Every week Geoff Boycott updates his site with fresh views on the world of cricket. Don't miss it.

Now Australia look like the team in crisis, not England

Posted on | July 16, 2015 | 28 Comments

Nobody saw this coming. That includes the players, loyal supporters, bookmakers, or us ex-players. We all hoped for an England victory, but realistically would have settled for a good draw to go some way to erasing the embarrassing way we lost 5-0 in the last Ashes. But England have out-batted, out-bowled and out-captained Australia.

The slow pitch took the sting out of the two fastest bowlers, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc. Yet in England’s first innings, they persisted with lots of short stuff. Michael Clarke allowed that to carry on for far too long, setting overly attacking fields that left lots of gaps for England to score quickly. Captain and fast bowlers tried to bomb England, believing that what happened on the faster, bouncier Australian pitches 1½ years ago would crack the nerve of England’s batsmen in Cardiff. Australia did not assess the pitch correctly, and once England got over 400 on this dry surface, they were in trouble.

Alastair Cook and his seam bowlers got everything right. They bowled full and straight to the Aussie batsmen, who, because of their home surfaces, prefer to stay on the back foot. Cook placed men on the drive at short extra cover and short midwicket, making them wary of the front-foot drive. It created doubt in the batsmen’s minds, and made them struggle for runs.

Alastair had his best match as captain that I have ever seen.

What transformed him and his team, I don’t know. Maybe it wasn’t just one thing, but an accumulation of factors. An awful World Cup made all the players, and backroom staff, take a hard, pragmatic look at our cricket. New, young players were selected for the one-day internationals against New Zealand. Paul Farbrace was put in charge, encouraging the players to play without fear, be positive and enjoy themselves.

New Zealand’s free-spirited, attacking cricket inspired us and, since then, England’s cricket has been a breath of fresh air that the public have warmed to. The quality of our cricket against New Zealand raised supporters’ spirits and hope, even before the Ashes started.

Our three seamers looked far more threatening than theirs throughout the match. I thought Stuart Broad bowled fantastically. Almost every single ball was in the corridor: full, quick, causing problems. And James Anderson also bowled well. Mark Wood was the surprise: off that short run, he can sometimes create terrific pace and bounce. The nicest thing is seeing kids like him, who are new to Test cricket, with a smile on their face. He is really enjoying it.

Moeen Ali is a good batsman and a useful bowler. We know he is not a front-line spinner like Graeme Swann, but he has this knack of being able to get wickets. It is a wonderful gift to have. Three of their batsmen got out trying to go after him. They probably think he is not that good. But it doesn’t matter how you get wickets – a long hop, a full toss, or the batsman trying to whack you. Every wicket is a good ball!

Australia were favourites, but winning the toss and winning the psychological battle against Johnson and Starc’s fast bowling was the key.

Brad Haddin dropping Joe Root on nought was a huge mistake that gave England a lifeline. Two years ago at Lord’s, he failed to move for a simple catch off Root, who went on to made 180. You cannot keep doing that as a wicketkeeper. It destroys the bowlers’ confidence if you cannot take simple catches. Root is in the best form of his life, and is good enough to seize those kinds of opportunities and go on to make big scores. Already that Haddin blunder could be the champagne moment of the series for England. It has helped England win, the players will now be brimming full of confidence, and it has provided a boost to the expectation levels of our supporters. England can go to Lord’s with an unchanged team, and Australia have got all the problems. Their best fast-medium bowler, Ryan Harris, has retired. Starc has a bad ankle injury and is a doubt for Lord’s.

Shane Watson has been out 14 times lbw to England, and his place is now in jeopardy to young Mitchell Marsh. And there must now be a question mark about Haddin, at 37 years of age. His legs move as if they have lead in them.

Australia are going to have to do some serious talking about their batsmen, who when they get in get out and do not go on to make big scores. So while Australia have to sort out a lot of problems, England can celebrate for a couple of days and go to Lord’s with an unchanged team.

We all understand that this is only one match in a five-Test series, but whatever happens next week, this win has done wonders, it is a huge tonic and pick-me-up for English cricket. Well done, Alastair Cook. England 1, Australia 0. It couldn’t happen to nicer people.