Ashes 2019: Australia beating England 5-0 not an outrageous prediction - Glenn McGrath

Glenn McGrath

Glenn McGrath, Australia's most successful fast bowler in Test cricket, has joined the BBC for the 2019 Ashes series. He is part of the Test Match Special commentary team and is contributing a regular column to the BBC Sport website.

At the start of this Ashes series I refused to make any predictions on the final score. I wasn't nervous about it. I just felt that everyone expected me to say 5-0, and that had become boring.

After Australia's 251-run victory in the first Test, I'm happy to say I've changed my mind. I'm ready to make a prediction - and that prediction is 5-0.

Come on. It's hardly outrageous. Australia have won six of their past seven Tests against England. I'm simply reflecting what has happened back then and at Edgbaston.

Steve Smith's comeback is the way the match in Birmingham will be remembered. It was certainly remarkable, almost a dream for him after where he has been and where he took Australian cricket.

He scored a cumulative 286 runs, slightly more than the final margin of victory. But he needed support, and he got it - in the final session of the first day, when Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon stuck around to add another priceless 162 runs for the final two wickets, and on the final day, when Lyon and Pat Cummins spun and outpaced England respectively to seal the win.

Big wins in the first Test of an Ashes series polarise everything moving forward.

Australia go to Lord's with Smith in unbelievable nick, with Matthew Wade continuing his fine form of the extended tour, with Travis Head and Usman Khawaja having enjoyed useful little knocks. Lyon has his rhythm and his reward on pitches which may continue to turn. The pace attack has wickets and Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are pawing the ground in reserve.

England? England have fitness concerns over James Anderson. Chris Woakes bowled only seven overs on Sunday. Moeen Ali looks short of confidence with both his bowling and batting, creating a vicious circle.

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Highlights: England skittled as Australia win at Edgbaston

I was part of the Australia team that lost the first Test at Edgbaston in 1997 and yet came back to win the series quite comfortably in the end. Our reaction to that defeat was critical, and it is something England may be able to take heart from.

We had a good team in that series. We simply hadn't played to our potential. The day after England's Alec Stewart had hit the winning runs to send the ground into raptures and the nation into unfamiliar dreams of series success, our coach Geoff Marsh took us back out to the middle of the pitch and showed us where we had gone wrong.

"Boys, you bowled too short. You bowled the right lengths for Australian conditions rather than what you're going to find over here. You need to go fuller and you need to trust the conditions and the ball's natural varieties to work for you," he said.

For two hours he had us fast bowlers charging in off our full run-ups until we had it drummed into us: this is how you win in England; this is how you will turn it around.

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'That looks terrible!' - Roy out in 'dreadful' fashion

It's the games you lose or struggle in that you learn most from in Test cricket. When I made my debut in 1994-95 I bowled big outswingers pretty much every ball, because people had told me you should bowl consistent outties to take wickets.

I went back to the sheds with figures of 0-120. That taught me the most important lesson of my career: don't go searching for wickets as a quick bowler, let them come to you.

Build pressure. Squeeze the runs. Give the opposition batsmen nothing. Put the ball where they have to play at it and just let it nibble around off the track or in the air.

And believe in yourself. There are positives for England to take to Lord's for the second Test. They had Australia at 122-8. Opener Rory Burns may have played and missed 40 times but he showed the grit and determination a batsman needs. The conditions did nothing for England's attack, and it surely won't be like that again in north-west London.

But there are issues in English cricket. Jofra Archer has huge talent and has an extremely bright future, but expecting the 24-year-old paceman to be the saviour when he has yet to bowl a delivery in Test cricket is unreasonable.

England have been playing quality white-ball cricket for a long time. In the one-day format they have set new standards. But their Test cricket has not been strong for a while - beaten in the West Indies by a host team who are honest rather than exceptional; troubled by Ireland at Lord's before finding a way through.

Was this performance a surprise? Was the inability to stick around on the final day such a shock when they haven't done it as a unit for such a long time?

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How England won an incredible Cricket World Cup final

The World Cup win was huge for this team. But you have a massive high like that and it knocks you for a while. There is a lag while your emotional and physical energies get back to where they were.

It didn't really happen to me or my generation of Aussie cricketers because it was expected of us. We reached four World Cup finals in a row and won three of them. When we got to a final we relaxed because it all felt natural to us.

If it's the first time you've experienced it all, it takes you a lot longer to get over it. We benefited in the last three finals from the fact we lost the first to Sri Lanka. It gave us perspective.

England's players went somewhere they had never been before. They went somewhere where no cricketers had gone before - a tie that led to a tie-breaker that was also a tie.

Their supporters and the English public were probably expecting those one-day wonders to continue into this Ashes series. That may have been unrealistic. It may continue to be so.

Glenn McGrath was speaking to BBC Sport chief sports writer Tom Fordyce at Edgbaston.

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