Coming into this Ashes series I was more optimistic than a lot of people. I generally am. There seemed genuine cause for that, though not everyone agreed. There had been very promising signs in England through our winter, though we still lost 3-0 – a scoreline that flattered England. With the return bout in Oz I knew the cionditions would suit us – it’s tough going for visiting teams playing on Australian pitches and in the Australian summer. On top of that ‘Boof’ promised a return to Australian values – attacking cricket with bat and ball, a strong competitive edge and in your face agression. Perhaps I looked at things through rose coloured glasses, but I tipped a 2-1 series win to Australia, and the return of the Ashes.
Here I sit though, surprised at how it has turned out. The Perth test has just concluded and Australia have the Ashes back here where they belong. We lead the series 3-0, and on track for a 5-0 whitewash.
It feels like a return to the good old days. This is how cricket has been pretty well for a lot of my life – Australia on top and playing ruthless, bruising, often exhilarating cricket that leaves opponents bewildered and intimidated. England haven’t had a sniff. They’ve been walloped in every match.
There have been some outstanding contributors, none more so than Mitch Johnson, who has become a phenomena. He’s copped a lot of flak over the years, but he’s always been one of my favourite players – because on song he is so fucking good. For a long time he has the potential to be the best player in the world with his exhilarating combination of gifts – sheer, violent, unpredictable pace, and a natural ability with the bat. Right now he is the best player in the world, and already in this series carved out a big place in Ashes history. His spell in Adelaide last week was just about the most thrilling piece of bowling I can recall for many years. Right now he is the spearhead of a great bowling attack.
Clarke has been great, but we expect that – he is the best batsman in the world. Haddin has experienced an Indian summer though, and David Warner rebound from the dramas and controversies of early in the year to be the best batsman of the series – dominant and rampant. There have been no dud performers.
It’s a nice feeling this. Not just winning, but to win like this. We lost our way for a while, and one reason for that is that we weren’t true to our nature. We attempted to play scientific cricket, casting aside our innate attitude. We become just like any other team though when we do that, which seems foolish. Our success over time has been in playing to our strengths – to attack, to follow our instinct, to be true to that competitive edge bred into us from childhood. We tried to be Clark Kent when we’ve generally played like Superman.