Here is my say regarding the relevant aspects of the Ashes series. It's a long one, and I have taken my time to just read all the various sources out there to get an idea on the media reaction. Later in the week I will be shifting all the focus to the ODI series, and two Twenty20's.
It's disheartening to lose an Ashes series, and no doubt myself and every other Aussie supporter have been left feeling a bit bleak. But I have enough in me, as a good sport, to congratulate England on their Ashes series win.
The Baggy Green were outplayed when it mattered for us to seal the big moments, but it will be a learning experience for the guys and with further experience and personal growth for each cricketer in our team the guys will be able to capture the big moments.
Sealing momentum and not being outplayed when it matters is a big factor the guys have lost, but it's important to remember these aren't the players of the past decade and most of them have not been apart of that era and have only just emerged onto the International scene in these cut-throat contests.
I do see alot of positives but the team will get better, and will get stronger. They are all professional cricketer's who have come through some tough ranks to get to where they are.
'We'll get them next time', is what all of us who are Australian supporters will say, and yes, we will get England next time!
WHERE DID IT GO WRONG?
For this particular test, it's simple. You can carry on about the selectors, the Umpiring at times, Nathan Hauritz and Brett Lee being overlooked and the pitch, but the real reason is this. You cannot be bowled out for 160 runs in the defining Test of an Ashes series. Simple as that!
The deficit was already quite a handful, and our bowler's had a tough task to try an make that deficit seem less daunting would be a big ask after such a poor first innings. Every batsman in our team will be able to admit to this.
On this topic Stuart Broad's bizarre spell where he shredded apart our batting order and claimed 5 wickets, deserves the credit where it's due, as his man of the match award summed up his impact.
As for the series, our inability to seal the big moments for momentum was evident in the 1st Test. This team will learn their ways in functioning as a unit to achieve this, just like the Waugh era managed to do and the early stages of Ricky Ponting's Captaincy, but that 1st Test session, I'm sure you know which one I'm referring too.
I mentioned soon after that that 20th wicket we were unable to grab would come back to haunt us! And it has. It gave England a strange edge ahead of us, even though we had outplayed them in every aspect of that Test. I guess Monty Panesar didn't realise the impact his survival stint would have!
DON'T SACK PUNTER, DON'T PANIC:
Yes it's true. Ricky Ponting is not the greatest Captain in the World or in stature for Australian cricket, but hell, look at what he's had to deal with and what a legend he is for the Baggy Green!
I think it would be safe to say that he has had alot to contend with in his capacity. People say the only reason Ricky is good is because he had a stack of world-class players in his ranks. People tend to overlook the impact his materclass batting has had on Australian cricket. How he came through at such a young age, and how he has seen alot in his time. He took over the Captaincy not only with a strong team, but a team of guys he'd been playing with for many years even before he had the Captaincy. When he was handed the Captaincy he knew his team, he knew the role each guy played, and knew how to deploy their skills.
In his time he had to see not just one or two, but a whole bunch of these heroes of The Baggy Green depart. It's not easy to be one of the few remaining guys from such an era, but Ricky was alot younger than alot of these guys and knew he'd have to brave on. And he has. He has had alot more to deal with than any other Captain in recent times has had to deal with.
At times he didn't use his knowledge to its full extent it would seem. Notably using Marcus North to bowl at the death in that first test as opposed to Ben Hilfenhaus or a bowler with a bit more to prod away at the frailty of Panesar's batting, or Anderson tendency to poke at deliveries shaping across his body. Punter opted for quantity not quality here to get the overs in, and it was a risk that didn't pay off. But I have always seen him as a really strong leader, who accepts responsibility on and off the field, and apparently really takes time out away from the game to boost his younger or less-experienced team mates.
He has alot to deal with in these circumstance and this will make him a stronger character. I think alot of people out there underestimate him, and this team still have plenty time to make a legacy of their own. Punter is a fighter, and a champ!
So why sack Ricky? Why waste time to panic and throw away a guy who may not be the best Skipper, but with little doubt in my mind is the best man for the job right now. Sure, Michael Clarke is our Vice-Captain, and will Captain our ODI team, but Brad Haddin and Simon Katich have led NSW in many encounters, Michael Hussey has had plenty Captaincy duties in his time, and Marcus North is the WA Skipper, but I cannot see any of them in a position to take over Captaincy. Punter must stay longer to ensure this team can work as an ensemble. It's very important.
