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?
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

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map