The view from Down Under turned on its head
An Australian journalist confidently predicted disaster for England
Sunday 09 January 2011
Back in November, the sun was high over Bondi beach, the prawns were on the barbie, God was in his heaven and all was well with the world of Australian cricket. And, true to the tradition of his country's upbeat approach to sporting contests, Australian journalist Will Swanton wrote a piece in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Australian Daily Telegraph, headlined "10 reasons Poms WON'T win". In the interests of scholarship, fair play and humour, we reproduce it here, with comments about how Mr Swanton's predictions panned out.
"They walked around the Oval after their dominant home summer like they were God's gifts to Wisden. Here's who they really beat. No one. Nuffies and cheats. England clean-swept the worst team on the planet, Bangladesh, and then won three out of four Tests against rotten Pakistan. Now they're portrayed as superstars."
An Englishman writes: There was some modest applause, and manly handshakes after last summer's victories, but a sense of the large task that awaited the team in Australia this winter never left the players or their management. So much more effective than swagger, we've always found.
2. Kevin Pietersen
"He might be growing a moustache for a very good cause but he's still getting around looking like Dirk Diggler out of Boogie Nights. His most recent Test efforts have been the biggest joke..."
An Englishman writes: It was always rather rash to goad someone as talented as KP, and so it proved. He averaged 60 with the bat, and had a top score of 227. Some joke.
3. No top speedster
"Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steve Finn are respectable quicks. But they lack the fear factor. Every truly great attack has someone pushing 150km/h, like Mitchell Johnson does for Australia. None of the touring fast bowlers are frightening..."
An Englishman writes: The point of Mr Anderson was to take wickets rather than frighten people. In this he was effective, taking 24, far more than any other bowler in the series. The allegedly fearsome Mitchell Johnson took 15 wickets, the same number as England's spin bowler.
4. Passive captain
"Andrew Strauss has to lead by example because his introverted demeanour doesn't get the blood pumping too much. Only his scores do. He leads with quiet assurance when things are going well. But he comes across as introverted and submissive when things start going pear-shaped."
Englishman writes: As it happened, there was a bit of a hitch, when Australia won a match to level the series. Did Mr Strauss flinch, wilt or whimper? No, he won the next two matches. A better definition of submissive would be a side which loses three out of five matches by an innings.
5. No superstars
"Pietersen is as good as anyone when he's in the mood, but he hasn't been in the mood for a long time. He couldn't make a hundred against Bangladesh... England are successful because they know their limitations. Which means there are limitations."
An Englishman writes: The England team, we would be the first to concede, have limitations. They have yet to solve the international banking crisis, land a man on Mars, or find the lost city of Atlantis. But when it comes to cricket, they are rather good. There were, for example, nine partnerships in the series in excess of 114 runs. All but one were for England.
"They've faced bowling machines with footage of Australian speedsters running in at them – and still didn't want to know about Mitchell Johnson. They've given themselves three weeks in Australia to acclimatise but haven't played on pitches like the monster they'll encounter at the Gabba. Every breath they take is a part of a suffocating plan. There's no freedom, nothing instinctive or adventurous. Paralysis by over-analysis."
An Englishman writes: Too much sun and Fosters, here, we fancy, Mr Swanton. Let us, in examining your portrayal of the England players as over-rehearsed automatons, compare the performances of the wicket-keepers, a role in which, you will agree, forward planning is only so much use. Mr Prior, for England, took 23 catches, leaping about all over the place. The Australian keeper, Mr Haddin, took eight.
7. No depth
"In such a cramped schedule, injuries are bound to hit both camps. England are in serious strife if they lose any of their first XI. There's a vast gulf between their top-tier players and those on the standby list ... Australia have eight Test-standard speedsters in the queue."
An Englishman writes: No strength in depth, eh? Well, five England batsmen averaged in excess of 50 runs per innings, as opposed to one Australian. Four English bowlers took wickets at fewer than 30 runs apiece, while only one Australian did.
"This is England we're talking about. Losing is a tradition. Think soccer World Cups. Think Tim Henman at Wimbledon. Think every cricket tour of Australia since 1986-87. They always arrive talking themselves up, vowing they won't wilt under the heat and pressure and scrutiny, then wilt under the heat and pressure and scrutiny."
An Englishman writes: It is a mistake to imagine that the England football team, its management, fans, wives, girlfriends and bag-carriers are in any way representative of English sport. May we refer you to our golfers, motor racing drivers, jockeys, runners, cyclists, sailors, rowers...
"Everyone keeps rattling on about England's perfect preparation... Anyone seen the scorecards? Western Australia rolled England for 223. South Australia dismissed them for 288 on the Hume. And Australia A ripped through their top order. Perfectly prepared? Piffle."
An Englishman writes: The point of a Test series, we always understood, was to perform well in the actual matches, as opposed to the warm-up games beforehand. And, if we are going to talk innings totals, let us look at the Tests. There were four innings in excess of 500. All were English ones. Hard luck, old chap.
"Five of their top six batsmen are the same lot who stumbled and bumbled through the 5-0 loss on England's last trip to Australia. The scarring is deep and real. Anderson's memories of Australia are all nightmarish... Hard surfaces jarring bones and muscles, oppressive heat – they won't know what or who has hit them."
An Englishman writes: Were you watching, Dame Joan Sutherland, Rolf Harris, Ned Kelly, Sir Les Patterson, Errol Flynn, Donald Bradman, Paul Hogan, Julian Assange, Germaine Greer, Skippy and the Flying Doctor? Because your boys took one hell of a beating.
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