After three Tests, the Ashes have been lost. It was probably the worse case scenario for Darren Lehmann when he took over as Australian coach in June, but with rain having cruelled their chances of victory in Manchester, he is keen to ensure his team takes the momentum gained at Old Trafford into the remainder of the series.
Just 14 runs separated England and Australia at Trent Bridge, while at Lord’s the talent gap that all UK commentators have been ramming down our jugulars for the last six months was there to be seen.
Led by arguably the best spinner in the world (Graeme Swann), a batsman in the form of his life (Ian Bell), and what many are calling a future England captain (Joe Root), the home side were masterful. Australia, very weak.
But 11 days and a practise match later, a reformed and hungry team came to Manchester, with fight in the eyes of Michael Clarke reminiscent of Ian Chappell or Allan Border.
Australia’s batting in Manchester was well above anything we’ve seen so far on tour, while Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris put themselves into a world class category of fast bowlers with strong and consistent performances, all of which bode well for Durham and beyond.
Lehmann still believes there is much to gain from the final two matches, and has refused to look ahead to the return series in Australia starting in November.
“We can’t obviously win the Ashes now, but what we’ve got to do is make sure we are best prepared for Durham to play the brand of cricket we did here (Manchester); win the game, then move to The Oval”, Lehmann said.
“You can’t look too far ahead. That Ashes (in Australia), is a long way away, all we can concentrate on is these next two Test matches”, he continued.
With the urn now out of their grasp for the next five months at least, Australia’s best hopes for the remainder of the tour is a drawn series, which is now firmly the focus for Clarke and his team.
“That’s definitely our goal. If we can level the series we’ll take a lot of confidence back to Australia. If we can play the type of cricket we’ve played throughout the four days here (at Old Trafford), we’ll give it a real good shake”, said Clarke after the Manchester Test petered out to a draw.
The Aussies have proven they can not only compete with England, but also push them to their limits, and the skipper believes the nations are now quite evenly matched.
“How wide do I think the gap is (between the sides)? Well I think we outplayed England in this Test match, and I think they outplayed us in the first two, so I don’t see much of a gap at all”.
I guess we’ll find out in Durham.