Ponting's dreams of recapturing the Ashes sit on the brink of ruin

India and South Africa will be playing for first place in the rankings when their series begins, but they need to listen for footsteps because England is on its way!

Andrew Strauss and pals have the ability and ambition to take their team to the top of the tree, a position it has not held since the heyday of Jim Laker, Len Hutton and Frank Tyson.

England's performance in Adelaide was its best for decades. Australia was not so much beaten as overwhelmed. The masters of destruction were taken apart by an intense and efficient opponent.

Afterwards senior Australians admitted they'd never seen the ‘Poms' play so well for so long. The hosts were in a state of shock.

Ricky Ponting and company know that they are facing a formidable opponent. His dreams of recapturing the Ashes sit on the brink of ruin.

Cold executioners

Previously England has risen occasionally with murderous intent only to fall back after passion had ebbed way. For a while everyone might sing Land of Hope and Glory but the mood passes and the malaise remains. Now the Englishmen are cold executioners.

The cucumber sandwiches and pints of lager were put aside in favour of steel knives.

Andrew Strauss's team hardly put a foot wrong. Watching a sporting side play with precision and discipline always gives satisfaction. Of course, panache has its part to play in these endeavours but ruthless annihilation is the essential aim of all sporting activity. The romantics can keep their charmers.

From the chaotic run out of an opener in the first over to the superbly conceived off-break that ended the match, the visitors were magnificent. All sorts of records were broken.

Alastair Cook is scoring hundreds at a faster rate than even Sachin Tendulkar and Don Bradman.

Of course he cannot be put alongside these leviathans but is hard working, humble, serene and as hard to remove as a Wisdom tooth.

Turning out to be assets

Jonathan Trott has been almost as effective and now averages 60 in Test cricket. Ian Bell was regarded as too soft to make the grade down under. At present he looks about as soft as a slab of concrete, and a great deal more attractive.

England's flaws have turned out to be its assets.

Reward for Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen was richly rewarded for going back to the basics. Greatness is a journey, not a destiny. It cannot be held in a hand.

So long as he keeps working and avoids the traps of self-celebration he will retain the excellence that lies within. Greatness can always walk away and seek a more accommodating host.

But the hosts did not help themselves. Australia was not merely outplayed. It was also out-thought.

Ponting's field placements were bizarre. Australia's selections were also odd.

Whereas England identified its strongest team months ago and has also taken considerable care over its bench, the Australians are thrashing about like a drowning man.

Half the country wants Shane Warne to return — and all England is terrified that he might. But it is a fantasy born out of desperation; he would not last a session and knows it. Poker is his game these days.

Nor is the pace bowling strong. Australia does have a fistful of promising speedsters. Unfortunately most of them are injured. All sorts of restrictions are placed on young bowlers but still the flingers break down at the rate hitherto reserved for ‘tuc tucs'.

Australia used to make them or break them. Now it makes them and wraps them in cotton wool.

Only two things can save Australia. A hundred from Ponting and a searing spell from Mitchell Johnson. Otherwise the game is up.

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