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Harris England’s bane once again

cricket Updated: Dec 19, 2010 23:53 IST
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England capitulated at the WACA today. Fifty minutes was all it took for Australia to shove aside the remaining five wickets they required to level the series and they met scant resistance, all falling for the further addition of 29 and in fewer than six overs.

The winning margin was huge, 267 runs, just one less than Australia themselves made in the first innings: this was an innings defeat in all but name. To Ryan Harris, the four-square bustler, went the spoils, adding four more wickets to that of Alastair Cook and, with the last ball of the third day, Paul Collingwood.

His figures of six for 47 were the best of his career and gave him nine for 106 in the match, to sit in no less celebrated fashion alongside Mitchell Johnson's nine for 82.

All out for 123, only 11 runs more than their worst ever total on the ground, England had lost all 20 wickets in 75 overs, having been 78 for no wicket at one stage on the second morning.

It was a flood, and when the levee breaks, as Led Zeppelin put it, you've got to move: tomorrow England will decamp to Melbourne, for Christmas first and then what now promises to be a magnificent Boxing Day spectacle at the MCG.

If they had been anticipating a return to a more gentle pitch, however, or at least one better suited to their skills, then there were rumours that they might need to think again: that the surface they will have seen a couple of strips along from that moribund offering used for their match against Victoria last week has been replaced by something which promises to be altogether livelier and cooked to order.

More of the grassy, pacy same, in other words, or as near as they can get it.

That would be of concern to England's batsmen who, with the exception of Ian Bell, showed no capacity to be able to cope either with the pace and bounce of the pitch or the disciplined approach adopted by Australia's four pacemen.

Every single moment of Mike Hussey's batting masterclass should be required viewing on that basis. So we have a complete turnaround from the mood with which the teams left Adelaide. If momentum is indeed a definable element in a Test series, then it now rests in Australia's hands. But these are circumstances to which, over the last four years, since the infamous whitewash, England have responded much better.

In that time they have played 49 Tests, losing 11, but only once have they done so in successive matches, to South Africa at Leeds and Birmingham three summers ago. The last three losses, to Australia, South Africa and Pakistan, were followed by wins in the next match.

Australia, then, will no more take England for granted than they, with two grounded individuals in Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss, would have done Australia after Adelaide.

Of the disappointments, though, it was the bowling that hurt most. England's seam strategy has been built on the fundamentals of rigid line and appropriate length once the new ball has gone and although Chris Tremlett made an excellent comeback to Test cricket, Jimmy Anderson was poor with the new ball in the first innings - after England had put Australia in -and Steve Finn, despite his wickets, was a disaster. Strauss had nothing with which to control things.