There has been so much to admire about the Australians this summer it has really been quite hard to know where to start. The Oval performance helps considerably, though, when it comes to tracing the origins of their strength.
One key was available when Mark Nicholas, the Channel Four presenter and distinguished former captain of Hampshire, during the fourth Test at Headingley expressed a certain mystification at the sight of the injured captain, Steve Waugh, battling for fitness. Nicholas, not unreasonably from an English perspective, asked, "Why?" Why with the series won, with Australia apparently cruising towards a whitewash, would Waugh inflict so much pain and possible further damage on himself? The series was won, and there would be other battles. Waugh's former team-mate Ian Healy was in no doubt. "If it is possible for him to play, you know he will," Healy said. "It makes him what he is – and the Australian team what it is."
The England captain, Nasser Hussain, who has shown an impressive resilience of his own when not waiting for his fingers to heal, gave the most fitting of tributes yesterday when he said that young players coming into the England team now had a supreme example as they launched their careers on the international stage. It was that of the men in the "green baggies." And, no doubt, the man that led them.
Waugh has been fastidious about not putting his foot on the throat of beaten England. He has given praise where he could, and was always quick to stress that such great players as McGrath, Warne, Martyn, his brother Mark and himself, Gilchrist, Ponting, and Langer, indeed his entire team, had been required to produce passages of quite brilliant cricket. But he was mystified by those who would reject the chance to captain their country, and he has so far kept silence on the expected decision of Darren Gough, at the prime of his career, to refuse to tour India.
For Steve Waugh, unbeaten on a game leg at 157 not out as Australia responded to defeat at Headingley, where they dominated four of the five days, with victory by an innings and 25 runs on a dream wicket, the imperative is always to play the next match because, as he says, "You just don't know what you can achieve – maybe you can do better than you have ever done before."
During the Australian first innings at The Oval another TV analyst, Dermot Reeve, had a theory that England had missed a trick by not firing at around the armpits of the Waugh brothers. He mentioned the term body-line but did not specify his weapons of choice. Sidewinder missiles perhaps?Reuse content