The Roar
The Roar


Is the 2011 Test team the worst ever?

Roar Rookie
7th January, 2011
Roar Rookie
7th January, 2011
1680 Reads

England has deservedly won the 2010-11 Ashes series 3-1 after completing its unprecedented third innings victory over Australia. There has been some media discussion about Australia’s performance in comparative terms.

A caller to ABC Radio suggested this was the “worst Australian team ever,” which drew a rebuttal from Jim Maxwell that 1978-79 was a more insipid performance.

My immediate reaction was to disagree with Maxwell on the basis that in 1978-79 Australia had a developing team of youngsters, rejects and loyalists.

The best players of the era were mercenaries/trailblazers with Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, forsaking the baggy green for a yellow cap and cash.

That summer, at the age of 12, was also the first time I took any interest in the national side and Allan Border became my boyhood hero. I wonder if any new members of the current Australian side will become heroes to a generation?

Australia lost the 1978-79 series 5-1 and went down 3-1 in 2010-11 in a shorter series. I doubt there is anyone, however, who doesn’t believe England would have won the current series 5-1 if two extra Tests were played in Sydney and Melbourne or Hobart.

Starting team:

1978-79: Graham Wood, Gary Cosier, Peter Toohey, Graham Yallop, Kim Hughes, Trevor Laughlin, John Maclean, Bruce Yardley, Rodney Hogg, Allan Hurst, Jim Higgs.


2010-11: Shane Watson, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Marcus Northe, Brad Haddin, Mitch Johnson, Xavier Doherty, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus.

I would back the 1978-79 side in a contest between the two. The vintage team had a suspect top order, but Wood, Yallop and Hughes were class players. The bowling attack was much stronger and better balanced than today’s line-up.

First Test at Brisbane

1978-79: England won by seven wickets after an Australian batting collapse in the first innings. Australia batted reasonably well in the second dig, with centuries to Yallop and Hughes. Hogg took seven wickets for the match and Hurst four.

Points: England 6 Australia 4

2010-11: Match drawn. Hussey and Haddin scored centuries, Siddle took six wickets. England amassed 1/517 in their first innings.

Points: England 5 Australia 5


Second Test

1978-79 (Perth): England outclassed Australia to win by 166 runs. Hogg took 10 wickets, Hurst and Yardley four each as England were dismissed twice. The batting failed twice, with only Toohey and Wood scoring half centuries.

Points: England 7 Australia 3

2010-11 (Adelaide): England won by an innings and 71 runs. Hussey and Watson both scored two half centuries, but nobody made a ton for Australia on a good batting deck. Harris was the “best” bowler with 2/84.

Points England 8 Australia 2

Third Test

1978-79 (Melbourne): Australia won by 103 runs. Wood made a century and Border 29 on debut. The bowlers dominated, with Hogg taking 10 wickets and Dymock five.


Points: Australia 7, England 3

2010-11 (Perth): Australia won by 267 runs. Hussey scored 61 and 116, Watson made 95 in the second innings. Johnson and Harris snared nine wickets each.

Points: Australia 8 England 2

Fourth Test

1978-79 (Sydney): England won by 93 runs after Australia collapsed for 111 chasing 205 for victory. Border scored 105 runs without being dismissed and bowled 23 overs. Higgs took eight wickets.

Points England 6 Australia 4

2010-11 (Melbourne): England won by an innings and 157 runs. Australia made just 98 in the first innings and 258 in the second. Siddle took six wickets.


Points: England 9 Australia 1

Fifth Test

1978-79 (Adelaide): England won by 205 runs. Australia’s batting failed in both innings. Hogg and Hurst took seven wickets each.

Points: England 8 Australia 2

2010-11 (Sydney): England won by an innings and 83 runs. The only batsmen to make half centuries were all-rounders Johnson and Smith. Johnson took four wickets.

Points: England 9 Australia 1

Sixth Test


1978-79 (Sydney): England won by nine wickets. Australia’s batting again failed twice to pass 200, even with Yallop contributing 121 in the first innings. Higgs took five wickets for the match.

Points: England 8 Australia 2

Points tallied (subjective measure)

1978-79: England 38 (6.3 average) Australia 22 (3.6)
2010-11: England 33 (6.6) Australia 13 (2.6)

The 1978-79 team failed regularly with the bat, but was frequently in a winning position. The best-performing batsman (Yallop) scored less than Hussey and Watson in 2010-11, but more than any other Australian.

The big difference between the two teams was the bowling. The 1978-79 side proved itself capable of dismissing England twice in a match. Hogg took 41 wickets, Hurst 25 and spinner Higgs 19. The “best” bowler in 2010-11 was Johnson 15.

The 1978-79 team had class players who performed well in Yallop, Hogg and Higgs. Promising youngsters included Wood, Hughes, Border, while Yardley and Dymock also went on to be successful Test players.


The 2010-11 team had good contributions from Hussey, Watson and Haddin, with a match-winning cameo from Johnson, otherwise the efforts were “solid” at best, eg Siddle and Harris.

It remains to be seen if any of the youngsters from 2010-11 go on to be as good as Border and Hughes, but on bowling strength alone the 1978-79 team was a better outfit.

At least after the 1978-79 humiliation Australia rose from the ashes. It’s hard to be sure the same improvement can be expected any time soon in 2011.

Some unwanted records from 2010-11:

– England won three matches in the series by more than an innings.
– England made its highest-ever innings score in Australia (644).
– England made four scores above 500 in a series for the first time.