England crumble as Australia seize Ashes momentum
Momentum. Mass times Velocity. Momentum is a scientific definition of moving objects and the ability for them to be accelerated or be slowed and stopped with a proportionate outside force.
Basically, the faster bodies move, the harder they are to stop.
The concept of ‘momentum’ is often applied to the progress of teams: business teams, governments, armies and most commonly sports teams.
Winning teams ‘get on a roll‘, they are ‘unstoppable‘, they have a critical ‘momentum‘ that somehow helps them win matches and competitions.
Or do they have momentum because they win? Winning teams are favourites going into finals or crucial encounters because of the momentum they gained by flogging their previous opponents.
Close victories add a little velocity, large margins give a proportional heave, even though the score at the commencement of the next match is all even.
England have been on a downhill roll, a slope designed to generate velocity especially when you are heading down under.
Australia on the other hand have been on an anti-roll.
England as they say, had momentum going into the first Test, a momentum gained by the pace of successive victories and the mass of trophies won, albeit the Urn itself only weighs a few ounces.
The English players have had the belief that they could perform under varying degrees of pressure especially from Australia.
Momentum gives you that belief, so does winning.
Australia have recently been uncertain of how to perform under the high pressure. They have been unclear, unsteady and unsuccessful.
Winning is a habit and so is losing.
Coaches and selectors spend their working lives trying to figure out how to turn losing organisations into winning ones, that’s what they get paid for, that’s how they keep their jobs.
Winners want to ‘keep up the momentum’, losers want to ‘turn it around’. Business leaders do likewise.
What can they do to stop, turn or deflect the winning momentum of the other lot?
Plans were planned and individuals chosen to conduct them.
In other words get some wickets and make some runs , and you have a five days to do it or we all turn into pumpkins.
The first part of the plan wasn’t going so well as the run makers lost whatever momentum they may have carried over from the last two winter Ashes Tests, at 6-130 midway through the first day the signs were bleaker than Tony Abbott’s Bali holiday plans.
And then the momentum shifted.
Slowly, run by slow run and then by boundaries, England’s broad shouldered attack was survived, blunted and eventually halted.
Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson used their willow to blunt England’s progress, but that was only a part of the job.
Alaistair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ian Bell all experienced and tough batting customers, it would take greater effort still to change the course far enough to realistically expect a victory.
Cook edged and Carberry survived until the 18th over when Trott may have considered himself unlucky.
Johnson would have considered himself deserving, the delivery down the legside had far more planning than the shot played to it.
Momentum change had next to zero mass at 2-55.
The last ball of the 31st over was significant for KP’s careless drive and dismissal. But this was the moment in this Test match, and maybe the series, which could be defined as the precipitant of the “momentum changer”.
The subsequent 6-9 crash put a bold, italicised exclamation mark after the equation.
In less than 10 overs England found themselves occupying Australia’s space. A space were negative numbers are put in front of your mass times velocity and selectors start searching for replacements.
Test match cricket moves at its own rhythm. It is played over five days because the plot unfolds in a delicious, infusing pace and tension can build slowly but inexorably.
Over the past three days there has been momentum swings of that traditional ilk, but also one lightning strike wrought by the fast bowlers.
Aided by the spinner and completed by the fieldsman in the blink of a tweet.
A momentum swing that while certainly changing the course of the first Test may have some ramifications for the near future location of the urn.