Teammates celebrate with Australia's pacemen Ryan Harris after claiming the wicket of England captain Alastair Cook.

Usurped: Ryan Harris, Australia's No.1 paceman in the winter Ashes series, has suddenly found himself at No.2. Photo: AFP

Bowlers are often shaking their fists at the cruelties of fate. #218 on the bowler's list of life's injustices is that there are only 20 wickets to go around. There is no limit on the number of runs batsmen score, yet the poor bowlers have to share, and every wicket Mitchell Johnson takes is one that cannot go to Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris or Nathan Lyon.

Team bowling efforts in Brisbane and Adelaide have put Australia on the cusp of regaining the Ashes, a prospect that was considered, as recently as August, as outlandish as Clive Palmer sitting in parliament. The batting, led by David Warner, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin, has been excellent in enough patches to cover over an underlying shakiness. But the bowling has been consistently stupendous.

Long road back. After being thrashed twice, England must regroup in little time, for a Test in Perth. Click for more photos

Australia takes 2-0 Ashes lead

Long road back. After being thrashed twice, England must regroup in little time, for a Test in Perth. Photo: Getty Images

And yet, for all that a team is working as a unit and talks up the "bowling in partnerships" line, there comes a point where the supporting cast begin to feel like second stringers. Michael Clarke repeatedly went out of his way at his post-match press conference to praise Siddle, Harris and Lyon for helping the man of the match sitting next to him, Johnson, take his wickets. Those other three would be lying if they didn't hope that Johnson might help them take a few of theirs.

Harris, perhaps as a consequence, had looked tetchy on the first four days of this match. No sooner had he become Australia's number one bowler at the age of 33 than he was number two at age 34. No professional sportsman can be without ego, and even Simon the Likeable was beginning to look like someone who gets grumpy when fasting.

While wicketless, Harris's first-innings bowling remained sharp and testing. His spell on Friday afternoon was simply match-changing. Michael Carberry and Ian Bell had got away, in friendly conditions, and for the first time in the series England's batsmen had the initiative. Bell had raced to 25 off 18 balls. Harris then stopped him in his tracks with the relentless off-bail attack, garnished by some swing and cut, that had brought such success in England. Meanwhile, Shane Watson also dried up Carberry, before a long hop had the rookie opener breaking the shackles only to be grabbed by the guard dog, in the shape of Warner at midwicket. Johnson proceeded to pour through the breach, a one-man flood, but it was that spell by Harris and Watson that bent back England's front.

In the second innings, it was Siddle's choking line and length to Kevin Pietersen that changed the tenor of the game. There is no doubt Pietersen thought he could score 250 and carry England to victory. He had defended responsibly and seemed calm. Yet there must be something about Siddle that infuriates him. He just can't get the man away. Pietersen was past 50, two hours at the crease, and drove at Siddle. The ball ran off the outside edge to gully. He drove again, and it squirted to mid-wicket. Then Siddle dropped a fraction shorter, and Pietersen, stepping forward to get that drive just right, found himself on the wrong foot. He inside-edged the ball down, and it just clipped the bails. Pietersen's front toe, the only part of him connected with the ground, and his back leg both rose as if to will the ball over the top. But he was out, and England's chance for that massive partnership was gone.

By the end of the innings, of all of Clarke's wishes that could come true, perhaps the most soothing was that Siddle and Harris ended up with seven wickets. Bowlers cannot live on cred alone, and need the nourishment of numbers in the W column. That means more than all the assurances in the world.

Isolating the reasons for Australia's turnaround, Clarke pointed to events taking place over the course of months, not weeks. That does not necessarily include Johnson. The Australian revival began in England, when Harris and Siddle, supported chiefly by Watson, Lyon and Mitchell Starc, whittled away at England's batting confidence, while Johnson's moustache was still a bit of fluff back in Perth. (Incidentally, he still needs to raise $50,000 before he will consider shaving it. Alastair Cook might consider passing around the hat.)

Corralled by Harris and Siddle, England's batting did not once muster 400 in the winter. Aside from Bell, their big guns were muted and came to Australia already short on runs. It was a long, disciplined and sturdy campaign that brought out the best qualities in Australian cricket. Johnson's pace and flair brings excitement into the game, but the glamour could not be what it is without the working class, and it's those two blue-collar men, Siddle and Harris, who, having got used to plying their trade on mean, slow, stubborn surfaces in England, did it again here in Adelaide, even outshining Johnson and allowing Clarke to use the spearhead sparingly. It all went to plan, again. Amazing, isn't it?