Ashes 2013: Only if Michael Clarke could wow and not just vow

Michael Clarke should be lauded for his never-say-die attitude. When Australia were trailing by 137 runs on the fourth day of the first Test, with just one wicket in hand, the Australian skipper said Agar and Haddin had batted superbly and that the visitors could win the Trent Bridge Test. That did not happen but Agar and Haddin made their skipper proud by reducing the margin of defeat to just 14 runs with some gutsy play. That gave some more confidence to the 32-year-old Aussie skipper who promised to bounce back in the second Test. But when Clarke said that his side can still win the Ashes 2013 after suffering a 347-run hammering from the hosts at Lord’s, it has made the crowd chuckle. Enough had been said.

Even though England went up with a 1-0 lead after the Trent Bridge Test, the last-wicket partnership gave veteran Australian cricketers an opportunity to slam those English supporters (past players included), who predicted Australia’s humiliation ahead of the series. And thus when both the sides hit the field at Lord’s, like most of the Australian supporters, everybody expected a contest.

But such was England’s dominance that considering the form of the current Aussie squad, English bowlers could have dismissed them twice under 347, the margin of the victory.

And look at the irony. When England were pummelling the Australians at Lord’s, distinguished guests in the audience included the likes of Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. It is beyond imagination what would have been going through their minds. Given a choice, Clarke would have wanted the trio to come to the ground and rescue the team from the massive humiliation.

Too many controversies of late have led to too many changes in the Australian team. They still aren’t giving due respect to Nathan Lyon, who has been often dropped after a match or two. As I mentioned in my previous article, Ashton Agar for sure is a talented cricketer, but having picked just two wickets in as many Tests, I am not too sure whether Australia should continue with him as their lead spinner. A strategy behind handing the 19-year-old a baggy green could have been to surprise England, who might not have been aware of the youngster’s abilities. It worked, but in a wrong manner. Agar impressed with his batting skills as England bowlers at times looked helpless, but his spin bowling was mediocre as Graeme Swann continued to weave his magic with some world-class spin.

The poor run of the batsmen seems to have affected Clarke and Watson`s form - the only formidable duo in the side. While Clarke has to fulfil the burden of expectations, being the best batsman in the side, Watson is struggling with his problem of being dismissed too often after being trapped in front. England have done their homework well keeping in mind the right-hander’s weakness to getting out lbw. According to an interesting stat, 31.16% of Watto’s Test dismissals have been lbw - more than any other batsman in Test history (minimum 70 dismissals).

And this is not the end. Not to forget, the best of the English batsmen are yet to fire. Alastair Cook hasn’t scored a big knock, and Jonathan Trott would be itching for some runs as well, something which doesn’t elude him for long. Bell has been in some superb nick and there is no reason why he can’t score more centuries in the next three Tests. Australia’s trouble will only increase from the third Test onwards.

The best part of the ongoing series is that England are giving Australia a taste of their own medicine. If Stuart Broad had walked off that controversial decision in the first Test, Australia would have won the Trent Bridge Test. And it would be unfair from the English batsmen to play fair cricket against the Aussies, who once had mastered the art of fooling the umpires and the fans.

The 5-0 whitewash has become quite probable. Ask ‘Pup’ and he will give you plenty of reasons why his team can bounce back and win the series. I am waiting for Clarke’s ‘we have a lot of positives to takes from this series’ speech after the final Test. The crowd should be prepared for some more chuckles.