The manner in which Australia has begun its 2010 Ashes campaign is nothing short of shocking for a side that has been so used to dominating world cricket.
The first day of the second Test match has gone England’s way entirely, with the Aussies being bowled out for 245 on a batsman’s paradise at Adelaide.
The first Test at the Gabba too exposed Australia’s shortcomings, with succour coming to them only through the electrifying record-breaking partnership between Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin. England claimed the last five wickets very cheaply and then ground the Aussie bowling into submission with an unbelievable 517 for 1 declared in their second innings.
Australia’s bowling in this series has been described as its worst for 30 years by legendary paceman Jeff Thompson and he should know! Australia has lost the likes of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee in the last few years, to leave them totally exposed.
Another former Aussie paceman, Damien Fleming, has stated that Mitchell Johnson has major technical flaws in his bowling action and grip that need time to sort out.
Peter Siddle started the series well enough for the hosts at Brisbane on day one with a hat-trick and six wickets in all but they seem to have been left demoralised badly by their second innings shocker with the ball in hand.
Ryan Harris and Doug Bollinger have come into the squad in place of Johnson for the second Test and have added teeth to the bowling attack but the odds are stacked against them. This move itself shows that the Australian selectors admit that Plan-A did not work for them.
England have embarked on the Ashes campaign with much better planning and resoluteness than their once-feared opponents. Their batting has a much more solid look to it, with skipper Andrew Strauss, double centurian in Brisbane-Alistair Cook, Jonathan Trott and even Ian Bell in good touch. Add to that list the sparkling brilliance of Kevin Pietersen and the lineup looks truly formidable.
James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Stephen Finn have sharpened their skills and are supremely fit for the series. They are bowling a penetrative line on the stumps and are over-shadowing their wayward rivals from Australia completely.
The loss of star batters like Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Justin Langer and Damien Martyn has also dented the team from Down Under badly. Their replacements are not a patch on these greats and struggled badly in the recent series against the Indians too.
Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke are woefully out of form and it is only the admirable Hussey along with the opening pair, Simon Katich and Shane Watson, who has shown some mettle thus far with the bat. Haddin’s form is a plus point too.
Struggling at number 4 in the world ICC rankings, the Australians have to come up with some answers very soon. Perhaps it is time to play free-scoring players like David Hussey and Cameron White in the Test team too.
The Australians always depended on aggressive batting and bowling to gain the advantage in any series. At the moment, they look timid and hapless, if anything.
Does Ponting’s side have it in them to raise the bar once more? That is the question on every cricket-follower’s lips at the moment.