Michael Roberts at the Crikey sports desk writes:

Australian cricket fans hoping that England’s drought-breaking Ashes victory
last year was an aberration should have cast an anxious eye towards India
overnight as news came through that the Poms had thrashed the home team to end
their three-match series tied at one-all.

But it wasn’t just the fact that they managed to win a Test and draw a series
with the Indians on their own turf – though we know better than most how
ridiculously tough a task that has been for even the best teams (that is, us)
over the years. No, it’s what the English had to endure to get to this point,
and what they seem to have unearthed along the way, that makes the performance
a little unnerving.

At different times the English team was missing around half of its first-choice
XI, including their captain. Michael Vaughan (knee) and opener Marcus
Trescothick (personal reasons) had to return home before the Tests even began.
Neither first choice spinner Ashley Giles nor paceman Simon Jones managed a
Test, due to injury, and Steve Harmison missed the last Test, also through
injury.

In their places, Andrew Flintoff confirmed his place as one of the world’s
great cricketers by not only captaining his country astutely but also grabbing
the Man of the Series award.

Paul Collingwood stepped up, scoring a vital ton and topping the batting
averages. They found a new opener in 21-year-old Alastair Cook, who made 60 and
an unbeaten ton on debut. And when he, too, succumbed to injury for the last
Test, in came another debutant, Owais Shah, who made 38 in the first dig and a
crucial 88 in the second.

It didn’t seem to matter who wasn’t able to take the field: those left
standing did more than enough to fill the gaps. And that seems like the kind of
thing Australia did – regularly – at its peak.

If we aren’t a little more nervous about next summer’s Ashes series after this
English performance, we should be.

Peter Fray

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