Ashes 2015: This is not the terrifying Australia side that so many feared

By the afternoon they were like a bunch of mangy old cats scratching around in badly made wolf costumes

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While a week might be a long time in politics, for the Australian cricket team four days proved to be quite arduous enough, the Cardiff Test laughing heartily in the face of nearly all pre-series speculation.

Before this match began on 8 July the tourists were 2/5 favourites to win the Ashes, a hungry pack ready to devour England’s cocky young side, by 5:10pm on 11 July they looked more like a bunch of mangy old cats sadly scratching around in badly made wolf costumes.

It is of course very early in this series and the glare of criticism is always most fierce in the immediate aftermath of any defeat, but it would not be overreaching to say that this is not the terrifying Australia side that so many feared had arrived on these shores.

The ‘Dad’s Army’ tag that Australia were labelled with before this series, courtesy of one of their own – Yorkshire head coach Jason Gillespie – always felt like part of the perennial pre-Ashes patois, a jokey soundbite to slot alongside Glenn McGrath’s customary 5-0 prediction in the seemingly never-ending phoney war of words before every series.

In fact this Australian side, who opted for the more experienced man in both of their close selection calls, did show signs of age in the Cardiff sun, outgunned on all fronts by a fitter, more dynamic England side.

 

The 37-year-old Brad Haddin made the glaring error of the game, spilling eventual man-of-the-match Joe Root before he had made a first innings run, it seemed a costly mistake at the time – 134 runs later it looked priceless. Throw in 24 byes and that really is a game to forget.

The ravages of time have already claimed one scalp on this Australian tour, Ryan Harris – unlikely to have played a part in Cardiff – but a big loss for the rest of the series, both on the pitch and in the dressing room.

He added balance to the Australian bowling attack, his accuracy and control a calming counterbalance to the wildfire destructiveness of Mitchells Johnson and Starc. Without the dependable ‘Rhino’ in their fast-bowling stable, the tourists are undoubtedly less potent with the ball.

Chris Rogers, fresh from an aborted alternative career as a ticket tout, was one of Australia’s close selection calls, his abilities with the bat seeing off the younger Shaun Marsh – a choice vindicated by his 95 in Australia’s first innings.

However in the field the 37-year-old showed signs of his age, a more sprightly man would have snared Ian Bell early in his redemptive second innings, another of Australia’s elderly joints creaking under pressure.

Perhaps most vitriol will be reserved for Shane Watson, who at 34 is positively youthful compared to Messrs Haddin and Rogers, yet still older than England’s oldest man Bell.

Watto squeaked into this team ahead of Mitchell Marsh, his experience getting the nod over the younger man’s weight of warm-up runs, following four forgettable days in Cardiff it would be a surprise to see him play another Test for Australia.

With Starc picking up an injury as well as such a quick turnaround before Lord’s, there is a danger that the cracks that have appeared in the shell of this Australian side could open up more severely, their tour very quickly reduced to little more than a sticky mess.

And if that were to be the case, then compared to their brief sojourn in South Wales, the remaining 20 days of this Ashes series could seem like an eternity.

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