As Australia picked up an extraordinary win in Durban, people will see improvements in the side that England played in the Ashes last time around. They fought until the last ball and that is evident of every Australian side that takes the field. But this shouldn’t disguise the fact that this is a side likely to slide further down the rankings before they rise once more.
Gone are the days when Australia could turn up to any stadium, on any continent and win. Before now, they had the right to; now they have to fight to compete.
They have improved since their demoralising defeat to England in the Ashes last Christmas; they have even won a few tests. But when has an Australian team of any era been content with winning just a few tests?
Australia just don’t settle for second best, never mind being the fifth best team in test cricket as we speak.
They might be coming to a time when they have to settle, dare I say it, be happy with, fifth best.
Following their 3-1 home defeat in the Ashes coming up to a year ago, Australia have faded rather quickly. It has been on the cards for a while though. Look back to 2005 when England pipped them in one of the greatest series in history. They recovered well to whitewash England the next time they came toe to toe, but since, they have been a shadow of their former selves.
Ricky Ponting stepped down as skipper and Michael Clarke has since taken over. Both stunning cricketers in their own right and Ponting will no doubt go down as one of the greatest. And Clarke has since guided his country to a series win against Sri Lanka and now a very respectable tied series in South Africa.
But Australia’s team of stars has been crippled majorly since that Ashes series of 2005. It has been well documented that losing the likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath in succession have played a vital role in their fall from the top of the game.
Their inability to replace those stars has cost them dear. But it isn’t just them two who have perished.
Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist are two more that have left huge voids in the side.
But much like Arsenal football club, Australia is a cricketing nation in recovery, in a transitional period; or so it may seem. Their stunning victory against South Africa yesterday showed that their fighting spirit will never be questioned, regardless of those who take the field.
Their recovery may not last long.
They are in desperate need of a top class spin bowler, which they seem to be unable to find. Ricky Ponting, despite his legend in Australia, will surely be gone within the next 12 months as he genius seems to be fading, and Michael Hussey looks to be heading the same way following his late introduction to test cricket. This time next yearAustraliamay be in a worse position than they currently are.
If there is anything to learn about the Aussies though, as yesterday proved, don’t ever write them off. In Michael Clarke they have a talented captain who, I believe, will get the best out of his players. Shane Watson will play for a few years yet and if he can come to terms with being a top class all-rounder, he will be devastating. Peter Siddle always looks like taking wickets with his aggressive and consistent bowling and the sensational introduction of a young Pat Cummins could well be their best find for a long time.
They will be back the Aussies – they never lie down.