The Ashes Australian XI

Published on December 19th, 2017 | by Sakshi Gupta

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A tale written all over the dressing room of this Australia XI

🕓 Reading time: 6 minutes

A few minutes before tea break is taken. Australia needs one wicket. England has no option but to survive those minutes and an entire session after that. Unless a miracle, a win is written all over for the Australians. Pat Cummins comes in for his 20th over. Smith makes a slight change in the field; following a series of dot balls, he sets the frustrated batsman up a needless boundary. Cummins keep the delivery short in length, in an attempt to ramp it, all Chris Woakes manages is a nick flying into the gloves of Tim Paine far behind the wickets.

The Urn returns!

The big WACA screen, for one last time, displays, “Australia wins The Ashes.”

The celebrations broke even before the umpire had raised the finger. Paine, who has had a wonderful Ashes so far, knew he had got the last man. As he appealed, he launched himself towards his mates for the group huddle. Nathan Lyon was the first one to pounce on Cummins and within no time all the 11 of the Aussies were in the centre, screamed as hard as they could, while the crowd broke into the Australian victory anthem.

“Under the Southern Cross I Stand,
A sprig of wattle in my hand,
A native of my native land,
Australia, you little beauty!”

When the final day’s play for delayed due to the rain, the English men would have thought, ‘maybe, Santa has knocked their doors early this year.’ All Santa had done was delay their innings defeat by some two hours. Despite piling up 400-plus runs in the first innings, the visitors suffered an innings defeat and WACA now will be etched as a graveyard for them, forever. Since it will not host Ashes from here on, this was England’s last chance to change their WACA numbers and the side only worsened it.

In the future, WACA surely will yearn to witness a contest like this. There were blend of emotions on the field, as the Australians could not get enough of their joy, a dejected Chris Woakes and James Anderson stood with the umpires at the striker’s end before they walked off for something even tougher – the handshake session between both the teams. It has been a tradition forever since the inception of the sport but the way Australians had outclassed the touring part in every single department, it goes without saying how difficult it would be for the English team to come out and congratulate the winners.

While England underwent a collective failure in all the departments, there was a happy story behind every Australian face on the field at that moment. Australian Captain Steven Smith shed tears of joy in the dressing room after Australia regained the Ashes only summed up what the victory meant to this young team. Name any player and one would narrate an inspirational tale in the Ashes. Scenarios where every single player has contributed to the win, are lived in the rarest occasions; the Australian side is the lucky one to be living it today.

Prior to the series, when Australian selectors’ squad news was received no less than a reaction to a bombshell. More than anyone else, a major hullabaloo was caused by the selection of Paine. Little did they know Paine would go on to become an edifying story of a cricketer who became as Ashes winner from a player whose retirement was just around the corner. The wicketkeeper-batsman had last played a Test in 2010 and in the last two or three domestic seasons, he had kept wickets for a maximum of three games. The fact that Australian Coach Darren Lehmann had a more recent First-Class century (2007) than Paine (2006) indicated the irrationality in the move.

However, Australia had had enough of their incumbent keeper Matthew Wade, who was contributing neither with the bat nor behind the wickets. Considering Paine’s decent reputation as the wicketkeeper, the selectors against the odds made a huge gamble by giving his a massive Test recall. Paine, who had thoughts of retirement in mind, literally pounced on the opportunity. In the three Tests, Paine claimed 15 catches and the controversial stumping of Moeen Ali in Adelaide came as the cherry on the top. Along with that, he scored a gritty 57 in Adelaide and an unbeaten 49 in Perth and hence, thoroughly justified the belief of the selectors in him.

The Perth Test was done and dusted by Pat Cummins’ final wicket. The 24-year-old pacer is new to the Australian attack but he hardly took time to get into their grove. This was Cummins’s home debut and as Ashes being the player’s first series at home can get the better of him. However, Cummins ensured it would be engraved among his best-ever memories. He picked up four, three and four wickets in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth respectively.

Apart from that, he has shown glimpses of being the solution to Australia’s all-round woes. He has scored more runs than the likes of England’s best batsman Alastair Cook and Cummins is just below England Captain Joe Root with a deficit of less than 40 runs.

The picture of Marsh brothers – Shaun and Mitchell with their father Geoff after the Perth Test showed pride and gratification. After being in the international arena more than six years, it was Shaun’s first full-fledged Ashes series. Before this, he was a part of just one Ashes Test in 2015 in England. When Shaun was named in the squad, almost all termed it to be his final attempt to establish himself as a permanent Test member. He scored a half-century in Brisbane before he unleashed himself on the English attack in the Day/Night Test in Adelaide. He returned selectors’ faith with an incredible unbeaten century, that was significant because it came during the crisis.

Meanwhile, his younger brother made a later entry into the team but the way he announced his arrival will never be forgotten by the opponents, at least. The third Test was at Perth, the Marsh brothers’ home ground and seeing Mitchell’s numbers of this season’s Shield Cricket, the selectors gave him a shot as they dropped the out-of-form Peter Handscomb. After being slammed as the worst-ever No. 6 Test batsman, Mitchell gave a solid reply to his critics with a fantastic 181, batting at his same No. 6 spot. He survived a near entire day, when he walked off with Smith at stumps on Day three, the two had set a record fifth-wicket stand of 301 runs in the Ashes. All he has to do now is be consistent in the next two Tests as well and not let the effort at WACA be ridiculed as a one-off performance.

Josh Hazlewood, another significant figure in the Australian squad has bagged 15 wickets so far in the Ashes. Although he has continued to remain in the shadow of the spearhead Starc the baby-faced bowler has managed to create moments of his own too. When Australia resumed play today, they had less than a day to remove the remaining six England wickets in 127 runs. When everybody put their money on Starc to do the job, like always, Hazlewood with his strict line and lengths led himself to his maiden five-wicket haul in the series.

On the other hand, Starc anyway went about his job as brilliantly as expected. The Jame Vince dismissal he made on the fourth day will certainly remain his moment of the series. The ball was termed as the ‘ball of the century’ on social media and moments like these do not happen every day. These three were well assisted by the sole spinner in the team, Nathan Lyon. His presence immensely was felt in Brisbane, when the track happened to be surprisingly slow. When the pacers could not get to turn the ball, Lyon did the job for them. He picked up five wickets on the pitch that least favour the spinners and showed how lucky Australia were to have him. He went on to pick six and three scalps in the next two Tests respectively.

Australia’s opener David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, taking their designation way too seriously, owned the first Test in the final innings, where they helped Australia win the Test by 10 wickets.

The credit for the positive and fighting approach in the side can partially go to the skipper as well. As Mike Hussey said, Australia’s home loss to South Africa gave several lessons to the team, especially Smith. Ever since then, not only did the team but also their perspective has changed, courtesy of the young leader in Smith, who had decided to take the matters in hand. Since Smith has been in an incredible form with the bat, he has managed to pass on the positive vibes to his teammates too. It is fair to say that he is the best batsman but he was able to deliver when Australia needed them to because he always had a determined partner on the other end.

The minute detail that made all the difference in the series, so far, is that every time Australia needed a hero, someone stood up, unlike the English team members. If a second consecutive 5-0 Down Under is on the cards or not, we have to wait and watch because, as the skipper said, “I’m right now just worried about how are we going to celebrate tonight?”

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About the Author

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More than a sport, sports persons have kept her engaged in work. She is a sports fanatic whose mantra in life is “do only what you enjoy". She tweets @sakshi2929.



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