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.

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
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

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'