Hints of Edgbaston ’05 as Clarke puts Australia in charge of Ashes

Australia's Darren Lehmann
Australia's Darren Lehmann
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THE circumstances might have been different but there was something Edgbaston 2005-ish about the way Australia took charge of the second Test yesterday.

Eight-and-a-half years ago, England transformed the complexion of “The Greatest Test Series” with their positive batting on the first day in Birmingham.

After Glenn McGrath injured his ankle in the warm-up and Ricky Ponting inexplicably chose to bowl, England rattled up 407 inside 80 overs to lay the foundation for a two-run win that not only levelled the series but gave them the belief they could go on and win it.

Marcus Trescothick hit 90, Kevin Pietersen 71 and Andrew Flintoff 68 as Australia were put to the sword just days after their “here-we-go-again” 239-run victory at Lord’s.

Memories of that Michael Vaughan-inspired tactic returned to mind yesterday while watching Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin attack England’s bowlers on the second day at Adelaide.

After Australia resumed on 
273-5 with the match in the balance, captain Clarke and vice-captain Haddin led from the front with an aggressive approach that immediately put England on to the back foot.

True, both rode their luck; Clarke almost skied his first ball to cover and was dropped at short-leg, while Haddin should have been run out and was caught behind off a no ball as Ben Stokes celebrated a first Test wicket that never was.

But fortune favoured the bold and the selfless nature of the strokeplay, much of it a joy to behold, sped Australia up to 389-5 at lunch and racing towards a final total of 570-9 declared, England responding with a decidedly unconvincing 35-1 by stumps.

Whereas Vaughan had demanded England’s aggression in that thriller at Edgbaston, telling his players that he was not too concerned about the result just as long as they attacked from the off, so Darren Lehmann has encouraged Australia’s aggression.

The former Yorkshire batsman and current Australia coach has impressed on his players the need for positivity to break England’s stranglehold on the famous urn.

This, of course, is no great surprise; as a player, Lehmann was the personification of positivity and believed no cause was lost.

In particular, he has urged Australia to be more adventurous against England off-spinner Graeme Swann, with the result that Swann has captured four wickets in the series at 91 and is conceding more than four runs an over, piling pressure on the seamers.

There were signs of the Lehmann factor in England last summer.

Given just days to prepare for that series following the sacking of previous coach Mickey Arthur, he instilled a positive mood into the Australian camp that belied a 3-0 scoreline in England’s favour.

Australia showed glimpses of what they could do at Old Trafford and at the Oval and after the well-publicised discord of previous months, the players began to look like they were enjoying themselves again.

As with his great friend Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire first team coach, that enjoyment factor is at the very core of Lehmann’s philosophy, transferring into the type of positive cricket Australia played yesterday.

Of course, it is not just Lehmann who takes all the credit for such performances.

Not only have his players responded collectively so far, but Clarke has led them very much in the coach’s image.

Had Clarke been out to his first ball yesterday, he would have been pilloried for his irresponsibility and England’s prospects of winning the game might not now be over.

Instead, he carried out Lehmann’s aggressive strategy to the letter and went on to demonstrate why, in Haddin’s opinion and that of an increasing number of observers, he is now the world’s best batsman.

Clarke is certainly the world’s best player of spin, which he also showed during the course of a majestic 148 that registered a number of milestones.

To name but three of them... more Test runs in Australia (4,418) than Don Bradman (4,322), 1,000 Test runs in the calendar year, and his sixth century in nine Tests at Adelaide.

Swann and Monty Panesar, England’s two-pronged spin attack, returned a combined 3-308 from 80 overs.

Did those figures really justify the decision to leave out Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan?

All will have their views but what cannot be denied is that Australia – just like England in 2005 – have made a conscious effort to make all the running.

The belief derived from their 381-run win in the first Test at Brisbane – Australia’s first Test victory in 10 attempts – was similar to that gained by Vaughan’s England at Edgbaston all those years ago.

On the flatlands of Adelaide, Clarke and his players could have sat back, safe in the knowledge that they have a 1-0 lead going into Perth next week, where England have won just once in 12 attempts.

Instead, they have grown visibly stronger just as England did after that victory in Birmingham.

As Vaughan recalled after the 2005 series: “We had a long meeting at Edgbaston when we arrived. I remember standing up in front of everyone and saying that all I cared about was that on day one we just came out and attacked. So, if we bat, I want us to completely attack, and, if we bowl, I just want us to give it a really good go and get into them early.

“I believe the way we played on that first morning was the turning point of the series; it was the moment when the team started to believe.”

chris.waters@ypn.co.uk