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A few months before the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, Australia was reeling. Sure, they went close in three of the five Tests in England but the score was still 3-0.

That capped off a horror run for Michael Clarke's side which included nine Tests without a win. 

Australia is flying already 3-0 up in the return series with England falling apart - Graeme Swann's retirement is the latest blow to a side that's been dismantled ball by ball. 

So what's been the difference? 

Clarke's battered Cook

The Aussie and England skipper's numbers are almost identical, with both celebrating their 100th Test in Perth. But when it's mattered Clarke has stood up with the bat and Cook capitulated. 

Clarke and Lehmann's tactics have worked with the English batsmen, and when plan A doesn't work Clarke has a B, C and D waiting to unleash. 

Cook is one-dimensional, devoid of ideas and without him and his batsmen firing that leaves nada to fall back on. 

Runs means almost everything

England have scored 136, 172 and 251 in their three first innings so far bu the issues are deeper - they have cracked the 400 mark in 11 Tests. It's all about batsmen going on to big scores when they get starts, and Australia have seven centuries to England's one. 

Australia have gone on to set impossible targets of 500-plus three times.  

Mitchell Johnson...

He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, and then he hits you in the helmet, knocks your stumps over or you play a dodgy hook shot to fine leg. The firebrand is back from the long run and causing havoc with 23 wickets. Many of them have been tailenders, but wrapping up the tail wins matches.

Amazingly, he's only really there because James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are injured. 

But he can't do it alone 

Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, even Nathan Lyon are the unsung heroes of the series so far. Johnson couldn't be picked if there wasn't pure reliability in the other bowlers and the other two quicks are nothing short of awesome. They tie down ends and apply relentless pressure - nothing is more influential in winning Test matches. 

England's Kookaburra confusion

In stark contrast to the Aussies, England's supposed big guns James Anderson and Graeme Swann - now retired - have been totally limp. Anderson bowls banana benders on green tops with the pronounced Duke ball, but the Australian Kookaburra asks for patience once the sheen is gone, and the Aussies have cashed in.  

Off the field action

Darren Lehmann's straight forward approach has clearly work after Mickey Arthur was sacked. The Aussies have also had the same 11 line up for every match, which is remarkable considering the chopping and changing of the previous regime. 

The homework done on the English from one to 11 has clearly been meticulous and effective. 

Andy Flower is apparently an excellent operator, so England's faithful say, but someone has to be blamed for the Aussies getting the better of them in Oz - complacency perhaps? 

What a tosser

Three consecutive toss wins and three chances to bat first haven't hurt Australia, but it's hard to imagine England's batsmen would have done anything differently.  

Images via Getty


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Three Tests ago Australia was on the ropes, now the Ashes are back by Boxing Day - so what's changed?
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