James Lawton: In a composite Ashes team only two Australians would make the cut...

One of the glories of being in Australia is the knowledge that nowhere on earth is less susceptible to the more patronising tones of a certain kind of Englishman.

This being so it is natural to be a little bit circumspect about saying what a jolly good show it is that the Aussies are making a fight of it for the Ashes. But say it you must after those long, deflating days in Brisbane and Adelaide carried you so far from any old sense that winning the little urn indeed represented one of the great achievements in international sport.

No doubt events in Perth were a little too much of a lurch in the opposite direction while producing roughly the same result – a contest stripped of its most vital ingredient, the sharp edge of genuine competition. It may, however, be a little bit premature to assume that in Melbourne on Boxing Day and in Sydney we are guaranteed the kind of barn-burner that represents the best of Ashes cricket. There is just too much to suggest that what happened at the Waca was a one-off aberration of talent and form.

England have at least had the grace to admit that they put in a quite palsied performance in Perth, a betrayal of the levels achieved in the first two Tests, perhaps, in retrospect, much too easily for their own good. They say that they will be strong and vigilant at all the broken places and that Ricky Ponting and his men are in fantasy land if they think the same conditions, and the same result, can be recreated at the cavernous MCG over the next week.

From the English perspective it would be excessively timid, even by Perth standards, to take any other view.

Going into the Waca only extreme deference to the great tradition and enduring fighting instincts of Australian cricket could have persuaded anyone to put more than two of the home team into a composite XI.

Alastair Cook was awash with runs and if Andrew Strauss had two failures he also had an impressive century, which left him miles ahead of Simon Katich's fragile replacement, Phil Hughes. At No 3, Jonathan Trott or Ponting? However much you admire the fighting cock "Punter", it was another no-brainer. Kevin Pietersen or Michael Clarke: ditto. Mike Hussey walked in at No 5 but at six Ian Bell was so far ahead of the new boy Steve Smith he might have been playing a different game. Brad Haddin over Matt Prior, by dint of some brilliantly composed batting but what then? It was wall-to-wall Poms: Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, Jimmy Anderson and Steven Finn.

So what has changed in Melbourne? Australia have a new player much favoured by American gridiron coaches, a guy called Mo Mentum, but he tends to flag under the weight of superior talent. Shane Watson, of the bulging biceps, shoves aside Strauss and, of course, the resurrected Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris barge into the joint line-up, for one Test and mood swing at least.

Still, though, there is no sight of an authentic Australian slow bowler or a third seamer to supplant Anderson. This leaves England with a still clearly perceptible edge in talent and, hopefully, minds and hearts concentrated on the new challenge of making it count.

The bookmakers are, perhaps understandably in view of England's somewhat brittle form when trying to enforce big advantages in the past, somewhat sceptical, making Australia narrow favourites at 6-4. England are 7-4, invitingly so if you believe that in the long run you should always back superior talent. In any event, let's hope it's a jolly good show.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen