Cock-a-hoop Cook

AP

While it has been despair for Michael Clarke, his opposite number, Alastair Cook, has done more things right through the summer. He will be delighted with the way his side has responded to the biggest challenge.

Stuart Broad would not have had the temerity to even imagine the script that unfolded on the opening day at Trent Bridge in Nottingham. The hosts needed to win the fourth Test to regain the Ashes, while the Australians had to win to stay in the series. Australia, opting to bat first as a good Test side should, never knew what hit them as the entire innings folded up in 18.3 overs. In the absence of James Anderson, Broad had to lead the charge for England, and oh boy, did he do a good job of it! With the ball swinging and seaming as it does on a fresh track at Trent Bridge, the blades of the Australian batsmen were not broad enough for Stuart, who picked up eight wickets by the time one could down a pint of lager!

It was England all the way after the Australians tumbled like dominoes, much to the disbelief of the cricketing world and the fans. Though England looked and proved to be the better side, it has to be said that the Australian batsmen never really sorted out their methods to counter the swing and seam. It only goes to show that no matter how strong a team is, the chances of getting caught unawares abroad abound.

The failure of Michael Clarke, around whom the Aussie middle and lower order thrive, meant that the rearguard action was nonexistent. Moreover, the Aussie way of batting with the bat held tight and thrusting the bat through the line proved fatal. The indecision about the line of the ball and the resulting hesitant pushes ended in nicks to fielders behind the wickets. All in all, this is one Ashes series that will not remain etched in the memories of many, other than the England side and its fans.

Clarke assumed the responsibility for his team’s poor show and bid adieu to cricket, a decision that was not expected. However, he has been going through fitness issues in the last year or so, which meant that the mind was going to stop willing the body to cope sooner or later. ‘The Pup’ has proved to be a good leader and he put the country ahead of his personal interests.

His refusal to play in the IPL in order to preserve himself for his country is enough testimony of where his heart was. His retirement will leave a big void in the Aussie line-up and it will be a case of striving to regain lost ground for the proud Australians.

The one positive for Australia is that they have a good bowling line-up comprising real quick bowlers, but they need to pick up the art of swing and seam. Starc was in his own league in that respect, and that is why he picked up wickets. He has the ability to bring the ball back into the right-handers, a quality that Johnson lacked despite his being capable of bowling at great speeds. Of course, each bowler has his own methods and strengths, which make this game that bit extra interesting.

However, for a side that is looking to revive their fortunes, a good bowling attack will be of immense help.

While it has been despair for Clarke, his opposite number, Alastair Cook, has done more things right through the summer. He will be delighted with the way his side has responded to the biggest challenge. Of course, winning the Ashes would have been his objective, but winning it so easily would not have crossed his mind. No matter what, Cook will be thankful that Trevor Bayliss brought in a different perspective leading up to the Ashes. Bayliss is seemingly conservative but very highly aware of the contemporary methods and processes. Besides, he also has that touch of luck that a captain or a coach needs in order to succeed.