Cricket: Australia's dominance shows need for change

Henry Blofeld says Saturday's drama distorted the gap between the sides
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The Independent Online
In the years ahead the final scoreline of England 2, Australia 3 will make it look as if this was one of the best and most exciting of Ashes battles.

Those who were there will know that this was not so. For Australia comprehensively outplayed England when it mattered. They were a vastly superior side in all departments of the game and although the exciting and dramatic victory at The Oval has enabled England to regain some self-respect, it must not be allowed to distort the realities of the series.

Australia were at least a class and a half better than England and therefore defeat in itself was no disgrace. There seems to be strong evidence that the powers that be in English cricket did their best to arrange the pitches to be produced which would best suit England's bowlers.

The sad fact was that although the pitches may have suited the England bowlers, they suited the Australians much better. If the Ashes had still been at stake one cannot help but wonder if the result at The Oval would still have been the same. The Australians seemed a trifle demob-happy.

The sixth Test still managed to underline one of the main differences between the two sides which was the simple matter of discipline. In Glenn McGrath Australia probably has the best new-ball bowler in the world.

He has extraordinary control, he is consistently hostile, never giving the batsman a moment's peace, and almost never giving him a present of a loose ball.

Jason Gillespie and Paul Reiffel were just as disciplined as was Mike Kasprowicz in the second innings at The Oval.

Then there was Shane Warne who may not be quite the bowler he was four years ago. After the problems he has had with his shoulder and his spinning finger, he no longer bowls the googly and he is unable to control his flipper as he once did and uses it much more sparingly.

His control is still phenomenal for a wrist spinner and when found his land legs in England after the first Test, he showed not only that he is still very much a match winner but also that he too very seldom gives the batsman a ball to hit for four.

One has only got to compare the figures of the English and Australian bowlers in this series to see how undisciplined the Englishmen were. The same is true of the batting if one analyses the ways in which the main batsmen on either side were dismissed. England's batsmen played far too many loose or ill judged strokes - take Nasser Hussain's dismissal in the first over on Saturday morning.

The Australians are the product of a hard and highly competitive domestic competition consisting of only six sides. One only has to look at some of the Australians playing county cricket who cannot get into their Test side, to see the truth of this.

This series has indelibly underlined the need for change in the structure and attitudes of county cricket. England badly needs a greater concentration of the best players and a tougher, more competitive first-class competition. This Ashes series, like the Secretary of State for Culture, has played into Lord MacLaurin's hands.