Australia gave more than just a glimpse of their ability to take the fight to England in their 14-run loss in the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge. That has gladdened Glenn McGrath, the former Australia pacer, who believes Michael Clarke's team has the character to bounce back and level the series in the second Test starting at Lord's on Thursday (July 18).
"The Australians really fought back hard, they didn't lie down, and that was the most heartening thing," said McGrath on the sidelines of a charity event in Chesterfield on Monday. "(Ashton) Agar burst on to the scene and there was a lot of good stuff there. If they can take that into Lord's, and the top-order batsmen score a few more runs, then I think they've got a big chance."
Australia's transformation since Mickey Arthur's sacking as head coach has been spearheaded by Darren Lehmann, who appears to have brought a sense of calm to the team. McGrath firmly backed his former teammate. "They need a win but there's a good feel around the Australian team," he said. "I like the energy Darren Lehmann has brought in there and they seem to be a really close-knit team.
"I spent a bit of time with them last night after the game and they were pretty devastated not to get that last 14 runs. That really hurt them and they'll be keen to bounce back this Test match. They've seen that you can play against these bowlers and that you can take wickets against England. They are not overawed by the situation, they feel they can beat this England team, and they'll be ready to go at Lord's."
McGrath also heaped praise on James Anderson, whose 10-wicket haul was instrumental in England's win. He felt it was important for the Australian batsmen to find a way to counter him if they are to succeed. "It was a great effort by Jimmy Anderson," he said. "He's a class performer, no doubt about it. He's one of the best bowlers in the world right now. He was the main bowler, (Graeme) Swann was not as effective as I thought he'd be. Anderson was a standout and, if Australia can play him a little better at Lord's, we could have a different result."
The Test also saw the controversial Decision Review System come under the spotlight at crucial moments. While McGrath believed teams needed to be more judicious in their use of the system, he felt it was unfair to deny teams a review, especially if there was an obvious howler.
"The way Alastair Cook used it I thought was perfect, Michael Clarke not so good," he said. "A lot of the referrals were umpire's calls so, whether you lose your referral, I think that's a little bit harsh. There is a grey area there, which I'd like to see made a little more black and white. I had a good chat to Michael Clarke about the DRS and he says he has to use it a little better. Next Test, he'll be a lot better."