It is surprising how just four days into the Ashes series Australia’s form and chances of success have taken a beating.
All that was considered an advantage before the first Test began – age, experience and bowling – now appear to have become a liability in the face of the youthful charge and verve exhibited by England.
So where did it go wrong for the Aussies at Cardiff? For a start, they were completely taken aback by the manner in which the ‘new’ England train ran them over on all fronts. Australia failed to counter that charge and came up short in all departments.
In bowling, they were erratic with their fast bowlers not adapting to the slow pitch allowing the England batsmen, high on their new-found aggressive approach, to feast on them.
Captain Michael Clarke missed a trick by continuing with attacking fields as his bowlers faltered in length and there appeared to be no Plan B when Joe Root was compiling runs at a fast clip.
Contrast that with the discipline of the English bowlers who bowled to a plan, especially to nullify the Steven Smith threat.
The Aussie catching was also sloppy as Root and Moeen Ali were the beneficiaries of wicketkeeper Brad Haddin’s largesse and their batsmen were guilty of not capitilising on the starts they got.
What’s worse is that they are losing key personnel to injuries. Ryan Harris was forced to retire ahead of the series as his knee injury flared up and now left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc is battling a sore ankle which has put the 25-year-old pacer’s participation in the second Test at Lord’s, beginning Thursday, in doubt.
All-rounder Shane Watson and Haddin have copped the biggest criticism from the Australian media, which is a tad surprising as it has been a collective failure.
Watson, 34, may still lose his place to 23-year-old all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who scored back-to-back centuries in the two tour games ahead of the Ashes, but it will be akin to changing worn out tyres when the whole car is creaking.
Haddin’s place is relatively secure as it would be too risky to push the uncapped Peter Nevill straight into the Ashes fire.
Australia must head to Lord’s thinking the only way is up after hitting rock bottom at Cardiff. One loss does not make them a poor outfit; they still have a lot of class and pedigree to counter what England have come up with.
They can take encouragement from Chris Rogers’ first innings of 95, Mitchell Johnson’s second innings bowling and batting display and also the fact that despite their faults the Australian attack still took 20 wickets on a surface where the bouncer was largely ineffective.
The Lord’s pitch could turn out be similar to the first Test as England look to offset the Aussie bowling threat by rolling out slow surfaces.
It’s here the injury to Starc could turn out to be a blessing in disguise as it opens the door for veteran pacer Peter Siddle, who is a stickler for discipline and may prove quite handy on sluggish tracks.
Australia will also be aware of England’s inconsistency as they lost the second match of the New Zealand series after winning the first game last month.
So all is not lost yet for Australia and there is still a lot to play for as they look to arise from a rude wake-up call in Cardiff.