As usual Glenn McGrath was confident when predicting that Australia would see off their rivals with an unanswered quintet of Ashes Test wins.
Sadly for Glenn, this England team is far removed from the one that sunk “down under”, when Mitchell Johnson had opposing batsmen desecrating their whites as they tumbled like bowling pins in the face of 95mph deliveries aimed at their throats. It was a masterclass in intimidation.
The wait was worth it… so far
England have had to wait 18 months for their revenge, rebuilding a dispirited set-up in the process. Out have gone former blue-chippers Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann (who retired halfway through the whitewash.)
Instead England, replete with shiny new coaching staff, have taken a leaf from New Zealand’s book, placing emphasis on courageous youth to re-energise the group.
An emphatic 169-run victory in the first Test last week had almost all pundits rapidly re-evaluating the scene, Dom Kureen gives his ratings for each of the eleven who represented the Three Lions in Cardiff.
Alastair Cook (Captain)
20 & 12
The intense pressure of leading his country has inevitably led to diminishing batting results from the 30 year-old, who was at one stage regarded as the premier opener in world cricket.
Another slightly disappointing batting display had attached to it the gargantuan caveat of Cook’s finest leadership to date. His inventive yet logical field placings and expert use of Moeen Ali were pivotal in the victory.
6.5/10 (4 for batting, 9 for captaincy.)
6 & 37
Yorkshireman looked at ease in his second innings knock of 37 before over embellishing to give his wicket away.
Looks to have the technical ability and tenacity to eventually form an effective opening partnership with Cook, but needs to pick his spots rather than rely on adrenalin. Is learning how to cope at this level, but needs selectors to keep faith during what promises to be a steep curve.
61 & 0
Came into the series under media scrutiny for the first time in his embryonic Test career, his questionable technique against the short ball having been exposed by New Zealand earlier this summer.
A gritty, invaluable 61 was compiled despite the Zimbabwe born youngster’s patent lack of form, which is probably enough to keep him at number three for at least the next couple of matches.
1 & 60
Another player who began the series under pressure, Bell was dismissed cheaply in the first innings, increasing the burden on the veteran’s shoulders as his strode out second time round earlier than he would have hoped.
A fluent 60 helped England to cruise from 22-2 to an eventual score of almost 300, effectively putting the match beyond Australia, and simultaneously re-emphasising Bell’s latterly found happy knack of chipping in when under fire.
134 & 60, 2-28
The undisputed man of the match and arguably the most exhilarating cricketing prospect on the planet. Root’s first innings century came at almost a run-a-ball, as England recovered from 43-3 to score 430. Aussie ‘keeper Brad Haddin stewing behind the stumps, having dropped the 24 year-old before he’d scored.
A second innings half-century was followed up with two wickets at the tail-end of the fourth day. Root continues to leave a trail of dishevelled bowlers in his wake, while his spin bowling improves with each passing series.
52 & 42, 1-51 & 1-23
Batted with intent in both innings and bowled far better than his figures suggest. Stokes revels in playing Ashes cricket it seems, having stood out amid the chaos of England’s 5-0 reverse down under last time out.
Has certainly secured the number six spot for the foreseeable future; England’s faith in the Durham all-rounder justified after an extended sequence of imposing displays.
Jos Buttler (Wicket-Keeper)
27 & 7
England’s most innovative player kept wicket superbly throughout the match, placing opposite number Haddin firmly in the shade with his efficient, graceful glove work.
Buttler’s batting was disappointing, two cheap dismissals undermining his prodigious talent. As Geoffrey Boycott put it; “He’ll be very disappointed, he’s better than that!”
6/10 (4 for batting, 8 for wicket keeping)
77 & 15, 2-71 & 3-59
Targeted by more than one Australian bowler pre-series, Moeen batted formidably with the tail in the first innings in the face of some hostile pace rib-ticklers and bitter sledging.
His bowling was equally impressive, with an over-zealous baggy green middle order tempted, to their demise, by subtle variations in flight and pace. If Moeen lacked confidence beforehand he should be brimming with it heading to Lord’s after a top-notch all-round contribution.
18 & 4, 2-60 & 3-39
Prolonged rest, a result of England’s new one-day policy, seems to have given Broad time to find harmony in his bowling again, as he was almost 10 mph quicker here than during a fitful effort in the Caribbean earlier this year.
Charging in, Broad unsettled all of the Australian batsmen at one point or another, nipping five of them out in the process. His first innings partnership of 52 with Moeen helped England past 400, hopefully his previously handy lower-order batting continues to blossom as the series unfolds.
7* & 32*, 2-66 & 2-53
A not so rough diamond, Wood was a bold selection during the New Zealand series, with his 90+ mph bowling and proficient tail-end batting an immediate hit with fans and team-mates alike.
That trend continued in Cardiff, with Wood expertly supporting the new ball pair of Broad and Anderson. His emphatic 32 not out from only 17 balls extracting the final gust of wind from Australia’s sails.
1 & 1, 3-43 & 0-33
England’s all-time leading wicket-taker made the new ball talk during a first innings opening burst that resulted in opposing bats being relentlessly beaten by late swing and lateral seam movement.
Used sporadically second time around, Jimmy filled in a tidy support role while Messrs Broad, Wood, Moeen and Root ripped through the Aussies like a lion tearing at the flesh of a narcoleptic kangaroo.
England line-up at Lord’s with an unchanged XI from the one that prevailed in Cardiff; will they be able to replicate last week’s dazzling display? Share your musings in the comment section below.