of 18.43 with the best strike rate of 47.00 per wicket and best economy rate of 2.35 of the series better than even McGrath and Warne.

Australia proved several points through this straight win over formidable English side. Questions marks are still hanging over their form in shorter version of the game. Successes in DLF Cup in Malaysia, Champions Trophy 2006 in India are signs to indicate their hunger, poise and intensity level in the game. Now, this Ashes win will be a big boost for them ahead of their World Cup Campaign.

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