Plunkett shows warrior spirit so lacking in Harmison

England have demolished a lacklustre Australia. A tour that started in a tunnel of wretchedness has ended in a sudden blaze of glory. Throughout the last fortnight the visitors have been the better side. Andrew Flintoff's beleaguered outfit have played with unsuspected energy and previously unseen conviction. Australia were left to reflect upon the dangers of losing momentum. Never give a sucker an even break.

It is almost impossible to pinpoint the precise moment the turnaround began. Certainly, the teams have not undergone any radical rethink. England fielded much the same outfit who have for several months been battered and beaten, though not, as it has turned out, into submission. Australia remain resounding on paper and will go to the Caribbean as favourites to win the World Cup. It is just that cricket is not played on paper or even solely on the field. It is also played in the minds of men.

As always, the manner in which power changed hands was instructive. Success in sport hangs by a thread. No team are invulnerable, none beyond hope. Conceivably, for Australia, the senior players' yearning for a rest affected morale. Andrew Symonds' injury was also crucial, leaving a gaping hole in the batting and causing a reconstruction, with a spinner, Brad Hogg, and an all-rounder, Shane Watson, replacing two hard-hitting middle-order men. Ever since Australia have not looked as well balanced.

Among the Englishmen, the rise of two Durhamites has been the most significant development.Paul Collingwood and Liam Plunkett were the finals' outstanding figures. Collingwood was superb, collecting runs with well-crafted strokes, never trying to hit the ball too hard, always looking for a gap. Superb anywhere in the field, too, and calm with the ball, he has shown that a man untouched by brilliance may yet meet the greatest of challenges.

Plunkett was a revelation. He has been the counterpoint to Steve Harmison. Whereas the talented beanpole yearned for the quiet life, his younger county colleague displayed a relish for battle. He stands tall at the crease, keeps a line and swings the white ball late. A summer that began with a sorrowful wide ended with a fine stint from a younger man with plenty of fire in his belly. Over the last fortnight, Plunkett has been the best bowler on either side.

Not that the northerners alone deserve credit. Monty Panesar was outstanding, and Ed Joyce has performed brightly. The last moment of the tour was also the most touching. Flintoff's captaincy has been criticised. No one, though, has ever doubted his heart. Throughout he has refused to complain or blame his players. He deserved his moment of rejoicing. England have been led by sharper tacticians but none more admirable.

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
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003