Monday, December 09, 2013

England has been beaten by hubris, and their scrambled minds.

A brilliant bowling performance, like Stuart Broad at Durham in the summer and Mitchell Johnson in the first innings at Adelaide can win a Test match. A remarkable innings can do the same. But these are the exceptions. In the main matches are won or lost because one team collectively gets it together better than the other. If you want to understand why England is 0-2 down in this Ashes series it's not Johnson's heroics you need to study. It's who has won the mind game. Take England's second innings in the second Test. Cook and Carberry both gifted their wickets with dreadful shots within twelve overs. They weren't defeated by better bowling - they were defeated by their own scrambled minds. The fact that later some others in the England innings batted well on a benign pitch shows how foolish those gifted wickets at the top of the order were.

Confidence is the key. The teams that keep on winning are those that believe they can. The teams that struggle are those that look as if they don't want to be on the Park at all. That's been England since they arrived in Australia. They know that they were lucky to win the summer series 3-0 (nearly 4-0). Cool analysis shows this series score to have been a travesty. England (just) deserved to retain The Ashes in the summer - but over the five matches they were only marginally the better team. The players on both sides know this and it is Australia who took confidence from it not England. The Aussie motivation was surely "Mates we were bloody unlucky in England. We know we're better than that. In front of our own fans let's show the Poms we are". Meanwhile the English must have felt, whether they spoke it or not, "We rather nicked that one whatever the series score says. Oz is only a bowler or a couple of big hundreds away from being better than us." And so it was.

This England team hasn't suddenly, qua innate ability, become no-hopers. This Aussie team hasn't suddenly been transformed into world beaters. What has happened is that the hidden factor of confidence combined with the driver of "who wants it more?" is overwhelmingly in the Australians' favour. Successive Ashes series losses finally got to Michael Clarke's Australians. They'd had enough and it hurt. And England? At  the moment they had Australia 132-6 on the first day of the series they must have thought "Here we go again - we can roll this lot over any time we want !" But pride came before the fall and from that moment on it has been Australian confidence and determination, combined with English hubris, which has blown England away. 

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