Sunday, 5 December 2010

Shane Warne continues to trouble England - but they myth of natural Aussie superiority is shattered

There was a great moment in the Adelaide test when Kevin Pietersen stepped away from a Doug Bollinger delivery at the last minute, having been alarmed by the sudden appearance of a gigantic Shane Warne advertising a chicken burger on the sight-screen.

It was amusing to see the fat, be-wigged leggie genius still troubling England, far more than the current Aussie attack has been able to do in this series thus far. How 'Straya' must long for a spot of Warnie magic. Or even a spot of assistance from McGrath or Lee. Or Kasprowicz, McGill or Gillespie, come to that.

Seeing the Aussies have their noses rubbed in the dirt hasn't really pleased me as much as I thought it would. Partly because it's too easy; partly because things can change very quickly.

But mainly because we're going through a cycle where England is in the ascendancy. In a few years time it will be the turn of the Aussies again. That's how it goes, and it's what made the 90s bearable for me as an England cricket fan; I knew it would come back to England.

This is something a lot of Aussies totally failed to grasp over the last 20 years. They convinced themselves that they kept beating England not because of having a superior team, but because Aussies were naturally superior to the English.

This was most evident in the Aussies' secret dossier around the time of the last Ashes, written by Jason Langer and making this 'Aussie dominance' belief most explicit. Here's an excerpt:

"Aggressive batting, running and body language will soon have them staring at their bootlaces rather (than) in the eyes of their opponent - it is just how they are built.

Langer clearly believed, at the time, that Australian cricketers were simply tougher and less mentally or psychologically fragile than their English counterparts.

That was essentially blown by an England series win, although the Ashes series of 2009 was tight and England had home advantage.

But the first two tests of the Ashes 2010 have totally scotched the idea. Ponting has been shown to be a limited skipper; the Aussie bowling attack have looked weak, old and bereft of ideas; the fielding team has looked totally demoralised.

Look again at Langer's phrase about having the opposition 'staring at their bootlaces' - it could easily apply to Australia at the moment.

But I'm not getting carried away. There's a long way to go, even though I expect England to win. Not because England are more manful, or tough, or because my team are natural winners and the opposition natural losers. But because England are currently the better team. Sometimes, it's just as simple as that.

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