ADELAIDE, (Reuters) – Australia’s stunning turnaround from Ashes joke to juggernaut in a few months has been the culmination of good, hard grind and paceman Mitchell Johnson finding himself in a supportive attack, according to captain Michael Clarke.
Australia crushed England by 218 runs yesterday within the first hour’s play of day five at Adelaide Oval to take a 2-0 lead in the five-test series ahead of the third test in Perth where England have not won since 1978.
Australia lost the Ashes 3-0 earlier this year in England following a tumultuous period in which South African Mickey Arthur was sacked as head coach and opening batsman David Warner was stood down for punching England’s Joe Root at a Birmingham bar.
The northern Ashes humiliation followed one of the lowest points in Australian cricket’s modern history when four of their players were suspended during a miserable 4-0 series loss in India for failing to submit ideas on how to improve.
Clarke said the team felt wronged by the scoreline in England but that they knew the results would come with perseverance.
“I can’t answer the question as to why we have won the first two test matches (here) so convincingly, it’s a positive for our team but I think these two wins are satisfying because of the work we have put in over a long period of time,” Clarke told reporters.
“In our opinion, as players, it’s not a fluke that we have won the first two test matches.
“It’s hard work that we put in in the UK and we thought we were so close but we didn’t get over the line and we were disappointed not to have success in England.
“So we as a team believe the work we have been putting in for a long period of time, now we’re seeing some results which is very pleasing.
“The other side to that is, the reality is we have won two test matches now in the past 12 months and that is not acceptable as an Australian test team.
“So our feet and certainly well and truly cemented on the ground and we are very realistic about where we want to go as a team, how we want to achieve success.
“We have started this series very well but there is a lot of work still to do.”
While only one team has ever come back from 2-0 to win an Ashes series – Australia on home soil in 1936-37 – England need only level the series over the three remaining tests to retain the Ashes as holders of the urn.
England’s failure to deal with the short-pitched bowling of Johnson in the first two tests could prove terminal in Perth, however, where the left-arm seamer wreaks maximum damage from the bounce on his home WACA pitch.
Johnson, man-of-the-match in Brisbane, took the award again in Adelaide for helping to skittle England for 172 in their first innings with an exhilarating 7-40.
He then dismissed England’s talismanic captain Alastair Cook for one to get the ball rolling in the second innings, with Peter Siddle (4-57) and Ryan Harris (3-54) sharing most of the spoils.
“He has always been an X-factor, with bat, with ball,” Clarke said of the 32-year-old Queenslander, who is enjoying his best form since winning the ICC Cricketer of the Year award in 2009.
“He’s as good an athlete in the field as you’ll see.
“Mitch has always had that (quality). It’s just about working out how to use him best in your team.
“Our attack right now really complement each other so it allows Mitch to be used the way I feel is best for our team.
“He’s been our new-ball bowler, he’s bowled first-change, he’s bowled 12-over spells.
“Whatever’s required, he can do that … He’s been outstanding.”