Ponting's men victims of their own arrogance

John Benaud View from Oz

The Lord's victory lap was to the Australians what the nightclub stripper's last garment is to bulging eyes in the front row - a mind blower. We know that because the headlines had been full of Stuart MacGill and Glenn McGrath, even the conservative coach John Buchanan, telling everyone that England heads were spinning, a theory lent more weight when England's spin bowling whiz briefly challenged J K Rowling's popularity and penned Ashley Giles and The Evil Old Warriors.

The Australians were cocky going into Edgbaston, not unreasonable given the tour results trend. The mindset was, "we're bulletproof and you're fragile". At the team meeting the tactic was agreed: win the toss and field. Enter carelessness, in the form of a forgotten cricket ball on the training pitch, the world's most professional cricket team being amateurs.

Suddenly half the dynamic duo that had bowled Australia to victory after victory in the last dozen summers - McGrath, the one expected to swing it Australia's way on the first day - was just a memory. Enter arrogance. The Australians retained the tactic even though it threatened to negate the match-winning potential of the other champion left standing, Shane Warne. And even though there was a likelihood the McGrath incident had substantially scrambled pre-Test mindsets.

Take Brett Lee. If any bowler in world cricket is entitled to be arrogant it's one who can hurl them down consistently at around 90 miles an hour, bruise ribs and bang helmets. What did we witness? Carelessness. Lee, suddenly with the weight of McGrath's role on his shoulders, tries to "put the ball there", loses his swing, loses his pace and loses his way.

Such carelessness sponsored England's extraordinary batting assault, likened to a limited-overs slog. Any batting as swashbuckling as that, particularly upon being sent in, challenges the more sedate traditions of the Test game, and by its very nature requires a slice or two of good luck for survival.

Revisit some of this Australian team's most notable Test run-scoring feats as evidence of that. As ball after ball disappeared over the rope off the bat's middle or its edges, thick or thin, inside or out, some of Ponting's men resorted to head-shaking and eye-rolling. Enter arrogance. The message was, "what lucky sods, we deserve better than this".

The big-bopper Matthew Hayden might think he was unlucky getting out first ball to a perfectly "middled" drive. More likely it was carelessness, not taking longer to gauge the pace of the pitch, not being respectful enough of the unorthodox field set by Michael Vaughan to combat Hayden's heavy front-foot play and hard hands. Or, was there a whiff of arrogance?

Carelessness of another type accounted for the brave Justin Langer and umpire Rudi Koertzen's slow left forefinger was just as careless with Jason Gillespie's leg before. Whatever happened to the benefit of the doubt? The discipline of Langer, in the face of some heavy artillery, of Gillespie treading deep water, and of the thoughtful Adam Gilchrist constrained by choking field placements, was a stern reminder to team-mates that losing respect for an opponent can be a risky business.

At Edgbaston England have shown vital signs of developing the mindset of a dangerous, more disciplined opponent. Vaughan is tactically aware. The four fast bowlers are dishing out a mix of aggression and effective ball movement backed by sharper fielding. Yet Damien Martyn, run out on lunch, showed scant respect for Vaughan's fielding, sometimes ropey, suddenly brilliant.

But worse, he ignored the state of play. And, what of Warne's contemptuous slog at Giles? Down Under, Hayden's sunny home state has a travel slogan that says, "Queensland, beautiful one day, perfect the next". As the second day closed, sorely tried but forgiving Australian fans were again being tantalised by Warne, "a chump one ball, a champ the next".

We can add the Strauss dismissal to Warne's home video collection, Classic Batting No-Brainers. Another to rate highly was versus Pakistan, 1995 at the SCG: "Warne, after a long consultation with Ian Healy, bowled the hapless Basat Ali through his legs with the last ball of the day." Or versus England, 1993 at the MCG: "Phil DeFreitas ran down the pitch a split second before Warne let the ball go. Deceived by Warne's deadly drift to leg he lurched sideways with a contorted top of the body twist, simultaneously trying to thrust his left leg sideways into the line of the ball. The bat never got a look in, stumped without playing a shot."

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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
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