Emerging Themes, Changing Times

Three days down in Adelaide and certain themes are emerging. Australia had a better day on Sunday, with Ponting and Hussey again knitting their reply together, but Hayden and Martyn both failed, as did Langer the previous evening. This, together with the hammering which Warne and McGrath took at the hands of Pietersen and Collingwood, has started to get the world's hacks and bloggers questioning whether this is the beginning of the end for this great Australian team.

I think some of the comments, especially those directed at the bowlers, are premature, but they do highlight the fact that, slowly, inexorably, the times are changing for Australia. I didn't see many people questioning McGrath after he took 6 for 50 in Brisbane, and he's clearly not fully fit in the current game. I think there's probably still plenty of bowling in both him and Warne and some runs in the side's senior batsmen. Where things are on the turn is that, in this match, each of them has come up against a younger opponent with too much vitality and commitment (Flintoff), skill and persistence (Hoggard) and sheer effervescent genius (Pietersen) for them to handle. In itself it's a sign of how quickly and effectively England have turned things round after the Gabba and of how difficult a transition Australia are going to have to go through over the next few years. Warne is clearly irreplaceable and so to is McGrath (though Stuart Clark and perhaps Mitchell Johnson will try). In the batting ranks Phil Jaques will be one new opener and Hussey could move up the order, Michael Clarke may consolidate his position in the middle order (perhaps starting tomorrow), but there are few other candidates demanding immediate inclusion. Some dark days lie ahead.

This Test still seems most likely to be drawn and Australia to go to Perth one up. The series, though, has started to have a much more even feel to it, and, if England could manage to pull off a win, they would hold a considerable advantage going into the remaining games.

Maybe it won't be over by Christmas after all...

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