Ashes 2017: Australian bowlers help to complete 4-0 rout at Sydney; lack of pace England's big bane

The only time England looked in a box seat was at end of day one, but as has so often been the case throughout the series, they had not been able to cash in.

Gaurav Joshi, Jan 08, 2018 16:06:42 IST

The end was an anticlimax. James Anderson appeared to glove a short ball from Josh Hazlewood to Tim Paine, each one of the Australian fielders appealed ferociously, the umpire was unmoved, the appeal had mellowed out, then all of sudden as Hazlewood was about to turn back to his mark, the finger was raised.

As Anderson enquired with the umpires if there were any reviews left, the Australian slip cordon stood their ground, holding their breath before realising it was all over. The umpire not only indicated that there were no respites left, but also confirmed Joe Root, retired hurt would not be batting.

The celebration seemed to lack cohesion. But does it really matter? Australia had annihilated England 4-0 and finally got their hands on the little urn.

Australia wrested the urn back in style with the innings and 123-run win at Sydney. AP

Australia wrested the urn back in style with the innings and 123-run win at Sydney. AP

On yet another benign pitch, the home side’s bowling quartet had managed to take 19 wickets (Root was declared absent ill). As many had predicted, it was Australia’s bowling that would eventually carve a path to success.

At the start of the Sydney Test, Smith had lost his fourth toss of the series, but his team still managed to conjure strategies and pure skill to dislodge England on a good batting surface. The most pleasing aspect for Smith will be that despite his premier quick Mitchell Starc being off the boil on day one, the other members of the bowling department ensured England were never let off the hook.

Nathan Lyon has been the glue that has kept the high-class fast bowling trio together. The off-spinner's ability to choke the England batting in Sydney and throughout the series allowed the quicks to attack on a constant basis. Every one out of four overs Lyon bowled was a maiden, his economy rate of 2.36 second only to that of Anderson. But the fact that Lyon was also able to take 21 wickets and keep the pressure on from both ends ensured England were running into dead ends.

The only time England looked in a box seat was at end of day one, but as has so often been the case throughout the series, they had not been able to cash in. The minute Root, batting on 83 at the time, clip a half volley to square-leg, the fortunes had turned. England needed one significant innings from Moeen Ali in absence of Ben Stokes. On day two, Moeen got a start, like he had for most of the series, but simply could not convert it into a big score.

England would have learnt scoring 350, or even 400, is not good enough in Australia. They had to make a big score; they failed, and Australia cashed in.

Anderson was the only England bowler who was having the control and skill to contain the Australians. But without any support, the home batsmen managed to play him out and cashed in on the second level bowling of Tom Curran, Stuart Broad and Mason Crane.

There would have been a sense of satisfaction for the visitors stopping Smith from reaching another century, but there joy had turned sour quickly with the Marsh boys and the out of form, Usman Khawaja scoring a ‘daddy’ hundred.

Once behind the game, England stood no chance. The lack of pace in the bowling was exposed again. Moeen the off-spinner had almost become a distant memory and picking a debutant leg-spinner was a sign of desperation rather than confidence.

The effort of the England bowlers cannot be doubted, but Test matches are not won on effort, it also requires proficiency. To spend two consecutive days in temperatures exceeding 40 degrees was always going to take its toll and unfortunately it came in the form of their skipper being hospitalised on the fourth evening.

While the bowlers never caved in, the batsmen seemed to lack that mental application in the second innings. Mark Stoneman has not been the same batsmen since he copped a nasty blow to his head in Perth. In Sydney, he appeared to be in a rush.

Vince tried valiantly, but as the series went on, the edges on his willow appeared to be broader than the face of his bat. Malan had changed his attitude against Lyon after Brisbane, but he was finally undone with a skidder by 'Gazza', something the off-spinner has been planning from the first Test.

Cook left his form behind at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. He did all the hard work by seeing off the new-ball spell, but perished to shots that signalled a man with a fatigued mind.

Then there was Root. A man who was simply not destined to get a century this series. Perhaps his best chance might have been in the second innings, but the heat took its toll on him and the skipper finally succumbed to the Australian weather.

After day two, one could sense the Australian batsmen knew they had this game under control. There was no way their batting group was going to score less than 500 on this pitch. They eventually made 649. The minute Smith declared half way through the fourth day, the game was well and truly dusted. Perhaps that is the reason, why the celebrations were relatively muted. Or it might just be that Australia already have their sights on South Africa in a few weeks.

Updated Date: Jan 08, 2018 16:06:42 IST

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