England exposed a gulf in class during a 347-run Ashes victory within four days at Lord’s on Sunday which threatens to overwhelm Australia in what is fast becoming a disastrous year.
Australia’s defeat in the second Test was their sixth in a row this year after losing 4-0 in India, their worst run since they were thrashed by a mighty West Indies side in the 1980s.
Along the way they failed to advance past the first round of the Champions Trophy, lost coach Mickey Arthur, who was sacked 16 days before the Ashes series began, and suspended batsman David Warner for throwing a punch at England’s Joe Root in a Birmingham bar.
Warner is currently playing for Australia A in Zimbabwe in a so far unsuccessful attempt to regain sufficient form to force his way back into the Ashes XI.
Root, by contrast, was named man of the match for his monumental 180 in England’s second innings. He also dismissed Australia’s top scorers, Usman Khawaja (54) and captain Michael Clarke (51), in consecutive overs with his part-time off-spin, before showing he was human by dropping a regulation catch at third slip.
“I’ve loved every minute of it and it’s great to get a win,” the fresh-faced Yorkshireman said at the post-match victory ceremony. “To get a hundred against Australia is always something you dream of growing up and to do it at Lord’s is very special. It’s nice to contribute, when you get the opportunity you want to take it and help the team.”
England’s match-winner was Graeme Swann, who won an leg before wicket decision against the stubborn James Pattinson (35) four balls before the close of play after England had taken the extra half hour available when a finish is possible in order to avoid returning to the ground yesterday.
Swann finished with nine wickets, including five for 44 in the first innings when he became only the second England spinner after Hedley Verity in 1934 to take five wickets in an innings against Australia at Lord’s.
“It’s the first time in my 17 years of first-class cricket that extra half hour has got a wicket, we’re so happy it’s over now,” Swann said. “We were 30-3 on the first day, but the fightback to end up posting 350 which everyone thought was below par, but subsequently proved to be a good score.”
England’s win came without any sort of contribution with the bat from either captain Alastair Cook or Kevin Pietersen, who did not take the field on Sunday because of a strained left-calf muscle.
Instead Root and Ian Bell, who followed his 109 in the first innings with 74 in the second, laid the basis for England’s massive victory.
“You can’t control the weather, but when it is dry we have a world-class spinner and the seamers know how to reverse the ball, but we back ourselves in all English conditions, really,” Cook said.
Australia’s pace attack worked hard and did not let their side down, but left-arm spinner Ashton Agar did not look like taking a wicket and, despite his spectacular 98 batting at No. 11 on his debut in the first Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, his position must be under threat.
The top-order batting, though, is the real problem and it again looked desperately weak at Lord’s after failing twice in Nottingham. It is also hard to see where any substantial improvement will come from, although Khawaja’s second innings was a step in the right direction.
“Our first innings with the bat really let us down, it was not acceptable and against good opposition it’s hard to win from that position,” Clarke said. “We’re putting extra pressure and expectation on our bowlers, our top seven has experience, but once we lose one wicket we’re losing two or three in quick succession. We know we have to win the next three Tests to win this series. It’s going to be hard, but I’d be silly to go into Manchester expecting to lose, we’ll do everything in our power to improve our game, but England outperformed us once again in this Test match.”