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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ashes 2009 : England need to re-group after Headingley massacre

For a few short moments on Sunday morning, as Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann blasted Stuart Clark all round the ground, thoughts turned to 1981 when Ian Botham and Bob Willis inspired England to the unlikeliest of victories.

Would we see such a miracle again?

Well we were swiftly made to pay for such foolish thinking. Australia wrapped up a crushing innings victory within an hour after lunch on the third day and carry over the now infamous ‘momentum’ going into the Ashes decider at The Oval next week.

Squint hard enough and you would have thought it was the imperious Australia of old that turned England over in Leeds this weekend. Stuart Clark, back in the side at the expense of Nathan Hauritz, was made to look like the Glenn McGrath of old as the Aussies ripped through the England order on a stunning opening day. Then as the England bowlers persisted with short-pitched wayward deliveries it was as if Hayden and Langer were in their pomp, blasting the ball to all corners of the park.

That may be a disservice to the quartet of Ponting, Watson, North and Clarke, who delivered a master class in batting and ruthlessly dragged the game away from England.

But the distance between the two sides is not as great as this scoreline suggests. It seems to me once again that, mentally, England have a soft centre.The chaotic first morning at Headingley, which began with a 4:30am fire alarm at the hotel, incorporated Flintoff’s absence from the side and Matt Prior’s back spasm while playing football in the warm up, meant it was an unsettled and harassed England side that collapsed on the first day.

Then as Ponting and Watson made hay the body language of the England fielders suggested they were already beaten – on day one.

With a deficit of 350 the pressure was on and once again England’s middle order collapsed like a house of cards. Only when the pressure was off and the game over did Broad and Swann express themselves, showing the upper order that the Australian attack isn’t as formidable as the figures suggest.

England need to put this defeat behind them and quick. Their ability has never been in question but once again when the pressure is on they are found wanting.

Freddie Flintoff may return for the final game, determined to go out on a high. His re-appearance may prove a vital boost to the side and ensure they avoid such a catastrophic start as they did in this test. Do that again, and that famous little urn will once again remain in Australian hands.

For now, keep on top of The Oval Test odds before any Fifth Test betting.

By: Tom Mallows

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