Aussies need to regroup

England captain Alastair Cook was a step ahead of his Australian counterpart in Cardiff.-AP

England has quietly, but surely made a strong statement. The ball is now in Michael Clarke’s court for him to rally his team to measure up to the challenge.

The buzz that an Ashes series creates remains unchallenged given that India and Pakistan rarely play against each other these days. The England side, under an Aussie coach, has regained form quickly, but the manner in which they overwhelmed Australia in Cardiff was not expected. The Aussies started off, as usual, with verbal volleys, with many an Aussie legend predicting a whitewash. But England overcame the odds with precise planning and their execution was even better. In the end, the Aussies were left moaning about the lack of pace and other things.

For the discerning, it was obvious that there was a huge difference in approach between the two sides. The England batsmen, especially Root, showed enough pluck to launch a counterattack when the chips were down. The young lad was subjected to some “chin music”, a ploy that had succeeded earlier in Australia. Root, instead of being cowed down, counterattacked, and scored a century, paving a path for his side to capitalise. Mitchell Johnson was too short in length and it was surprising to see the Aussies resort to that plan on a sluggish track.

On the other hand, the England pacers stuck to a fuller length and exploited the “hard hands” technique of the Aussie batsmen. With pace and bounce not existing on the Cardiff track, the Aussies were let down by their inability to play the ball below their eyes. They pushed their bats hard at the ball, thereby reaching out to deliveries that were begging to be left alone. Of course, the Aussies have enough time to sort out these mistakes, as this is a full drawn series. However, it remains to be seen how well the Aussie batsmen can handle the seaming deliveries. There was no lateral movement in Cardiff, but other centres will be different.

The England think-tank has pinpointed the areas to bowl at Chris Rogers and Steven Smith, who have been in great form over the last 18 odd months. They both need to fire if Australia has to come back into the series. Smith has his own effective method and he needs to take a leaf out of Virat Kohli’s failures in England. The dashing Indian batsman was too consumed by the thoughts of countering lateral movement and ended doing things that went against his basic technique. Rogers is a gritty customer and he will ride on the confidence of his knock in the first innings in Cardiff.

The Australians need to do a lot better on the bowling front and the injury to Ryan Harris(and his subsequent retirement) has proved to be a big setback for them. The length that Harris bowls is tailor-made for success on English pitches, but unfortunately Australia will have to make do without him. Starc was effective because he bowled a fuller length, but he needs support from the other end. Johnson is quick alright, but on tracks that don’t have enough bounce he needs to revisit the length he hits.

The England batsmen have shown that they are going to be aggressive and therefore, the onus is on the Australian fast bowlers to use the short stuff judiciously to surprise the batsmen. In a way, England winning the first Test will add the extra bit of fizz to the Ashes, as the Australians will come back hard. The quality of cricket has been absorbing and if Australia can get over the minor shortcomings in their approach, it will be a cracker of series to watch. One has to say that England has quietly, but surely made a strong statement. The ball is now in Michael Clarke’s court for him to rally his team to measure up to the challenge.