The Ashes aren’t just played in the middle of the ground, they’re also played around it. In other words, Australian fans and the Aussie media are very much part of the action, as well.
Let’s just say Australian fans at grounds aren’t the most polite.
Years ago one let a pig onto the pitch with the word ‘Beefy’ written in pen on its body, a reference to England all-rounder Ian Botham, nicknamed Beefy, who was playing at the time.
One Australian fan held up a poster saying ‘Phil (Tufnell), lend me your brain. I’m building an idiot’ a dig at Tufnell and his reputation for not being the sharpest tool in the box.
And these are some of the better-humoured and more mild mannered comments. Sometimes it’s just downright nasty abuse, especially aimed at England fielders who are unlucky enough to be fielding on the boundary and near the crowd.
The Aussie media join in as well. That could be in the form of hurtful nicknames for England players, digging out stories from their past or just plain criticism for how badly they’re playing or for individual mistakes on the field.
Enduring this for one Test match is one thing.
Putting up with it for a three month Tour is quite another.
The Aussie run-machine
As we’ve seen, Australian wickets are quick and bouncy. To make the task even harder for English batsmen, some of the grounds and outfields are huge, allowing for lots of twos and threes for those who can hit the ball into unprotected areas.
So the last thing you need as an England captain is an Aussie batsman who can deal with the pace of the wickets, the heat, knows the dimensions and where to hit the ball and doesn’t get tired (or bored) of batting.
The further problem for England is that Australia always have at least one of those, often two.
Since the mid-90s all of Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Steve Smith have ticked all the boxes described above.
Run after run, century after century, they just keep going.Sucking the life out of England with each boundary, each well-run three.
As for 2021-22, they have two of them in Steve Smith and ‘Smith-clone’ Marnus Labuschagne.
They’ll surely be the favourites to be top batsman for their sides and at bigger odds, for the Series as a whole.
It’s just 1.3 with Betway that Australia win the Series. Over the next few weeks, lock out for prices of 4-0 on Australia or 4-1 to Australia. History suggests Australia could win quite easily.
Hope for England in the form of…India?
Maybe. In 2018-19 India went to Australia and beat them 2-1 (one drawn Test).
And then in 2020-21 India went back to Australia and beat them 2-1 again!
The 2018-19 Series needs to be put into context. Australias’ two best batsmen, David Warner and Steve Smith, were suspended at the time for their role in the ‘Sandpapergate affair’. It also helped that Chet Puajara was in the form of his life, scoring 521 runs in four matches.
But there were no excuses for Australia in 2020-21. Not only did they have their best team out but India were missing skipper and ace batsman in Virat Kohli for two of the four Tests.
On the final day at Brisbane, India chased 328 runs on the final day to inflict Australia a first defeat at the Gabba in 32 years. It meant they won the Series 2-1, with less than twenty minutes to go on the final day.
How did they win? Simple. They just played the better cricket.