2013-14 Ashes Third Test Perth: The WACA Way of Cricketing Play-Making

Blog by: Rohinee

Australia v England - Second Test: Day 5

A few months ago, the Australian cricket team found itself sinking in the wormhole created by the English bowling attack. The team was in chaos, answers were sought – home-works were given – before they finally surrendered to the English side.

In the few months that have separated that series and this, the transformation of the Australian side has been nothing short of phenomenal which has made the English team – still superior on paper – quake before the very rivals whom they had brushed aside quite easily.

Two losses in the opening two tests have put England completely on the back-foot, raising questions that they probably hadn’t even seen coming at them before the start of the series. The mammoth nature of the loss – 381 runs at Gabba and 218 runs at Adelaide – not only represented the sheer implacability of the Australians when it came to exploiting the playing conditions, but also brought out the inability of the English team to make it count.

At WACA, by all accounts, it seems as though the trend is bound to continue. Regarded to be the bane of almost every international cricket team, the natural bounce at WACA holds particularly grim memories for the English team with only a lone match win out of the totality of 12 tests played here. The last time that the English team had won at the venue was nearly 35-years ago in 1978, against an Australian squad that was playing without most of its team strength on account of their prioritising the splendour of the then newly launched Kerry Packer series.

The prospect then gets even more looming for the English squad. Their inability to construct and sustain partnerships has been the biggest letdown for them. Though Alastair Cook has spoken about the senior players coming through for the team, the seniority’s inability to effectively read and tackle Mitchell Johnson’s deliveries has been starker as compared to the newer members of the team.

If the batsmen aren’t able to develop and build on, on partnerships, the English bowlers have been inept when it has come to breaking their counterparts’ partnerships on-field. Graeme Swann especially has been a costly addition to the team so far and it would only be prudent for the visitors to replace him with someone who can at least stem the run-flow, if not take wickets.

The change in the way Australians have come to understand and gauge Swann’s bowling tactics is also indicative of the progress that the Australian team has made in these few months following the English Ashes summer. Mitchell Johnson is just the tip of the ice-berg with his confidence and impressive bowling spells leading the Australians’ Ashes reclaiming journey.

The thriving of Chris Rogers and David Warner at the opening has been obvious as has been the tentative yet unmistakable sureness in Shane Watson’s game. The team’s composition feels just right which may give Michael Clarke some pause for thought with regard to choosing the best possible squad from the ample resources available at his disposal. Nathan Lyon is expected to be a part of the Australian squad, to shore up their bowling department keeping in mind the pitch conditions at WACA. And though James Faulkner has been ruled out with an injured thumb, Australia isn’t exactly lacking for options lower down the order at this point.

In contrast, the English team has a huge task ahead of its in terms of team selection. Though the likes of Anderson and Broad have been doing decently well, the English bowling department still feels incomplete especially with Swann not being able to justify his inclusion in the team. Considering that Andy Flower has indicated of some definite team changes, one can expect Tim Bresnan to be included in the squad in order to provide the team with much needed bowling support.

But where the English team does have some replacement options for its bowling, its batting choices remain largely curtailed and as such the onus still remains piled on Cook, Pietersen, Bell and Prior to ensure that the team’s batting order doesn’t fall short under pressure.

Call it a home field advantage or call it the Englishmen’s slight detour from their otherwise calm composure, the 2013-14 Australian Ashes series has been entirely about the Australians so far. Though the English cricket team isn’t showing any signs of giving up, the English players do have to understand that there are a lot of areas where the chinks in their armour have been exposed and where they haven’t been able to stand up to the Australians. Playing with self-assurance – and potentially trying for a win – at Perth is their only chance at salvaging this series. A series that has so far, not only marked the return of momentum towards Australia, but has also brought an unmistakable re-emergence of the Australian cockiness and swagger, distinctively missing in their demeanour till now.

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