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.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Midsummer swimwear season is well and truly upon us – but diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice