England media tees off at ‘insipid’ Aussies in pre-Ashes blow

Ashes, Australia, Cricket, England, featured, T20 World Cup, The Ashes

The English media have predictably had a field day after Australia were humbled by eight wickets in a T20 World Cup thrashing, in an early psychological blow ahead of this summer’s Ashes series.

It might be a much shorter format than the five-day, five-match series that will take place on Australian shores this summer, but the manner in which Australia were dismantled – the victory with 50 balls to spare their heaviest ever by balls remaining in a T20I – bears an eerie resemblance to another limited-overs thrashing inflicted by England before their famous Ashes triumph in 2005.

Back then, the Aussies were thrashed by 100 runs – their heaviest T20I defeat by runs – with Kevin Pietersen, who would go on to etch his name into Ashes folklore with his fifth-Test century, the star of the show.

“The last time England’s T20 team treated Australia with this much contempt, they used the result as a springboard to win the Ashes,” wrote The Mail on Sunday cricket writer Lawrence Booth, voicing the thoughts of many English fans now daring to dream.

“If the leap from Dubai to Brisbane is a big one, then Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins did confess before this game, with the urn in mind, that it would be ‘great to get one on the board’ against the old enemy.

“To the delight, no doubt, of two England captains – not just Eoin Morgan but Test skipper Joe Root, watching from afar – the Australians did not get a look-in.”

>> Australia vs England: as it happened

Such was the dominance of England’s performance that The Times cricket correspondent Simon Wilde felt compelled to very nearly show Australia the rarest of emotions from English cricket supporters towards their biggest rival: pity.

“Don’t ever, ever feel sorry for Australian cricketers, but it was damned hard not to in Dubai this balmy night,” Wilde wrote.

“Eoin Morgan’s breathtakingly efficient team stripped the old enemy of every last vestige of dignity. They blew them away with the ball, and then pummelled them with the bat.

“It was all-out aggression of a sort that Australia specialise in themselves but they did not like being on the other end of it, especially the contempt with which their vaunted fast men were treated.”

Eoin Morgan and Aaron Finch shake hands.

Captains Eoin Morgan and Aaron Finch shake hands following England’s big win over Australia at the T20 World Cup. (Photo by Michael Steele-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Booth described the Australian batting performance as “strangely insipid”, with Aaron Finch’s men limping to 5/57 after 14 overs… a run rate just over four an over. Early wickets didn’t help, but with Finch content to rotate the strike and bat deep into the innings for a 49-ball 44, it took a late onslaught from bowlers Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, and all-rounder Ashton Agar, to see Australia even reach triple figures.

Writing in the Telegraph, chief cricket writer Scyld Berry echoed those thoughts, noting that “such an assertive statement can only do England good” ahead of the Test tour.

“Ever since Sir Ian Botham roared in 1981 and they quaked, Australian cricketers have never liked being bullied… providing Australia do not clobber England in the World T20 knockout stages, England will take some momentum into the Ashes, even if that is a quality which lasts no more than an hour in the heat of battle renewed.”

While Chris Jordan was a shock choice for Player of the Match honours, the twin pillars that dismantled Australia will both be on the plane down under once the World Cup concludes. Jos Buttler’s breathtaking 32-ball 71 with the bat, and Chris Woakes’ superb spell of bowling in the PowerPlay, rent the Aussies asunder, and should see both players head into the Tests chock full of confidence.

“If they [Buttler and Woakes] can bottle their fearless self-belief in Dubai and blend it with discretion in playing themselves in, England will have a core, a hard core, wobbly though their top order may be,” Booth opined.

“With Ben Stokes at five, followed by Bairstow (ahead of Ollie Pope), Buttler and Woakes, England can put challenging totals on Australian scoreboards.”

Having forced his way back into England’s shortest-format setup after years out, Woakes’ success bodes well for his chances of doing likewise to the Test attack. The seamer appeared in just one of England’s summer Tests against New Zealand and India at home, with newcomer Ollie Robinson a standout performer alongside the great James Anderson.

With Stuart Broad also in the mix for the Ashes and Craig Overton another seamer included in the Ashes squad, squeezing in promises to be a challenging task. But Woakes’ Test-match style bowling against Australia, most notably in his dismissal of David Warner for 1, has former England captain turned commentator Nasser Hussain impressed.

“[To hit] top of off, top of off – Woakes is the best in the world at doing that,” Hussain told Sky Sports.

Chris Woakes celebrates the wicket of Glenn Maxwell.

Chris Woakes celebrates the wicket of Glenn Maxwell at the T20 World Cup. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

“You’re only allowed to do what the opposition allow you to do. David Warner did try and shimmy down the pitch to Woakes.

“But Woakes bowls that length and it’s very difficult to hit, especially when there’s sideways movement.”

With Warner and Smith, and potentially T20 wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, set to reprise their batting roles in the Ashes, Hussain’s assessment of the Australian top order as “fragile” could prove a portent of things to come. With Warner injured, the batting line-up struggled against India in last summer’s Test series, needing until the third Test to pass 200 in an innings.

“Their batting line-up looks a little bit short of confidence but I think what you’ve got to do is give credit to England’s length and line,” Hussain said.

The former England captain also echoed the thoughts of Australian limited-overs great Shane Watson, who blamed the Aussie struggles on a lack of cohesion in their XI.

“This team, and the combinations, don’t play together consistently at all… and [they] expect to be able to turn things on against world-class teams?” Watson lamented from the commentary box during the match.

“I’ve been asking [why] for the last 10-12 years. It doesn’t make sense. The only way you’re going to play really well as a team is playing together, like England have been doing, like India do.

“When you come up against a team that have got every base covered like England, that’s when teams do get exposed. Australia has been very exposed tonight.”

“They don’t play together very much for some reason, this Australia T20 side, so they’re all a little bit fragile with ‘if I don’t get some runs, who will?’” Hussain said on Sky Sports.

“They left the extra batter (Mitchell Marsh) out today and played the spinning all-rounder (Ashton Agar) and they seemed to be one stage behind with their selection.”

While the batting performance drew much of the ire from critics, the press were equally scathing of the Australian bowlers. Frontline Test quicks Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins – all of whom will likely be in the XI for the first Ashes Test at the Gabba – were treated with disdain by Buttler and Jason Roy, finishing with 0/69 from a combined six overs.

“Their frontline Ashes attack were being made to look like clubbies,” Booth said, while Berry noted the importance of the treatment of Starc in particular, who finished with 0/37 from an expensive three overs.

“It might be a pointer too that England brought down Mitchell Starc, the one member of Australia’s pace triumvirate who has struggled of late, not in white-ball cricket but in Tests,” Berry wrote.

“In his only Test series of the last 18 months, Starc took 11 wickets at 40 runs each in the four Tests against India – and now there is no James Pattinson to serve as a ready-made replacement.”

Despite the thumping result, Berry is still urging caution ahead of the Ashes, noting that the switch to white clothes will likely benefit England’s Test tormentor Steve Smith, who was out to an ugly slog and a marvellous Woakes catch for 1 in Dubai. It will also mean the return of Smith’s partner in crime in the 2019 Ashes, Marnus Labuschagne, who was overlooked from the T20 World Cup squad.

“Steve Smith has reverted to an orthodox stance, which can only benefit him as the years advance, so that he will be scoring runs because of his technique not in spite of it,” Booth said.

Above all, Marnus Labuschagne. After a quiet summer of reconnoitring in English cricket with Glamorgan, Labuschagne – inked in as Australia’s number three – scored 136 and 60* in Queensland’s last Shield game.

“Even though his Test batting average is 60, it would not be a surprise if he lived up to it this winter.”

Nevertheless, England’s domineering approach to the Australian attack suggests that, just like in their upset 2005 triumph, they hold no fears with bat in hand. With Australia’s chief tormentor Ben Stokes to return to the fold for the Ashes as well, a first Test win on these shores since their 2010-11 series triumph looks well within reach.

>> Check out Australia’s full T20 World Cup and Ashes fixtures as they stand

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