Will MacPherson’s Diary from Down Under – Dispatch 3

Well, that didn’t exactly follow the script, did it?

I’m now back in Melbourne after a few harrowing days in Brisbane following England.

The curse of the Gabbatoir struck again as England’s winless streak there extended to 27 years as they were out-classed, out-thought and out-fought on a quick, bouncy pitch in stifling heat.

None of this was as bad as the news that broke early on Monday evening here, though when it was revealed Jonathan Trott had flown home with a stress related illness.

All the best and get well soon Trotty, your peace of mind is far more important than a few games of cricket!

This is an issue that brings back dark memories of Marcus Trescothick’s plight in 2006 and one that raises questions for the ECB, the ICC and the game as a whole.

Fortunately, this subject is no longer taboo in the UK and I have no doubt that in the company of his family and with the support of the ECB’s ‘Mind Matters programme’, Trotty is in great hands. We look forward to seeing you back in an England shirt soon.

Back to the cricket, though. And what a mess that was in Brisbane!

Only five times have England lost by a bigger run margin than 381 runs. They lost 20 wickets for 315 on a flat deck. Wickets five to eight managed 25 runs across the two innings.

Trott looked all at sea, Matt Prior can’t buy a run and the Aussies seem intent on hitting Swanny into the Tasman Sea. Add to that questions surrounding the third seamer (unlikely to be Chris Tremlett again as he was bowling fully 15mph slower than Mitchell Johnsom) and two embarrassing middle order collapses and there is plenty for England to think about.

It has to be said, though, that Australia were fantastic. From Brad Haddin and Johnson’s counter-attack on the first afternoon right through to Johnson bowling to the tail with ten men catching as the shadows grew longer on Sunday evening, every man played his part, either bowling, batting or in a clinical fielding performance.

Every plan they hatched fell into place and Michael Clarke, despite being bounced by Broad and loose-lipped to Jimmy, played a blinder.

His innings on Saturday was as good as I have seen live and epitomised his side’s performance: ruthless, attacking and spunky.

This felt like a backlash that had been a long time in the making and Australia is riding high in its wake.

There is a feeling of injustice every time the home Ashes series is mentioned, whether on the back of “Broad-gate”, the weather, the slow pitches or the embarrassing booing of Clarke at the Oval. Australia is out for revenge and Clarke’s choice words to Jimmy on Sunday have galvanised the masses further.

It wasn’t all bad for England, though. Broad had a fantastic match and responded brilliantly to the tidal wave of abuse thrown his way from the stands and the front pages.

Some of the anti-Broad chanting was deafening and it was thrilling him to see him respond with a performance of character, venom and charisma. At times on Thursday he looked as if he was having the time of his life.

We shouldn’t call for, or expect, wholesale reactionary changes from England. This is a settled side, full of experience who have recovered from slow starts on tours before.

Adelaide should present more familiar conditions as traditionally it is slower, lower and a batsman’s paradise.

With Trott flying home, Ian Bell or Joe Root will have to move to first drop, while Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes have the chance to press a claim to bat at six in the tour match at Alice Springs.

The only other change I would anticipate is Tim Bresnan’s return as Tremlett looked a shadow of the bowler who terrorised the Australians three years ago with ball in hand.

England have plenty of fond memories against Australia and their tormentor-in-chief, Johnson, to draw on and I have no doubt that they will be back and firing in Adelaide next week.

They’ve experienced crushing defeats like this before – Headingly ’09, Perth ’10 and Ahmedabad ’12 spring to mind – and always bounced back.

I also have no doubt that Trott’s absence will galvanise the boys – they’ll be out to bring the Urn home for him.

In spite of the result, it was one hell of a thrill to be inside the Gabba for the first three days. While it is essentially a nondescript, but huge, modern sporting arena, the atmosphere, especially when Australia were on top, was enthralling.

When England lost 6-9 on Friday afternoon the place was bouncing and fans of both sides simply couldn’t believe their eyes. The Australians in the stands were just as up for the fight as the Australians in the middle and at times myself and the myriad of other Poms received a fair barracking.

Just as we saw out in the middle late on the final day, the Australians in the stands regularly displayed a lack of dignity in victory and crowed loudly from the moment they got in front, but 99 per-cent of what I heard and saw was in good taste and the banter was certainly flying about.

Pietersen and Broad took the abuse they received brilliantly, even when KP was left red-faced by a signature bat being snatched away from under his nose! Credit must go to the Barmy Army, too, who out-gunned the Aussies on the final day and proved that win, lose or draw they have England’s back!

I now have a week back in Melbourne before heading to Adelaide. The Aussies are certainly in buoyant mood, so it could be a week for remaining tight-lipped and praying England improve! Onwards and upwards!

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