Australia will take losing the Ashes in their stride. The cloud of gloom will rapidly pass whereupon mistakes will be reviewed and corrected. After all it was defeat not dishonour. Certainly there will be no wailing or gnashing. Mike Atherton visited Australia a few weeks after the 2005 series and was surprised to find that locals had moved on.
Most of the players appearing at The Oval will be retained. Ricky Ponting will remain in office. His masterly innings at The Oval confirmed his wellbeing. Inevitably, the selectors will be grilled about the imbalance of their squad and team at The Oval. Presumably Ponting wanted to keep the same side but the responsibility lies with them.
Acknowledging that England deserved to win the decisive match will be part of the cleansing process. Figures can be misleading. That Australia provided five of the six highest scorers and the three leading wicket takers is irrelevant. Cricket is not to be put in a statistical box. It is a hot-blooded game.
England produced the three most incisive spells of bowling in the series – Andrew Flintoff's thunder at Lord's, Jimmy Anderson's waspish swingers in Birmingham and Stuart Broad's irresistible intervention at The Oval. Bowlers win matches. Australia produced three low first innings totals and paid the penalty. The rest is talk.
Nor will Australians waste much time cursing their luck. England did enjoy the rub of the green with umpires, tosses and run outs while the shower that interrupted the visitor's first innings at The Oval freshened the pitch. But this is all part and parcel of the game. Australian cricket is too strong minded to seek the convenient cover of mischance. Had the team played well enough for long enough Dame Fortune herself could not have stopped them.
Losing the Ashes is tolerable. But succumbing 2-1 to the fifth ranked side is a cause for concern. Moreover Australia have lost three of their last four series. Worse, the team's only emerging batsman was dropped after two fraught performances and the main spinner was not given a chance on a parched Oval pitch.
The conclusion is inescapable. If not exactly down in the dumps, Australian cricket does have a few headaches. Resources have been stretched. If a top class bowler had been uncovered in the last decade he'd have played in all five Tests. Had a gifted young batsman been available, he'd have been included in the squad. Clearly the production line has faltered. Accordingly a 15-year stint as the most powerful and feared side in the world has ended.
Australian cricket's main concern lies with its ageing State teams. Professionalism has bestowed many gifts but it has also delayed retirement.
Last season the Queensland squad had an average age of 29. Not the team, the squad. That is not the Australian way. States will be encouraged to ditch the dead wood.
Meanwhile, the selectors will continue to rebuild. Already Phil Hughes, Sean Marsh and Callum Ferguson have been blooded. Australia must live on its wits.
Spinners are harder to develop. Hopes that Shane Warne might inspire a generation have been dashed. Alas he is inimitable. Coaches have been slow to grasp that point. It is going to to take time to develop another ripper, Australia will concentrate on working their way back up the Test ladder.
Although the cricketing culture remains resilient it's not going to be easy. On and off the field, India, South Africa and England have raised their games. Expectation has replaced mere hope. But don't expect the Baggy Greens to go away. Australia can be beaten but not broken...Reuse content