It struck a chord with me when Ponting said all credit to the English team. Obviously the winner gets the loudest toast, the biggest cheer and most accolades. I won’t mince words for Ponting, I like him rather grudgingly as a player for the tones of runs, and he has scored. But I don’t think he has been the best captain Australia ever produced. Most avid Indian cricket fan remember him from the Sydney fiasco. It is easier to say bygones be bygones. I don’t know how many would savour an English win but many of us are in absolutely ecstatic when we realize that Aussies have lost. It is a similar high to when Indian team wins. The worry for Ponting the captain is that he seems to be out manoeuvred rather easily, Dhoni did it, Smith did it, Strauss has now done it.
I don’t think Ponting will enjoy tomorrow, especially if it were to rain all day at the Oval.
The Game, the review.
The do or die match. The pace and bounce of the Oval was to be grounded to a dust bowl, I would love to see that kind of a pitch when Indians or Pakis or Lankans visit England. Well it is just a wish. The Poms, huffed and puffed, to 325 + a respectable total, not considering what was to come. At 70 odd for none, the Aussies wouldn’t have imagined what was to come. They beat the English record of sorts for the series, earlier in the series; last 10 Pom wickets fell for 102 runs. The Aussies returned the favour when their last 10 wickets that fell for less than 90 runs. Poms with a lead of more than 170 runs, with 3 more days of cricket left, the result was written on the wall.
Broad just widened the gap with a stellar performance, Trott just added some more sugar on the cake, the cherry on the top moment was still to come. All though, Pom were struggling 57 for 3, Strauss the man in charge and Trott on debut resurrected the Poms ship and kept on pilling the agony for Aussies, Strauss out on a crucial moment, before the English, tail wagged and almost sung a fairy tale of sorts, Swann and Trott stealing 70 runs in 9 overs at one stage. Trott completed a magnificent century on debut. By the end of the Pom innings, the writing on the wall became firmly fixed in the minds of both the teams. It was the matter of time.
Aussies started again solidly, Katich and Watson looking good, but as in the case of most test matches, the first hour is crucial, two early wickets, made the task that bit jittery and all that Ponting and Hussey could do were to put their hands down and test the English patience.
The moment - “The red cherry on the top.”
It is amazing how little moments in everyday life lay claim to be turning points of history. This run out was one of those moments which would be remembered for the Ashes 2009. It occurred when the result of the game was a fore gone conclusion; it was just the matter of how and not when. The moment came, when Hussey played down to Mid on, and Ponting was caught on his heels, big man Flintoff scooped down and whipped it back to claim a direct hit, Ponting, was short by a foot or more. It was hara-kiri. The moment symbolized how Ponting gave it all that he could, but still fell short of the mark and how Flintoff could inspire the Poms even with shear presence. There have been many a glorious exits of the game, Flintoff wasn’t to have one. He laboured all along the series made sure Poms won the Ashes back only to bow out of tests.
All the numbers and times of victory.
Aussies bowlers took more wickets, their batsmen score more, centuries, looked more daunting. The Pommies hold fort, looked conventional, bore the Aussies out of the skin. While Poms looked to be doing all the catching up to done, Aussies will look back long and hard at lot of things including how and why the Ashes were lost. One of the reasons I think is Aussie rate of scoring runs. While not all bowlers looked threatening for an appreciable time, the Aussies didn’t exactly run away at the usual 3.5 to 4 an over run rate, the deciding factor of the series. Yes the Aussies did score runs, but perhaps a touch too leisurely I guess. The Poms managed to score 4 an over 5 times (not including a 3.9) in the series, the Aussies managed it just once. Well we can analyse or dig deep into what was done, but the fact remains, that poor team selection that the Aussies did make their task that bit harder. It would also be easier to say that’s high fliers like Clarke, North, Ponting and Haddin, files in just couple of times in the series, and the Ashes was won. Hussey didn’t give much to cheer except helping himself with a century in a losing cause that helped me take his head off, from the chopping board. One can dig as deep into the numbers the deeper you go into the number the more you would realize that the result was fair. I for once wish to say that Poms won the Ashes, instead of Aussies losing it.
Strauss, the man of the season.
He led the series for the Poms and looked the best player by far. Strauss may not have the charisma and may not stand out as a natural leader. He chose to stamp his authority not by his demeanour and presence but through his performance. The master stroke in the whole series was to rest Flintoff. He might have said to the team, that the challenge is to beat Aussies without Flintoff and Ashes is ours for the taking, if we lose, then we would have one more chance to beat the Aussies. Yes it was gamble to be taken, but Aussies took the bait. Strauss lost the battle to win the war and reduces the Aussies chances retaining the Ashes on a dusty oval pitch. He made a few daring calls, he managed to pull them off and reaped rewards.
The Challenge for Poms is now beat Australia in Australia and retain the Ashes.