England won the Ashes and Australia was pushed down the rankings from the first time since 2003. Australia has been such a dominant team for the past 15 years or so that this loss would have hurt their pride in more than one way. First thing is that Ponting losses both his English Ashes assignments in 2005 and 2009 and second thing is that the Aussies drop to number 4 in the rankings. But like the cricket Australia said all cannot be blamed on the captain. This situation was already predicted by few pundits earlier last year.
Australia had lost to India and South Africa last year and scraped through to victories against SL and WI. Australia is still quite a decent team but no way as intimidating or dominant as they used to be couple of years ago. To be frank both the teams in this series were pretty ordinary. Australia’s demise in the rankings was expected. No team can recover quickly when you lose players of the caliber of Warne, McGrath, Hayden, Gilchrist, Langer etc, in such a short span of time. The biggest loss for Australia has been for sure Shane Warne. Australia since his retirement has struggled to find a decent spinner to replace him.
The Problem for the Aussies was that Stuart McGill who was supposed to walk into the squad announced his retirement immediately after Shane did his. This put a great dampener on the Aussie plans. Since then they have tried Hogg, McGain, Hauritz and Krezja all with limited success. Their batting has been okay and has held its own most of the time in the recently concluded series but the bowling did struggle a bit. Even though the Aussie bowlers finished with better stats at the end of the series they came short at the crucial moments in the series.
The Aussie problems were compounded with the failures from their main batsmen namely Hussey and Hughes. Phil Hughes was immediately replaced by Shane Watson who even though did a good job, never kicked on to a big score. Hussey though was the biggest disappointment for the Aussies. He did score a hundred in the lost cause in the final innings of the series but it came a little bit too late for his team. The other major disappointment was the injury to their premier bowler Lee who could not play in a single game. In spite of him being in good form and fit the selectors resisted playing him in the final test.
They can’t be faulted as Clarke, Johnson, Hilfenhaus and Siddle combination did a great job at Headingly. Not playing Hauritz on a turning Oval pitch shows the complete lack of confidence of the skipper on his premier spinner on this tour. The way Marcus North was turning the ball square only made everyone think what would have happened if Warne was still playing for Australia. Even though the Aussies lost lots of great names in the last 2 years the biggest of them was Shane Warne. I guess the Aussies will do reasonably well with their pace attack in the coming few years but not having a decent spinner might work against them.
Well anyways the top three teams currently are South Africa, Sri Lanka and India (In the same order) followed by Australia and England forming the top 5. The Aussies will be disappointed by their showing in the Ashes and the English will be elated on regaining the urn. There will be lots for the Aussie captain to ponder about in coming days but he does not have too much time as the Champions Trophy begins in less than a month’s time. There are rumors of Ponting being replaced as the captain of Australian team by Clarke but that might not happen.
Anyways congrats to Strauss and England on regaining the Ashes and to the South African team who have reached the top of the test rankings with consistent performances over the past couple of years. The rankings are going to be interesting as I expect musical chairs at the top spot for the next couple of years as no team looks as dominant as the Aussies were couple of years back.