Shane Watson deserves a pat on the back, while Selectors need a crack over the head! I have to feel a bit sorry for Phillip Hughes. The bloke was boosted to such extremes that any poor performances would toss him into a difficult hole to crawl his way out of. He showed weakness to the short balls, which is nothing that can't be rectified, especially from such a motivated young guy with a good strong mind. I think the panic factor here was real shock and given the circumstances, Shane Watson deserves the credit after being tossed urgently into an International situation where he had no familiarity.
Time for the selectors to seriously think about their opening order tactics and have a contigency plan with a reserve specialist batsman, before throwing out a young guy who they backed with unbreakable confidence only to put in a guy who really wanted to improve his Test career, but had to do so in really intense circumstances.
TOO MUCH TOO LATE!
Michael Hussey is one of my favourite cricketers. Not just for the obvious being his batting (which has seen a major drop in Test cricket) but because he is such a hard working guy. He is tenacious, determined and remains a humble person true to his game. He is a great team mate from what the Australian camp say, and when he is in the groove he is a splendid cricketer to watch.
I stated somewhere along the line when the critics were calling for him to be axed, that he would get a century in the Ashes. I stated this well before the series had even started. I didn't gamble on it coming though in the final innings, at a time that was maybe a touch of magic too late. It turned out to be a career saving innings for Huss in Test cricket, but I am personally very proud of Huss and I managed to see him reach his century live on the Tele. To make a century under all the different variables is quite an achievement.
Just a pity it couldn't have been so much more, that there couldn't have been more, and that a few other guys couldn't have followed in his wake.
It's important not to forget that Huss' ODI game has been consistent and that he has alot to offer Australian cricket, and has given all of us many great memories.
I back each and every one of these guys, and while Huss' input hasn't been anywhere near as valuable as it needed to be, it was a known fact his place in the squad was being questioned, but I will never question his commitment when he puts on tha Baggy Green. The same goes for Ricky Ponting.
ONTO SOME POSITIVES...THE BAGGY GREEN PLAYER OF THE SERIES?
Michael Clarke was consistent and showed eye-opening signs on improvement when I cast my mind back to the 2005 Ashes. There was patience as he was building his innings, tactful skill in playing his shots noticeably late on the delivery, and he was able to compose himself with aggressive tendencies to launch into England's bowlers.
He missed out on an extra century, but made it to the triple figure mark on a couple of occassions. My most enjoyable innings of his to watch was his century at Lords. Sure, we lost the game and it ended up being less valuable, but he played so fluently, and his shot selection was spot on, with some classy off-side play. After managing to take a tour of Lord's when I was in England last year, and seeing that records board in the touring teams' dressing room, it makes me proud to know another Australian cricketer has their name engraved on the historical mount! It all seemed an unfortunate end to such a brilliant tour for Michael.
He stated before the game if he didn't contribute and we lost the game it would all be worthless. I think the tears he showed at the end of the 5th Test summed it up for him. It was great to see in its own way, as it shows how passionate he is to be where he is at, how badly he wanted to see us over the finish line.
I have always believed a sportsman truely proud and committed to his teams cause shows his true emotions when the appropriate moment is there.
Just a pity it couldn't have been tears of celebration for him. Next time though!
THE BOWLER WHO STOOD OUT:
Nathan Hauritz showed guts! A battered finger, he continued to carry on and managed to give some excellent contributions. This was a sign of dedication I won't forget anytime soon, but I need to hand it to two bowlers in particular.
Ben Hilfenhaus followed a similar fate to Michael Clarke. Both of them had a big impact in the first 4 Tests, and really got under the English teams skin. Hilfy showed improvement in each match he played, and his consistency at the top of the bowling stocks proved to be so crucial when Mitchell Johnson was finding it a big struggle to play his game at the other end. Hilfy had Ravi Bopara's number right until he was dropped to make way for Ian Bell to slot in at number 3. While Hilfy didn't generate the swing we expected from him, he showed some positive signs for the future. I look forward to seeing him debut on Australian soil where he emerged as a big talking point for the Tassie Tigers in the Pura Cup, once again know as the Sheffield Shield.
Peter Siddle did what he could. He wore his heart on his sleeve and gave it the usual 100% ambition and fought for each wicket. He has alot to learn, but why be so hard on a guy who only debuted a year ago. I think of India's Ishant Sharma and how he has come along in leaps and bounds.
He took strain in the beginning and seemed little a threat to the opposition.
But with winning and losing experience, he has become a big factor to Indian cricket.
