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Arthur's theme plays loudly in Australian performance at Trent Bridge

The English team are leaving Nottingham with a bloodied nose and a bad conscience. Their belief in their overwhelming favouritism for the series now has, like Stuart Broad's innocent face, less authenticity and more bluff.

If there was arrogance, it has been punctured. The style of Australia's plucky performance, when examined closely, owes less to their present coach than to his predecessor.

Darren Lehmann has been ascribed magical powers in the lead-up to the Trent Bridge Test match. The Boof Factor has been credited with putting smiles back on faces, unlocking root chakras, setting free the dove that is Ashton Agar, and bringing days of glorious sunshine to the Midlands. But Australia's terrific fight, particularly in the second half of the match, has not been the vaunted Lehmannstyle 'go out there and have fun' kind of cricket. It hasn't had the Lehmann mystique of good fortune. Rather, it has been disciplined and almost scientific, a direct result of the lessons learnt in India that Arthur and Michael Clarke have been imparting since April, and which Lehmann, all myths aside, has been continuing.


The bowlers in the second innings followed plans like boys doing Airfix models. But it was the run chase that was a revelation. In popular myth, the Lehmann regime is about Shane Watson going out and tonking like it's a one-dayer, Agar swinging away like a willow in a fresh breeze, and all the batsmen 'backing themselves' and 'playing their natural game'. Instead, we saw something much more impressive.

A blasting Watson innings might have been tempting, but it would have been a short cut. And this team, so far, is determined to be known as one that no longer takes short cuts. Watson played straight, hit the ball under his nose, exhibited strong concentration, and was unluckily out. He scored only marginally faster than Chris Rogers, the senior craftsman jobbing away in his workshop. Forty-six was a typical Watson score, but this was not a typical Watson innings. It was, as much as Rogers's half-century, a real opener's innings.

As the ball softened, the Australians played straight, almost without relent. They went after the runs one at a time, just like their compatriots in the New Stand accumulating the cups for their daily beer snake.

They didn't get the rub of the green, which they needed against such a strong opponent. There were the various umpiring controversies, but luck went against the Australians on Saturday in a more telling way. Every time they erred, it seemed, they lost their wickets. Sometimes cricket matches seem to be decided this way – how many batting errors actually lead to wickets – and in this one, Australia generally seemed to be paying a higher price than England.

Rogers only made one mistake, getting squared up by James Anderson. Ed Cowan could not afford to put a step wrong, and when he did, he was out. Michael Clarke and Steve Smith batted entirely against nature: grafting, nudging, glancing, seldom flashing. Both were out playing defensive strokes.

When everyone expected them to go out Braveheart-style, for death or glory, the Australians batted the way Arthur and Clarke had been schooling them to do since India. Apart from the first morning, this has been very much like an Indian Test match, with the new ball easiest to bat against and the danger of reverse swing appearing from about the 30th over. If Australia had batted like this in India they would have emerged with their heads held high. Finally, they have multi-faceted 'natural games', not just one.

Arthur said, when he was sacked, that he felt this team was on the cusp of realising its potential. Trent Bridge has provided supporting evidence. Whether or not he was the coach who could take them the next step will not be known.

Perhaps he is the Brian Smith of cricket, the rugby league coach who rebuilt an inexperienced team without necessarily taking them to the premiership. But whatever success Australia has during Lehmann's tenure, its foundations lie in what Arthur and Clarke achieved in the first half of this year. Among those building blocks are the introduction of Rogers and Agar, the drilling of bowlers in the fundamentals of reverse swing and patience, and the renewed focus on defence as the keystone of batsmanship. That Australia are giving England a genuine contest is due to their preparation over three months, not three weeks. Arthur won't get the credit for this, but he deserves at least a fair payout.


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