Ashes 2015: Aussie pacers, flat wickets damage credibility of ‘fearless’ England
Despite knowing the fact that it's close to impossible to beat Australia at playing mind games, teams don't hesitate in doing so.
After being left in tatters in the previous Ashes series, a series which began a stunning downfall for Alastair Cook and his boys, cricket fans across the world expected the Poms to come with all guns blazing to retain the Ashes on their home soil.
Ahead of the series, England made their intentions clear by claiming to play fearless cricket. Considering the way Mitchell Johnson tormented them in the previous series, the claim sounded nothing less than a joke.
And England began their campaign to play fearless cricket by producing a flat track in the first Test. While the crowd turned out to see their premier speedsters – James Anderson and Stuart Broad give a befitting reply to Aussies – what they actually witnessed was a grass-less pitch where Johnson and Mitchell Starc could make no impact whatsoever and England managed to win the Test convincingly by 169 runs.
Even though England took a 1-0 lead in the series, the cricket cognoscenti slammed the hosts for preparing a dead track that had nothing for the seamers.
In the second Test at Lord's, Australia were expected to bounce back and they did just that. Though there was not much grass on the pitch, Michael Clarke’s bowlers, hurt by their display in Cardiff, sent the hosts on the backfoot by bringing back the memories of the previous series.
In the second Test, Johnson was back at his best, not in the most intimidating manner, but the rhythm with which he was bowling showed he was getting back in his groove.
He picked three wickets each in both the innings and bowled his heart out on what was another batting-friendly pitch.
In order to combat Johnson's pace, England possibly forgot how good Starc has been in the last one year or so. The left-arm pacer was the best bowler in the ICC World Cup 2015 and with his newfound aggression, has become a force to reckon with in the traditional format of the game as well.
He has picked 9 wickets so far in the series despite not being completely fit and if he goes on to play the entire series, English batsmen would be in huge trouble.
As if the two Mitchells weren't enough, Australia replaced their only weak link – Shane Watson – with another formidable all-rounder in Mitchell Marsh. The 23-year-old has been in sensational form in all formats and brings a lot of fresh energy into the Australian set up. Unlike Watson, Marsh has a very impressive body language and he justified his selection by picking three key wickets and scoring 39 runs at Lord's.
England paid a price for producing slow wickets as Anderson went wicketless in the second Test. Even though Broad picked six wickets, it was a match where Australia were on top, making a mockery of England’s claim of playing fearless cricket.
Australia have the momentum going into the third Test and England are left pondering with a squad which hasn't yet settled. For the sake of Test cricket, England must provide seaming wickets for the rest of the matches, which would not only give their pacers a chance to regain some form, but also show a positive intent on their behalf.
Unless they successfully combat the Johnson-Starc duo on traditional English pitches, the hosts’ claims of playing fearless cricket will continue to appear hollow.