Lutters’ Ashes Lines – part nine (the fith Test)

ENGLAND not only glacé cherried their Ashes cake, but in a moment of pure decadence, put hundreds and thousands on, as they doled out a third thumping victory over their Aussie counterparts in Sydney. There will surely be a good deal of head scratching and brow furrowing Down Under as they try to analyse what went wrong.

One would assume that there will be a few heads rolling both among the selectors and players, with Andrew Hilditch (Australia’s chief selector) probably first in the queue at the printer for his P45.

In my view, Australia have got to start again with a totally fresh side. The reason they are in the situation that they are in now is that they had too many players retiring at once. Teams can’t replace the likes of Warne, McGrath, Langer, Hayden and Gilchrist very easily, especially when they all retire at pretty much the same time.

The danger for Australia is that this sort of thing could happen again, with Ponting, Haddin, Hussey, Katich and Harris (through injury) who could all go. In my eyes, Australia have a big decision to make, whether they are going to muddle through with what they’ve got or are they going to accept that a period of change must occur and that the team aren’t going to be that competitive for a couple of years. They did it in the 80s under Allan Border, and it eventually produced the best side in the world for a number of years.

There is also the problem that they have in the bowling department, namely that their bowlers aren’t very consistently threatening. Aside from the first innings at Brisbane (England are notoriously slow starters on overseas tours) and the Test at Perth, the Australian attack has looked little better than a county attack.

Harris was useful, but his body is fashioned from biscuits. Johnson is a total enigma in that you have no idea what you will get from him (his first ball dismissal in the second innings was made even more sweet as he’d given Bresnan and Anderson a mouthful just before taking guard). The spinner issue still remains unresolved, although if they are not going to pick Hauritz (he must have upset someone in power), then Beer looks like he may have potential, although not with the bat.

You have to take your hat off to Siddle and Hilfenhaus as they are whole-hearted cricketers and would pull up trees for you if asked, but they are not going to win too many matches in their careers.

There are rough seas ahead for Australia I fear, which is a shame because it’s good to have a competitive Ashes.

The other bit of news from Sydney was Paul Collingwood’s announcement that he was retiring from Test cricket after the final Ashes Test. In a sense it was quite a clever move by the 34-year-old as it meant that he jumped before he was pushed, and the axe was certainly being sharpened after an unproductive series with the bat.

He has been a tremendous servant to English cricket, but his poor form had really caught up with him. He was lucky that Flower and Strauss aren’t keen on change during Test series, otherwise he may well have faced the chop a game or two before.

The finds of the series for England are Tremlett, who bowled superbly, Bell, who has finally decided to use the talent he was born with, and probably Bresnan, who most people saw as a bit-part player beforehand. And credit must go to Flower, Strauss and the umpteen backroom staff, as it’s been a thoroughly professional job.

Now England move onto some one-dayers against Australia and then over to the sub-continent for the World Cup, which they actually have a chance of winning. They will need the wind behind them and possibly heading downhill, but it is a possibility, and as long as they do better than the football team (almost impossible not to), then everyone will be reasonably happy.

I’m not sure England are ready to challenge India for number one spot in the Test rankings yet, but they are certainly heading in the right direction.