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Ashes 2013: Lehmann's men have done their homework on mental disintegration

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Chief Sports Writer, The Sydney Morning Herald

View more articles from Andrew Webster

Unleash the dogs of war: Darren Lehmann has the Australians back to their best, playing hard, uncompromising cricket.

Unleash the dogs of war: Darren Lehmann has the Australians back to their best, playing hard, uncompromising cricket. Photo: Supplied

Notwithstanding the very real fact that Australia might have regained the urn by this time next week, what astonishes most about this Ashes series is how meekly England seem prepared to hand it back.

Each time he bats, Alastair Cook has the eyes of a man whose car just conked out on the railway track. He's looking directly into the lights of a fast-approaching train, and his seatbelt won't unlock.

Toot! Toot!

England captain Alastair Cook after losing the second Ashes Test match between Australia and England at Adelaide Oval.

England captain Alastair Cook after losing the second Ashes Test match between Australia and England at Adelaide Oval. Photo: Getty Images

"If we don't believe, no one else will,” the England captain confided in an interview for the ECB's website shortly after Michael Clarke's side had gone 2-0 up.

And the truth shall set you free.

True believers are thin on the ground for England as they make their way across the Nullarbor to Perth, despite the Barmy Army chants echoing around Adelaide Oval as their side was delivered the Last Rites with the inevitable about to come down in all its green-and-gold glory.

The frankest of assessments have come from two former England captains, who are as pessimistic about where this is all headed as much as a buoyant colony is optimistic about finally winning back the Ashes.

Geoff Boycott has already admitted the Ashes are lost, and told BBC listeners back home midway through the Test to turn off the wireless and go back to bed. Michael Vaughan pointed where his heart was while appearing on Channel 9 on Sunday morning and declared England don't have enough of it.

Australia haven't just found their heart but a sizeable pair of rocks that can be seen from outer space, such is their swollen self-belief.

There's a palpable machismo that's been evident in their performances, and it extends far beyond the handlebar moustache on Mitchell Johnson's angry little head.

Successful Australian cricket teams have often walked the fine line between aggression and loutishness. Some call it uncompromising, hard but fair. Others call it bullying and against the spirit of the genteel game of bat and ball.

Regardless, Australia are at their best when they are sticking it right back up the hairy nostrils of those who dare to challenge their authority, especially on home turf, and that's what this side is doing now.

It was the case under Allan Border, Mark Taylor and especially Steve Waugh. Who would have thought a Michael Clarke-led side had this much junk in it? Let's not judge yet: Australian cricket has been so miserable for so long it can't concern itself with minor matters of winning and winning pretty.

Meanwhile, England's only comeback to the onslaught appears to be some verbals from the familiar brigade of Broad, Pietersen and Prior, all of whom must know inside the dressing room that whatever barbs they're firing off don't work quite as well when your side is battling to keep the opposition under 500 and you're struggling to post first innings totals beyond a couple of hundred.

Australian players continue to pour a big glass of Coopers Pale Thank God For You Ale for Darren Lehmann but the question must now be asked: How tortured was life under his predecessor, Mickey Arthur? What did he do to these poor petals?

Unleashed and suddenly loving life again, the players are gobbling up outfield catches like they did a decade ago, when everything seemed to stick. The batsmen are finding the patch of grass or air about half of foot from the outstretched fingers of the fieldsmen, as opposed to previous series when everything stuck for England. Apart from the odd aberration, Australia have even worked out the finer details of DRS.

And then there's Johnson, of course.

He could barely find the pitch the last time England travelled these lands. Now he's putting it directly one inch from the batsman's grille. Chin music? It sounds more like chin heavy metal.

All is forgiven, Mitchell. Every smart-arse remark about your tatts is stricken from the record. We are not worthy.

That said, the Commonwealth of Australia should not get ahead of itself just yet.

As Clarke pointed out post-match, his side has won two Tests in the past year. They had a long way to go if they were to become the best side in the world, he said. Let's focus on tiny urns before we start dreaming of Kim Jong-il-like world domination.

No! There's no room for gloating and backslapping when the job is far from finished. There's such a thing called winning graciously.

Now if you don't mind, this column is off to the small little patch where you can find more English per square metre than anywhere else on the planet – the Coogee Bay Hotel beer garden – to win as graciously as humanly possible.

Because when our cricket team has rocks that can be seen from outer space, we've all got rocks that can be seen from outer space, too.

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53 comments

  • Poor old Poms. I'm not going to criticise them for losing their bottle against Johhson. I reckon I would as well. I don;t think they can win in the WACA up against that sort of bowling,

    Can I just say that I got my kicks when Root got 66. I think he can bat. Not bad for a 22yr old.

    Commenter
    .Ged
    Date and time
    December 10, 2013, 2:17AM
    • Let's not count our chickens people...

      Commenter
      Doobie
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 10:50AM
    • Say what you like about the series so far....the English are better losers than the Aussies are....and don't forget they lost both the coin tosses in the two games.

      Commenter
      Soot
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 12:39PM
    • This is the WACA. Better England teams have failed there. Consider the chicken counting done.

      Commenter
      rudy
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 12:50PM
    • to the Englanders - it's only a game chaps, don't let it get you down. what goes around comes around.

      Commenter
      Tin
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 1:05PM
    • After all the cheating and gamesmanship and malarky of the last series the urinating on the pitch by the Englishmen was the last straw and the cricketing gods have deserted them and they are being deservedly punished.

      Commenter
      GOV
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 1:13PM
    • Get your kicks on Root's 66 ?

      Nat King Cole would be pleased.

      Commenter
      Louis Cypher
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 1:32PM
    • I feel for the Poms. Their tales would have been up coming down here, considering their success at home so recently. I just think the Aussies have upped their game.
      As for the sledging, I think that it is probably no worse than it has ever been, it is just Channel 9s stump mike, plus 360 bleeding cameras pick up every nuance.
      If Mitchell Johnson can continue to bowl like he has been and the rest of the team do their jobs, then we are in for a great summer.
      As for those in England calling for Cook's head? Leave it out!

      Commenter
      third rock
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 2:17PM
  • The Ashes are not won yet. Lets not get ahead of ourselves. But Darren Lehman has obviously instilled a sense of old fashioned self belief that was missing under Mickey Arthur. Suddenly the old swagger of successful Australian teams past is back. It just goes to show there was nothing wrong with the Aussie talent available - it just had to be harnessed.

    Commenter
    Jason
    Date and time
    December 10, 2013, 4:53AM
    • If they want to win using abuse and body line, that's up to them, but my kids won't be watching them, or their sponsors,and I will be supporting England

      Commenter
      Alby111
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 7:55AM

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