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Aussie victory tastes even sweeter for English taunts

British supporters. AFP PHOTO / JEWEL SAMAD
Expert
17th December, 2013
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2648 Reads

It’s a sweet time for Australian cricket fans, as years of Ashes disappointment and taunts are washed away by the jubilation of victory.

Not just victory…England’s cricket team is left looking as limp as a puddle of soggy quinoa.

English cricket fans have been waking up each cold, soggy, dark British morning dreading the worst, and having their fears exceeded.

Many are wondering what the hell happened in the four months since England won its home series 3-0 and how the wheels have fallen off so comprehensively.

Many are wondering whether England’s team needs a complete overhaul, starting with dropping key players.

Australia won this series with old-fashioned pressure generated by a total team effort, using the home conditions to perfection.

There’s been no dark artifice, just good cricket and the constant pressure of a team playing beautifully in conditions that suit it.

Michael Clarke’s post-match press conference in Perth emphasised how hard the team has worked to improve, and it has paid off. A more gracious victory speech I have rarely seen. Watch what he says about Alastair Cook’ at the 11 minute mark.

Never mind the reality, brace yourselves for cries of Australian gloating, of poor sportsmanship and ungracious celebrations.

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We’ll be accused of being poor winners.

English people are already saying things like, “Australians are terrible losers, and even worse winners…” which they seem to think is a polite or subtle way of saying they don’t like Australians at all.

It is neither.

The wittier among the commenters will allude to our distant history as a convict colony and imply a direct causal relationship to our modern-day behaviour.

Gloss over the fact that last time England won the Ashes their players were so full of grace they urinated on the pitch while their fans sang about winning 10-0.

“He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right…”

There will be complaining about Australian tabloids as if Fleet Street had never existed. I tell you what, it will be hilarious.

A word of advice, enjoy the victory and laugh at the sour grapes.

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Any Australian who has brightened the walls of a British pub between 2005 and today will know that English fans have been taunting Aussies mercilessly about our cricket team for years. They call it ‘banter’.

I was living in England in the years before and after the 2009 Ashes series.

I’ve had more pub lectures about the inadequacies of Australian cricket and how it reflects on our national character than I can recall without curling up in the foetal position and sobbing into a pint glass.

I’ve seen the Sky TV promos about ‘Smashing the Aussies’, I’ve walked past the newspaper headlines, and I’ve read the insufferably smug and condescending comments on blogs and newspaper sites.

I’ve heard crowds booing and jeering Australian captains all through a series.

The accusations of cheating that routinely ignore England’s own transgressions of rose-tinted sporting ideals, the tired stereotypes about a lack of culture and sophistication. A post-Empire sense that Australians are among the last colonials it’s still okay to belittle.

And they call us bad winners?

Well, hypocrisy is cheap and payback is sweet. The Ashes are Australia’s and we should let England know it.

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It’s almost become a cliché that in this series Australia’s bowling has been disciplined, based on well-thought out plans and high quality execution. All bowlers have performed their roles.

England’s batting has been given no respite, and has struggled to build significant partnerships.

This should be no surprise to Australian fans, who have observed the improvement in our national bowling squad over the past two seasons. On all but the deadest of dry river beds in India earlier this year, the Australian pace attack has been operating like a well-drilled militia for two years.

But for English fans whose previous experience of Mitchell Johnson has been as the punchline of jokes, and who see Pete Siddle as a trundling workhorse, this may have come as a shock.

Never mind that Siddle has a better career average (28.68 at 2.94 per over) than the vaunted Jimmy Anderson (30.39 at 3.09), he is too often cast as an unsophisticated but determined beast with a big engine.

This characterisation is years out of date, if it was ever true.

This bowling dominance has been even more compelling in direct comparison to England’s underperformance.

The series bowling averages after three matches tell the story: where Johnson has 23 wickets at 15.47, Anderson has 7 at 58.01.

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Harris has 12 at 23.58, while Broad has 14 at 25.21.

Siddle has 11 at 22.09, and England hasn’t managed to identify its third best seamer, but it’s arguably Chris Tremlett with 4 at 30.

Of the spinners, Lyon has 10 at 31.4, Graeme Swann has 7 at 80.

England’s batting has floundered while Australia’s has flourished: Australian batsmen have hit seven centuries to England’s one (albeit an impressively defiant one from Ben Stokes).

Stokes (41.75) is the only England player to average more than 40 in the series; Australia has four (Warner, Haddin, Clarke and Johnson).

The stats are easy to recite, the more challenging question is why are they so lopsided?

The temptation for England fans is to cry that their players are hopelessly out of form, are past their use-by dates, or are playing without the required mental application under a barrage of Australian sledging and gamesmanship.

In truth, Australia has played with such unexpected ferocity and skill that England has simply not been allowed to play its own game.

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David Warner is emblematic of this assault.

Like Siddle, David Warner is often viewed by the English man in the pub as an unsophisticated yobbo who can slog and sledge but do little else. They don’t like his rough edges, his straight talking, or his aggressive attitude.

The insult of being thrashed around the park by this mouthy working class ratbag makes him a lightning rod for all of the deeply entrenched snobbery of English cricket.

Any lager-soaked pundit down the Red Lion can see that Warner hits a long ball and has a mouth like a public dunny, but he can also play shots all around the wicket and off both feet.

He’s tightened up his technique, plays spin and pace with equal alacrity, and has given the English bowlers the kind of nervous wobbles that England football teams usually suffer in the quarter-finals of major international tournaments.

That his in-your-face style irritates sections of the English team and public should be celebrated. If it makes England uncomfortable, that’s their problem and our advantage. If he bats the way he has in this series, he’ll be a thorn in their loafers for another decade.

There are numerous causes of England’s sudden defeat. You might even count eleven.

Watching the British media pick through the carcass of their team’s Ashes campaign will be a rare treat.

The thought that mouthy English cricket fans are now suffering their own anguished breakfasts and depressed commutes through the winter darkness only makes it all the sweeter.

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