I look back to Sids' debut in India last year, where I was one of the guys who maybe came across a bit harsh on his not so threatening performances and really thought he was tossed into the International mix to soon, but he is paying off to the selectors now, and is starting to feel like he belongs there series by series. Sid Vicious is a nickname rightly earned, as I believe Sid's would have been well suited to the Australian way of cricket in the 90's. Aggressive, tenacious and prepared to go down bruised and battered to get in the batsman's face and ensure that last wicket was taken. It didn't reflect in its entire esence in this Test, but he has the foundations well in place.
Himself and Hilfy have big shoes to fill, and if the team as a whole can start working with synergy and the Selectors will actually give the team the confidence backing needed, it will boost these guys to stake their claim in Australian cricket history.
THE BAGGY GREEN PLAYERS ARE STILL REBUILDING FOLKS:
I may come across as optomistic, and maybe seem to be just another arrogant Australian supporter, but I rightly stand my ground.
I support my team through anything. I watch more than cricket as a team sport, and love Rugby Union. This is another team sport, where many teams who are at the top lose key players and find themselves in a rebuilding process. The Wallabies are in a similar phase and by the 2011 World Cup they will have a few seniors gone from the ranks. This has happened to Australian cricket and we can see the impact. But hey, if you watch anything other than cricket you will not be surprised to find that it happens to teams in all sports! Sure, very few teams have had the dominance internationally noticed that Australian cricket has had. But rebuilding means being knocked down a few levels, and gradually building back up with patience and strategic planning to ensure the foundations are strong and the rebuilding pays off.
This is where Australian cricket is at, and with this means a drop in the rankings. This has happened before and will happen again, but all the other 'extremist non-Australian supporters' out there who are all very quick to point fingers and arrogantly state that Australian cricket is going to only continue to plummet are greatly mistaken, and perhaps naive because the same thing will come their way in time and likely don't have that strong a Domestic competition to steer their side in the right direction.
STAND OUT PLAYER FOR ENGLAND:
One individual for England stands out. This is their Skipper Andrew Strauss. He was the one player who was consistent for them, and as an individual stood out when none of this team-mates did. He regularly made it past the fifty mark. I mentioned many times how important it was to break-up the Cook/Strauss partnership, but more and more it became the Strauss factor that carried England through some tough times. He led his team forward.
At Lord's he was flawless in his innings of 160, and England turned out to be victorious on that outing, essentially ending our historial winning reign at Lords Cricket Ground.
While we didn't win the Ashes, and I was very sure we would, it wasn't to be.
I am proud to support the boys in these testing times, and especially proud how the guys continued to show their determination and not lose hope.
But it's time to look ahead.
We have a chance to regroup now for the summer. We have two test series' against The West-Indies in the Frank-Worrell Trophy and also Pakistan. This is a good chance for the team to get back on home soil, fight on and beat these teams to gain the confidence needed to move forward and start getting things back together in the Test format, but to also start getting stronger in phasing towards the next Ashes series.
But we now have a golden opportunity to sort things out in the ODI arena with a frenzy of ODI cricket with the Remains against England, that consist of 7 ODI's and 2 Twenty20's.
After this final leg of the time in England, it's off to South Africa for the ICC Champions Trophy where we are the defending Champions from 2006, and then to wrap it up before the home series against Pakistan and The Windies, it will be time to take on India in India in a 7 match ODI series, and I really can't wait for that one for a number of reasons!
So now it's time to shift my focus away from the Ashes in it's closure, and look into the Remains as they are surely there for the taking!
So from my side, it is an unfortunate ending to the Ashes, but it is great for Test cricket none-the-less.
That's probably all the main chirps from my side regarding the 2009 Ashes, and I'd like to say thanks to all of you guys who have chipped in with your valued say and if you are an English supporter well done, if you are one of the guys on my side...we'll get 'em next time!
Also a big thanks to Chris Stocks from the Metro, London, England and his input here and also his generosity regarding some of the interviews and information he obtained from the Aussie cricketer's at my request.
Check in my links list for his column 'Extra Cover'.
He is an English supporter, but he has some great stuff at his site!
Hope to hear more from you blokes, and hopefully some positive chirps will be typed out from my keyboard as our ODI squad put on the Green and Gold gear and represent us against the old enemy.
Another first time for alot of these guys in such a series, but I will leave this article up for all of you to discuss things, and come Thursday or Friday I will have the Green and Gold squad squad spotter up for review!