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The Ashes

Amidst the orgy of recrimination after the England Cricket team appeared to capitulate too easily to the Australians, I offer a crumb of comfort. The Australians are actually the better team. And what happens when you have the edge - yes, you have a bit of luck as well. Winning the toss twice is just one of the things that have gone Australia's way.

Thinking back to Adelaide three years ago, Siddle and Hilfenhaus took the new ball, Watson was possibly the best of the 3rd seamers and they had no spin worth a mention.Now they have a revitalised Johnson and the more than lively Harris. The steady Siddle is the ideal foil to these two and Lyon is proving himself at least the equal of Swann.

What happens when one team knows it is being outgunned with the ball is a creeping malaise which destroys confidence on the one side and empowers the other. So England's fielding is way below par and the batsmen find ways of getting out because there is tension where there used to be concentration and relaxation. Hence the dropped catches and the plethora of ugly dismissals.

There have been crucial moments when things could have been different. When Australia were 130 for 6 in the first Test in Brisbane, England needed to seize the moment but were not strong enough to do so. Then Australia were five down again at Adelaide when Haddin miscued to Carberry offering a simple catch - which went down. I could hardly help myself. watching on TV when I muttered the time honoured Captain's comment “never mind son, you have only lost the Ashes”.

Give Clarke his due, he has got inside the heads of the England batsmen in a big way. With Cook they have idenfified a weakness on the off side and bowl accordingly. With Pietersen they have gone the other way and simply blocked his most fruitful scoring areas. Trott was clearly out of sorts during the summer in England and may have been lured into making the trip more by a sense of loyalty than a genuine belief that he could overcome his problems.

What can England do now? It would help to win the toss in Perth and get somewhere near 400 in the first innings or even 350 - just enough anyway to give the bowlers a chance. The Australian middle order still looks unconvincing but they will all climb on the bandwagon given half a chance.

I always thought that Warner was the best of their newcomers because, even when he was crashing the ball here and everywhere, he remained quite compact - generally not much daylight between bat and body. Clarke has simply improved his batting immensely. I thought he was a bit of a “chancer” until recently when he has become much more selective and thus mighty hard to bowl to.

On the bowling front for England, Anderson is a bit of a worry because the Kookaburra ball seems less suited to his types of swing, both normal and reverse. I have a feeling that the Australians have worked him out a bit too.

England have a mountain to climb but it is not impossible. Cook should read about Len Hutton as Captain in West Indies - well beaten in the first two Tests and then righting the ship single handed with a series of huge scores. If Cook can find his own form, then the others may find theirs.