While it may be somewhat premature to publish an eulogy at this stage, it seems a certainty that England will handily beat Australia in the 3rd Test of the 2005 Ashes series. Let us hope that we are least spared the humiliation of an innings defeat.
The third test at Old Trafford has clearly shown that England are a class above Australia, in all aspects of the game. The Australian bowlers offered no challenge to the English batsmen who plundered 444 runs in quick time, aided by no less than seven dropped catches by the hapless Australians. On what seemed a very good batting pitch it seemed that Australia would at least match the English, but only to be down to 7/210 at stumps on day two.
This capitulation by the Australian team is unprecedented. This was not the results of a few out-of-form players. The entire team's performance was second rate.
In terms of individual players, there are a number of questions to be asked. It seems certain that McGrath returned from injury too early. Was there an injury concern for Clarke? Why did he leave the field after only two overs had been bowled? What manner of sheer idiocy convinced the Australian selectors to start with Gillespie when Kasprowicz performed so well in the last test. Kasprowicz should have been selected on his batting form alone.
The most serious criticism, however, should be directed at the Australian leadership. Whatever thought process that made Australia decide to put the English in to bat in the second test was in evidence again with their stubborn refusal to put in place a defensive third man to stem the avalanche of runs. Not allowing Warne to bowl a single over in the first session was also unfathomable. The tactics successfully employed by Australia over the last decade to intimidate opposition teams will not work on these Englishmen. They are better than the Australians and they know it. Australia can no longer hit their way out of trouble, instead they must rely on a conservative approach against England.s pace attack and the newly found skills of Giles.
Serious consideration also needs to be given to the makeup of the team. England have shown the versatility and offensive power they gain with a single brilliant all-rounder - Flintoff. While Australia (nay, the world!) does not have a player of that calibre, the current line-up needs to be reconsidered. Playing with three pace bowlers and Warne limits the bowling options considerably. With Gillespie's current form it's safe to say that Australia are employing only three specialist bowlers. Perhaps the inclusion of Kasprowicz or Clark for Gillespie and Shane Watson for one of the batsmen will provide a better balance.
Australia may not have lost this series yet, but no matter what the result, there can be no doubt that the Englishmen have been the superior cricketers all summer long.