BY ALLAN BORDER
What a difference two weeks can make. In the space of 14 days, my perception and gut-feel about this Australian side has changed.
There’s no doubt we were going to win the third Test before the rain arrived. We dominated England from day one to day five at Old Trafford. All we needed was clear skies and a few more hours. England has retained the Ashes and well done to them, but the performance of this largely inexperienced Australian team has filled me with confidence.
Like in ’86-87, this Australian side has drawn their own line in the sand. After copping a hammering at Lord’s, the team grew a leg in this Test. They showed real fight and England are worried. The Poms were playing catch-up cricket from day one, going slow with over rates and doing everything they could to negate our chances of winning. At the end of the day rain saved England – it’s a simple as that.
The way this side is going over the next few months, look out. Australia has the momentum.
Old Trafford proved England is vulnerable. Australia has broken the spell Anderson and Swann had over them, playing Cook’s two go-to men with more assurance. The confidence in the group has grown and the boys can sense they’re back in the contest. England has some good cricketers, but what this kind of performance does is put doubts in their minds. Cook, Trott and Pietersen don’t look as insurmountable as they once did. I reckon we’ve turned a corner.
David Warner was fantastic. The way he handled the crowd and the good-natured banter thrown his way was that of a maturing man. It might just be a gut feel, but I liked the look of the batting order in the second innings. The left-handers at the top of the order followed by the right-handers countered Swann’s influence early on. I’d still like to see Michael Clarke bat at No. 4. Warner is a natural opener and can change a game in the blink of an eye. I’ve got a growing respect for where we’re at with our cricket team. At the moment it just feels right.
After making 187 in the first innings, Michael Clarke is up there in the top echelon of cricketers Australia has produced. He has to bat at four in my opinion. He can really dictate terms from that spot and Australia can look to build the line-up around him. That’s why the order was so good in the second innings. There’s no reason Watson can’t come in at five and bowl more. Having the all-rounder in the middle-order really balances the team. When England come to Australia this summer on wickets that will suit us, they’d better watch out. The pendulum is definitely swinging.
Australia will look to keep the momentum rolling over the last two Tests. Manchester was as good as it gets. We declared twice and had England on the ropes. Only weather stopped Australia delivering the knockout blow. In just over a 100 days’ time, our home Ashes series starts and I wouldn’t be surprised if we do really well in these last two games and continue to show that fight before the next series.