By David O’Neill
AFTER two emphatic defeats that led to the team failing to make it through to the second round, it appears that both eyes are now firmly on retaining that magic urn.
The Aussies were simply outplayed in the Twenty20 format, in both games failing to seize control of the contest. After the pools were announced and Australia found themselves in the toughest group alongside Sri Lanka and the West indies, two major threats that would have weighed on Ponting’s mind. One was the carnage possible if Chris Gayle found his range and the other, the threat of the Sri Lankan spinners, with their ability to turn a game on its head in an instant. Both came to fruition.
The Australian attack had no answer for Gayle, Brett Lee copping the brunt in his return to international cricket and Mitchell Johnson despite the hype failing to have an impact. Just as much to blame for the early exit was the Australian batsman, Ponting, Watson and Mike Hussey all dismissed in quick succession by Sri Lankan wonder kid, Ajantha Mendis.
Luck will always have its role in the shortened version of the game and Australia can be aggrieved that very little fell their way, but you also have to make your own luck. There appeared to be no ‘Plan B’ for Gayle, a just in case strategy if he began with a typical onslaught. Worse than that there seemed to be not even a ‘Plan A’ for Mendis, who appeared to be bowling hand grenades until tail ender Johnson cleared the mind and then the rope.
The fact remains the Aussies have not embraced the format as other nations have and are still yet to find the formula that leads to success. The squad, ten of whom will stay on to contest the Ashes consisted of two many old heads set in their ways, who’s natural instinct does not suit the bash and crash style of Twenty20 cricket.
While the Aussies will be quite possibly restless stuck in Leicester now for two weeks, their focus will have turned to the major task of the summer, beating the poms.
Losing ‘The Urn’ for the first time in 16 years in 2005 must still haunt the Aussies and is still definitely in the minds of the English. At the infamous player function two weeks ago numerous questions were asked in regard to the 2005 series which will be remembered despite the thrilling cricket, as the Ashes Australia lost.
Wicket Keeper Haddin had a simple message for the English in the audience, “Get over it, he said, “That was four years ago”.
Ponting was more diplomatic and spoke of how important this summer was to him and his team
“One thing I haven’t obviously achieved as a captain is to win a series here, and it’s something we’re definitely setting our sights on in the coming months”.
The problem for the skipper is the momentum gained after the test side’s success in South Africa might have just flown out the window in the Twenty20 debacle.
The Greatest Ashes Moments
There have been so many amazing moments in Ashes series of the past, feats that have changed the course of summers, and turned mere men into legends, destined for the pages of history.
My favourite however belongs to Steven Waugh, the former captain who tormented the English tour after tour. His most defining moment for most is the ‘Last ball of the day Century’ at the SCG when his career hung in the balance. For me his greatest achievement was a ton in each innings at Old Trafford in 97.
The English, I’m convinced, believed they had one hand on the urn when Waugh strode to the crease with his side 3 for 42 in the first dig and already one — nil down in the series. I’ll never forget his eyes as he took his mark, like a hunter focused on his prey. He stood his ground immoveable as the poms pummelled him with short pitch bowling. Four days later, Waugh had two hundreds to his name and his side had levelled the series, which they would go on to win 3-2.