How Strauss breathed life into side by suffocating Australians

Disciplined bowling deprived Ponting and Co of runs, while English batting exceeded dreams of even the most ardent fan

Four years ago, when he was a long way from being captain of England and a much shorter distance from being out of the team altogether, Andrew Strauss had a feeling. It was that the best way to compete in Australia was to suffocate the opposition batsmen.

Starve batsmen of runs and you are cutting off their very reason for being. Force them to take risks to try to recuperate and it can lead to termination. So it proved. Sounds simple, does it not, but as Strauss observed yesterday in the immediate aftermath of England's seismic victory, it depended on a crucial factor.

The accurate bowlers turned up in the nick of time, five or six of them all at once like buses on the way to Trafalgar Square, and England were able to convert Strauss's feeling into something much more substantial.

It has been lovely to watch these past weeks because dead-eye dick fast bowling, well controlled with a hint of movement here, a touch of bounce there, does precisely what Strauss envisaged all those years ago. It is permissible to wonder what might have occurred had the confluence of circumstances which brought him in to the job not taken place. Same old wayward trundlers presumably, both sides of the wicket merchants with a plan they could not execute.

If England got lucky in this department, though it should be known that they made their own luck over two years of careful management, the batting was almost too much to expect as an accompaniment. When Strauss thought of strangling the opposition he must have known that it is best done when that opposition is also facing the might of runs scored against them. It tends further to weaken resolve, as England have found to their cost down the years.

In the three matches they won in the Ashes series, England's first-innings scores were 620 for five declared, 513 and 644, the last their highest total in Australia. Not for 82 years, when the pitches were flatter and the Tests were timeless, had they made more than 600 twice in a series, never had they made above 500 four times, including the valiant rearguard 517 for one in Brisbane.

The batsmen, in their way, were as controlled as the bowlers. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott at the top of the order are players who the rest could play round. It was also smart to watch. Never have England scored as many as nine hundreds in an Ashes series. Six of the top seven batsmen reached three figures, Cook three times and Trott twice.

And then there was the fielding. It beat all previous English fielding displays anywhere at any time into a cocked hat. They were alert, precise like the bowlers and they caught their catches. Wicketkeeper Matt Prior, once so derided, gave them their lead and he took 24 catches in the series, most of them straightforward, all of them gloved without fuss.

There will be a tendency to try to diminish the quality of England's great victory by traducing the standard of their opponents. It is all too easy, as one eminent Australian newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, did yesterday to label the home side as The Worst XI to represent the country. True, they were not very good and they do not bear comparison with their recent forebears, but they were not allowed to be very good by England.

The tourists demonstrated that preparation and specialism in all areas do work. They paid attention to details that Australia did not seem to know existed. It was exhaustive and it was essential, for no matter how poor Australia turned out to be, had they been given an inch they would have taken a yard and then it could have been as messy as usual.

Australia, do not forget, contained three batsmen who have regularly inflicted such misery on England it might have been a specialist subject on Mastermind. But only Mike Hussey clicked, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke had paltry returns. Poor form, perhaps, but it was England who provoked that poor form.

For a few months, Australia will self-flagellate. England can indulge in much more healthy habits. Australia are not what they were, England have a real chance of being something. While ensuring that those who would try to minimise the victory do not have their way, it is also right to place it in context.

There are better sides than Australia out there at present and for England to confirm their undoubted advance they have to be beaten. But the way Strauss and the coach Andy Flower talk, there is no room for dwelling on present glories, only to imagine future ones. When the dream fades it is time to quit, as Paul Collingwood has so eloquently exhibited by now withdrawing from Test cricket, partly because for him personally there is little else to achieve.

England's next mission is to become the number one side in the world. They are at three now with Australia down to five. India and South Africa stand in England's way with the points table reading 128, 117 and 115.

To narrow that gap, England must beat India, who are suddenly in love with Test cricket again although they continue to worship at the altar of Twenty20, at home this summer.

Though it may be eminently possible at home, it is a tall order. But seven weeks ago beating Australia in Australia was the tallest order of all and yesterday England completed their third innings victory going away. It was bloody marvellous.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little