Epic turnaround

AP

The Australians have got back to their winning ways and it will be interesting to see if they can build on this momentum. Darren Lehmann must be pleased with the reversal in fortunes, but the real challenge looms ahead, as expectations will soar after the recent whitewash.

The Ashes turned out to be a one-sided affair with Australia totally dominating the English in all three departments of the game. After the huge victory in the first Test, the Australians piled up the pressure in every manner possible, resulting in the Englishmen caving in completely. In a five-Test series, a side losing the initiative is expected to regroup and make a comeback, but the sheer pace of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle proved too much for the England batsmen to handle. Experienced batsmen like Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Alastair Cook failed to fire and though the inexperienced ones showed grit and courage, they could not put up the required numbers to really challenge the Aussies. It must be a very difficult period for Cook and Andy Flower, as things went only southwards with each passing week, Down Under.

Now the big question is what made the Australians run away with the victory even after losing the Ashes in England a few months earlier. Did the Aussies improve by leaps and bounds or did the England side degenerate rapidly in the intervening period?

Neither is possible within a short span of time, but there were indications that the difference was not as much as the numbers suggested. The Australians were unlucky in England and could have had better returns while England is not as bad as the recent results show. Then what exactly made the difference? I think, it was the intent and discipline of the Aussie fast bowlers in the series that dented the confidence and spirit of the visiting side in a big way. The departure of Jonathan Trott did little to inspire the team and it was a perfect opening for the Aussies to wind up their opponents off the field.

It is arguably not the best of decorum, but in a high profile series, the resilience of the players will get tested in every respect, be it on the field or off it. Eventually, it became a case of the Englishmen getting into a quicksand: the harder they tried to get out of it, the tougher it became for them. Being relaxed while retaining the focus was perhaps missing in the England ranks, which led to their downfall.

It was a pleasure to see the Aussie spinner, Nathan Lyon, playing a big part in the series and as usual his contribution was overshadowed by the stupendous success of Johnson. The off-spinner has gone on to develop his craft, albeit under the shadows of his fast bowling colleagues. He is a rare breed in modern cricket and tosses up the ball, unlike many others, who concentrate on restricting the batsmen.

Lyon can be a very difficult customer on a helpful track, but to bowl on flat pitches or seamer-friendly ones, takes a lot of heart and a willingness to relish challenges. His success was due to the fact that he was not restrictive and dared the batsmen to go after him. We did see R. Ashwin failing to come to terms with being a lone spinner and failed to do the balancing act on the hard surfaces in South Africa. But Lyon is consistent in hitting the right length and probes the temperament of the batsmen.

The Australians have got back to their winning ways and it will be interesting to see if they can build on this momentum. Darren Lehmann must be pleased with the turnaround in fortunes but the real challenge looms ahead, as expectations will soar after the recent whitewash.