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Remembering the Ashes 2010/11: Lessons Joe Root Can Learn from England's Last Successful Trip Down Under
It's been a decade since England last won the Ashes on Australian soil, and given the travails of the two teams that is something of a surprise.
Joe Root has galvanised the Lions, and with some smart moves in the coaching and analytical departments his side has won four of their last seven series played.
Of course, the problem is that the three defeats have come consecutively in recent memory, with India dominating their opponents home and away and New Zealand also leaving England with a 1-0 victory.
There are still many questions for Root and the selectors to answer when it comes to their starting eleven, but there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful - Jimmy Anderson, despite honing in on his 40th birthday, is still amongst the wickets, Ben Stokes is back from his self-imposed time away from the sport and in Ollie Robinson the English coaching team have unearthed another gem in the fast bowling department.
Australia, meanwhile, have only played one test series since December 2019, and so they will head into the 2021/22 Ashes completely bereft of match practice.
We'll leave this here...— England's Barmy Army (@TheBarmyArmy) September 14, 2021
8?5? days until the first Ashes Test ?? pic.twitter.com/OJ7aoUdc9f
In the Space Casino betting odds, Australia have been made a comfortable favourite to retain the Ashes, but it's England at odds of 37/10 that perhaps represent the best of the value. After all, losing cricket is still better than no cricket at all in terms of maintaining the sharpness of your players.
Whenever England head Down Under for an Ashes battle, it's hard not to think back to that series in 2010/11. Everything went right for Andrew Strauss' men back then, despite the fact that the squad contained some rather mercurial individuals in the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Monty Panesar, and players whose international careers would be rather short-lived - Ajmal Shahzad and Steven Davies chief among them.
So here's a quick recap of that incredible series, should England supporters need any further convincing that 2021/22 could finally be the campaign where they get back to winning ways...
On the Front Foot
At the halfway stage of the first test at the Gabba, England fans were already fearing the worst.
Their side had been rolled over for 260 in their first innings after sitting pretty on 197/4, and they then watched on as the Aussie batsmen - chiefly Michael Hussey with 195 - tucked into the England bowling.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man - or should that be men, with Strauss and Jonathan Trott both making centuries and Alistair Cook an extraordinary 235 not out, the highest ever test score at the Gabba. The game petered out into a draw, but in reality it felt like a victory for England.
In 2010/11, James Anderson came up with the wobble-seamer to help England win the Ashes in Australia. Now, he's unveiled a new variation, and used it to dismiss Virat Kohli for a golden duck.#ENGvIND https://t.co/FSxiI7cAHZ— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) August 6, 2021
Momentum is often so crucial in sport, and so it proved in the second test in Adelaide. England reduced Australia to 2/3 in their first innings thanks largely to that man Anderson, and despite rallying to 245 all out it was Strauss' men who were in the ascendancy.
Another ton for Cook set the tone, but it was Pietersen's typically glorious 225 that demolished the Aussie's spirit and handed England a near 400-run lead from their first innings.
Australia battled with the bat in hand, but when Michael Clarke was removed for 80 - the golden arm of Pietersen doing the damage with the last ball of day four, the game was up and England took a 1-0 lead.
It was so typically Australian for them to bounce back at the WACA, with Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris bowling with fire and no little skill to roll England over for scores of 187 and 123.
With the series tied at 1-1, the Boxing Day match was always likely to be the defining moment of the campaign. And it was England that seized the day, quite literally, when they steamrollered an Australian batting line-up offering little resistance for just 98.
Can you salvage a test match when being bowled out for less than 100 on day one? It's highly doubtful, and England did not take their foot off the gas - Trott's magnificent 168 handing his side a mammoth lead before Tim Bresnan took four wickets in the hosts' second innings to condemn them to a huge defeat at the MCG.
The fifth and final test... could England hold their nerve? You bet they could. Bowling Australia out for 280 in their first innings, Cook and co would bat and bat and bat. The future captain made 189 - passing 700 runs for what was an astonishing series, while Ian Bell and Matt Prior also made centuries as an obstinate England essentially batted the Aussies out of the Ashes.
They would win by an innings for a second consecutive game, completing what has to go down as one of England's finest ever test series victories.