Awesome Aussies set down Ashes marker… but should England be worried
11:32 GMT, 28 December 2012
There's no getting round the fact: the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka at Melbourne was not so much a game of cricket as a demolition job.
Australia won inside three days by an innings and 201 runs, while Kumar Sangakkara had his left hand broken by Mitchell Johnson and two other Sri Lankans stayed in the pavilion, absent hurt.
With back-to-back Ashes series lying in wait in 2013, this result was what you might reasonably call a statement of intent.
Star man: Mitchell Johnson (centre) was in fine form as Australia hammered Sri Lanka in the second Test
But how concerned should England be After all, the Sri Lankans have always been poor in Australia: this was their 10th defeat there in 12 Tests, four of them by an innings.
And Australian pitches could not be further removed from the slow heart-breakers routinely found in Sri Lanka.
Alastair Cook may also comfort himself with the thought that, more than anything, the MCG appears to have hosted the rebirth of Johnson, who returned match figures of 6 for 89 and hit an unbeaten 92.
If anything was designed to dispel the post-Christmas blues in soggy England, it is the thought that Johnson – a figure of fun during the 2010-11 Ashes – will be taking the field at Trent Bridge on July 10. The Barmy Army will be exercising their vocal chords.
Take that: Johnson punished the Sri Lankans with the bat as well as the ball in Melbourne
The success on Test debut of Sydneysider Jackson Bird may be more significant, for Australia are compiling a stock of apparently interchangeable seam bowlers – the must-have accessory for any team aspiring to regular success in the fixture-heavy modern era.
Their problem, though, is fitness: everyone keeps breaking down.
As things stand, it is fairly pointless trying to predict which of their seamers will play at Nottingham. As for their batting, Michael Clarke remains in the form of his life, with Mike Hussey not far behind.
England's best hope here is that the law of averages kicks in, as it has done for every batsman in Test history bar Don Bradman.
Solid start: Jackson Bird can be happy with his Test debut for Australia
And, although there were half-centuries at Melbourne for David Warner and Shane Watson, England will also be quietly confident about getting the better of Australia's top four.
Warner and Phil Hughes, who is being rehabilitated at No 3, may be too keen to play their shots to prosper regularly in English conditions, while Ed Cowan looks no better than steady, and Watson is yet to demonstrate he has the capacity for big hundreds required at No 4.
Having said all that, Australia are now 2-0 up with one to play against a team England beat only 1-0 at home in 2011, then lost to at Galle earlier this year.
And yet a better gauge of where the two Ashes sides are will be Australia's four-Test series in India, starting in February.
England are still luxuriating in their 2-1 win. The pressure will be on Clarke's side to match them.