A MOUNTAIN of sorts has been scaled by the England cricket team by defeating Australia by an innings and 71 runs in the second cricket Test in Adelaide. The last time Australia suffered an innings defeat at home was in 1993 when the West Indies were the victors.
The loss has put Australia in a position where it needs to win two of the remaining three Tests and ensure that England does not win any more. Judging by the cricket that has been on display in the first two Tests, this is wishful thinking of a very high order.
England owes more to its inspirational captain Andrew Strauss than anyone cares to document; when nobody notices a captain, it can confidently be said that he or she is playing the role of leader to perfection.
Much praise has been lavished on the batsmen like Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen who have scored heavily for England; the bowlers like James Anderson, Steve Finn and Graeme Swann have earned their share of praise too.
But nobody has bothered to remark that when England was up against it, facing a deficit of 221 on the first innings in the first Test, it was the captain, Strauss, who put his head down, scored a century and led the way out of the woods.
Strauss was coming off a third-ball duck in the first innings and was nearly out off the first ball of the second. That makes his achievement all the more creditable.
By the time he was out, for a well-made 110, Strauss had ensured that Australia would have to bat again; the deficit was only 33 when he was dismissed. As a true captain should, he led from the front.
On the final day of the second Test, when Swann was troubling the Australian batsmen the most, with the home team four wickets down and looking like it had a decent chance to save the game, Strauss took the decision to take the new ball.
This, despite the fact that Anderson, one of his new-ball bowlers, had bowled badly in the innings up to that point and his other new-ball bowler Stuart Broad had been ruled out of the game and the series due to a stomach muscle strain.
It was a bold move but his instincts proved him right. Finn got rid of the danger man Mike Hussey, Anderson took two wickets and when the ball was about seven overs old Swann came back into the attack and wrapped up the innings.
His counterpart, Ricky Ponting, has been a woeful failure. His field placings have been bizarre. He has backed the wrong players – Xavier Doherty is no Test-class spinner – and has played only one innings of note, an unbeaten 51. In the second Test, he made 0 and 9, hardly the contribution that a captain should make when the team has its back against a wall.
Yet Australia is looking at everything other than replacing him in order to try and do better in the remaining three Tests. There will be a few changes in the team for the third Test – Doherty will be dropped and Doug Bollinger may be sidelined as well. The same fate may befall Marcus North. Yet Ponting will remain.
Tacking the effects without dealing with the cause is common in today’s world. It is harder to cut down a tree than to remove the branches. Until Ponting is replaced, Australia will continue to plumb the depths of world cricket.