Cow Corner

England wellied at the WACA

Cow Corner

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The clearest sign of a shift in the momentum of the series was patently clear for all observers. England's 310 total runs scored at the WACA was 19 less than Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott's second-innings partnership in the first Test.

England crumbled to defeat by 267 runs in less than an hour in Perth on day four, and it felt just like a revisit from the ghosts of Christmas Past.

Excluding the Test against a second-string Australia side in 1978, England have not won a Test match in Perth, and in eight of the 11 Tests they have been destroyed at that.

But there are reasons to be cheerful heading into Christmas and, in the wake of such a defeat, some manner of perspective must be clinged to.

England have shown an incredible ability to rebound positively from poor performances over the last 18 months.

After being comprehensively outplayed in the first Test against Australia in the last Ashes, and later with South Africa the opposition in 2009, England survived courtesy of last-wicket stands. And, on both occasions, they bounced back to win the next Test. 

Andrew Strauss may be to quote-hungry journalists what Shane Warne is to advocates of monogamy, but the ever-placid, even-tempered manner of the England captain and Andy Flower will ensure that the team is not overly downtrodden when it steps on to the MCG field on Boxing Day.

The Perth pitch was exactly the type of deck which England batsmen are most vulnerable on. Again going back to last year's South Africa tour, England crumbled to a similarly inauspicious defeat in the fourth Test in Johannesburg.

While not perhaps quite as quick as its WACA predecessors, it is unlikely that Melbourne or Sydney will pose the same threat for England.

There is also absolutely no guarantee that Mitchell Johnson will put in a repeat
performance. His effort in the first innings was one of the great Ashes spells, but he was nowhere near as unplayable in the second innings.

Equally, Ryan Harris bowled superbly for his six-wicket haul, but England's poor shot selection was as much a cause of their undoing. Ponting has not contributed with the bat but he should be congratulated for championing Harris' inclusion.

Australia's batting remains a weakness, and that should provide both hope to England, and a touch of trepidation for the hosts ahead of Boxing Day.

Phil Hughes remains a walking wicket, Ricky Ponting's fractured pinky won't help his out-of-nick batting, and Michael Clarke seems all over the place mentally. There there is Steve Smith, whose status at number six is frankly laughable. Oh, and Mike 'Mr Cricket' Hussey has to fail at some point in the series, doesn't he?

Chris Tremlett produced a superb Ashes debut: It is almost a forgotten story now, but not many England bowlers have enjoyed a better start to an Ashes career than Tremlett's eight for 150.

It could be beyond Steve Finn to bowl in Sydney, especially if his golden arm fails him at the MCG. But the Middlesex paceman, James Anderson and Tremlett will be up to the challenge and raring to go for Melbourne.

There has also been some suggestion that Ajmal Shahzad or Tim Bresnan could be employed as a replacement for Finn, whose inexperience and lack of top-level conditioning for such a gruelling five-match series may count against him at the MCG.

But yes, there are problems. Paul Collingwood, in particular, looks in horrible nick at the moment, but he is a key figure within the team and should be persevered with, only further down the order.

There is surely no doubt in anyone's mind that Ian Bell should be elevated above Colly to number five: after all, Australia have a fielding specialist at six so it's only fair that we do too.

Bell has been stranded with the tail far too many times, and is cruelly earning the nickname of 'the shepherd' for the way he is constantly having to farm the strike.

Shot of the day: Ian Bell caressed a couple of quite exquisite off drives to drop
Harris down a few pegs, before lifting him back up again by playing around a straight delivery and padding up in front of middle stump.

Stat of the day: 99.3. The number of overs England batted for in total at the WACA. One word: shoddy.

Quote of the day: "Cricket's a funny game! You've got to take your hats off to Australia, they were superb." England captain Andrew Strauss demonstrates that despite losing a key Ashes Test, the most important things to do are laughing at the contest and doffing your caps.

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