Awful truth begins to dawn for hosts left stumped by recovery

The Australian angle: Ben Hilfenhaus was Australia's best bowler in India on their recent tour but has not subsequently been among the wickets for his country

Australia's worst fears and England's highest hopes have been confirmed – Ricky Ponting's team do not look strong enough to reclaim the Ashes. It is not the captain's fault, he juggled his resources and placed his fieldsmen to the best of his ability. It is just that the bowling lacks penetration and the fielding is merely serviceable.

Barring calamity amounting almost to catastrophe, England will leave Brisbane not only intact but with bright prospects. Admittedly, it might look different on faster pitches but Antipodean surfaces have lost their virility, and in some opinions their lack of lustre reflects the wider cricket community. Moreover, England's bowlers are taller and bounce the ball more than their opponents – the touring party was chosen with that in mind.

England's rally was as significant as Australia's inability to press home their advantage, and it began at the lowest point on the third afternoon. Andrew Strauss's team might easily have fallen apart as the Australians piled on the runs but far from wilting under the onslaught, the tourists retained energy, enthusiasm and focus. England showed the resilience required to succeed Down Under.

When a wicket did finally fall on a frustrating third day the entire side dashed across to congratulate bowler and catcher. There was no capitulation. At stumps that evening Alastair Cook ran to shake hands with the home century-makers. It was an act of the undefeated.

A day later his comrades rose in unison to celebrate his own hundred. None of it was for show – sincerity counts among this side's strong points and the fightback continued on the fourth day. Throughout England displayed an intensity missing in the fielding team. Whereas the occupiers of the crease remained in a coil of concentration, the locals suffered lapses that led to missed opportunities. England won the crucial moments and, but for some bad luck on the third morning, they might have won the match.

The England squad appears somewhat stronger as well as better balanced. The top-order batting is more or less equal. Notions that Cook and Ian Bell might be vulnerable have been confounded as both have emerged as cricketers of calibre. Among the hosts Mike Hussey proved there is life in the old dog, only Marcus North is fretting.

But England's order is longer and takes a lot of subduing. On this occasion it took just three balls to remove Nos 7, 8 and 9 but that's not going to happen again. By contrast, Australia's order deteriorates quickly. Part of Mitchell Johnson's attraction has been that he can wield the willow – without him the tail looks long – but a player cannot be chosen for his extras, it is the same with the bowling. Admittedly, Andrew Strauss has only four proper operators under his command. As a rule, though, teams are dismissed cheaply by four flingers, not five. The spare bowler is relevant in high-scoring contests.

That these Tests are tightly packed is a more serious problem because the workload on the quartet will be considerable. If they falter the delicate balance between these teams will change. By the look of things, though, they will go to Adelaide fresher than their counterparts and that is a start.

England have an edge in spin and pace. Although mauled in the first innings, Graeme Swann cannot be discounted, as competitors of his ilk tend to bounce back. In any case, he surpasses his steady counterpart – Australia's yearning for a wrist-spinner is no mere sentiment.

Strauss's speedsters also seem more penetrating so Australia need to sharpen their attack: Johnson has bowled a lot worse than he has at The Gabba but he has also bowled a lot better. Ben Hilfenhaus was the team's best bowler in India but has not subsequently been among the wickets. For England James Anderson has been luckless, Stuart Broad obtains steep bounce and Steven Finn is going to enjoy Antipodean tracks.

That is not to say the visitors are irresistible, although they are competent and well led. Moreover, Australia have a great batsman and ambitious leader and two fine all-rounders in Shane Watson and Brad Haddin. Everyone knows, too, that things can change quickly in sport.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam