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Australia's first victory over Team USA can be a building block - Mills

By Sports Desk August 24, 2019

Australia beat the United States for the first time in history in Melbourne on Saturday and Patty Mills hopes the Boomers can build something special from the landmark achievement.

Team USA won the first exhibition 102-86 at Marvel Stadium on Thursday, but the hosts responded with a 98-94 victory in front of 52,079 fans two days later.

Australia came from 10 points down in the second half, with San Antonio Spurs guard Mills scoring 30 – including the last 10 for the Boomers – to see out a historic triumph.

"It's a building block for us. We've been taking it step by step and understanding that this is process. But it's good to get everyone back and get everyone on the floor," said Mills in an on-court interview.

"This is just one step towards our progress and ultimate goal of creating history and winning a medal, so we're locked in on that focus for sure.

"The support has been amazing. We've been through a lot of adversity as a team, as a programme.

"We're very proud to represent these colours and represent them the right way and we're doing it as a team, as a group, as best mates."

Kemba Walker scored 22 points off the bench for Gregg Popovich's USA side, while Harrison Barnes had 20 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes.

Team USA conclude their tour in Sydney on Sunday when they face Canada, who will meet Australia in their FIBA World Cup opener in China on September 1.

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  • Ashes 2019: Fragile batting, but options with the ball - assessing England and Australia after the series Ashes 2019: Fragile batting, but options with the ball - assessing England and Australia after the series

    So, what did exactly did the 2019 Ashes series tell us? Steve Smith can definitely bat, Jofra Archer is seriously quick and no cause is ever seemingly lost when Ben Stokes is still at the crease.

    Delving a little deeper, the five Tests made clear the obvious flaws in both teams, but also demonstrated their strengths. Now, though, they can draw breath, recharge their batteries and start thinking about the future.

    Australia, who retained the Ashes courtesy of a 2-2 series draw, return to the Test arena against Pakistan in late November and with spots up for grabs, all eyes will be on the start of the Sheffield Shield season. England, meanwhile, have tours to New Zealand and South Africa to look forward to before the year is out.

    Having examined the state of both squads at different stages during the year, we now offer one final assessment while also looking ahead to the future.

     

    BATTING

    Not even retaining the urn has been enough to silence the questions that were already there before the Ashes about Australia's batting.

    Smith's heroics were enough on this occasion, but coach Justin Langer has work to do going forward.

    David Warner, who should be Australia's second-best batsman, became Stuart Broad's bunny, making just 95 runs at an average of 9.50 during the series and falling to the England paceman seven times.

    Between Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris, Australia's opening stands during the Ashes were an average of 8.50 runs, immediately putting themselves under early pressure.

    Marnus Labuschagne was a revelation after getting his chance, scoring 353 runs at an average of 50.42 to cement his place in Australia's top-order. But, going forward, places are up for grabs.

    Matthew Wade combined two centuries with eight scores of 34 or less, while Travis Head (who averaged 27.28) and Usman Khawaja (20.33) were both dropped during the series.

    Harris and Wade top-scored in the Shield last season, but the likes of Kurtis Patterson, 26, Will Pucovski, 21, and Jake Lehmann, 27, should all be sensing an opportunity.

    Given the others have failed to take their chances, albeit in tough conditions, perhaps the time has come to build around Smith and Labuschagne while preparing for the future.

    Like their opponents, England have gaps to fill in the top six.

    Rory Burns (390 runs at 39) had success at the top of the order, but the gamble on Jason Roy failed to pay off. Joe Denly may have received a stay of execution with his 94 at The Oval, but it is hard to see how a 33-year-old who has spent recent domestic seasons further down the batting list is the long-term answer.

    Joe Root had made clear in the past that three is not his favoured role, so it will be interesting to see if Trevor Bayliss' replacement is happy to drop him one position lower.

    The team's success in the longest format has often come courtesy of rearguard actions in difficult situations, but the time has come to start batting big.

    Stokes (441 runs at 55.12) showed the way with two second-innings hundreds, but Jonny Bairstow has reached 50 only once in his last 14 Test innings and Jos Buttler is in the strange position of being picked as a frontline batsman that comes in at seven.

    A busy winter schedule offers an opportunity to blood some fresh faces. Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley are the two openers regularly talked about as possible candidates to have a go alongside Burns. 

    Ollie Pope is waiting for another crack at international cricket, while Ben Foakes could return behind the stumps for the struggling Bairstow, who should perhaps consider giving up the gloves to focus completely on his batting. 


    BOWLING

    Unlike their batting, Australia's bowling is far more settled and with good reason.

    Pat Cummins won the Allan Border Medal in February and the paceman showed he can lead his nation for years to come. The 26-year-old played all five Tests – a fine feat for a player with his injury history – and was comfortably the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes with 29.

    Cummins took his 29 wickets at an average of 19.62 and economy rate of 2.69.

    Such is the depth and talent in Australia's attack, Mitchell Starc played just one Test, selectors perhaps looking elsewhere to capitalise on the English conditions.

    Josh Hazlewood has long been expected to be the man in such situations and he grabbed 20 wickets at 21.85 in four Tests.

    Peter Siddle and James Pattinson played three and two Tests respectively and while their spots are far from certain, the ability of the attack to deliver as a unit would have pleased Langer.

    They were helped by Nathan Lyon, who bowled more overs than anyone else on his way to 20 wickets at 33.40.

    Siddle (34) is the oldest of the group, but Cummins, Hazlewood (28), Starc (29) and Pattinson (29) look to have several years ahead of them in an excellent sign for Australia. Even Mitchell Marsh took his chance with the ball in the fifth Test, grabbing seven wickets, although the all-rounder is often criticised for his performances.

    The bowling was expected to be Australia's strength during the series and it proved just that, with few signs of it being an area of concern going forward.

    Similarly, for England, there are reasons to be cheerful over the attack. Broad benefited from the chance to hone his skills in county cricket prior to the Ashes - and went on to torture Warner and the rest of the left-handers.

    While his regular new-ball partner prospered, James Anderson endured a wretched campaign. Forced off after four overs of the opening Test with a calf injury, the Lancastrian failed to reappear in the rest of the series. He remains committed to playing at the highest level again, but England should not need to rush their leading wicket-taker back.

    That is mainly because of the emergence of the blistering Archer. He claimed 22 wickets in four Tests, knocked down the seemingly immovable Smith at Lord's and provided an added dimension to an attack otherwise lacking variety.

    Sam Curran's patience was finally rewarded with an outing in the fifth Test, where he again demonstrated his knack of making things happen, but Chris Woakes flattered to deceive, both with bat and ball.

    Craig Overton's selection at Old Trafford was an unexpected call and maybe brother Jamie, as well as another Somerset bowler in Lewis Gregory, may get a go ahead of him in future.

    As for the spin department, Jack Leach became a cult hero among fans and an easy fancy dress costume for a day at the Test.

    The captain-coach axis must also work out what they see as the future role for Moeen Ali, a player far too talented to be left languishing outside of the national set-up.


    CURRENT OUTLOOK

    Smith's form tilted the balance enough in Australia's favour to secure a 2-2 result, but now it will be fascinating to see how both nations develop as they go their separate ways.

    For England, the preparations for the tour Down Under in 2021-22 should begin immediately, or else they may be waiting a little longer to get the urn back.

  • Ashes 2019: Broad got into Warner's head, acknowledges Langer Ashes 2019: Broad got into Warner's head, acknowledges Langer

    Australia coach Justin Langer believes opener David Warner will benefit from playing cricket away from Stuart Broad in the coming months after the England bowler got "into his head".

    Warner endured a miserable Ashes series despite Australia retaining the urn in a 2-2 draw, making double figures only twice across 10 innings.

    He had three consecutive ducks at one stage and was dismissed by Broad seven times, making him the batsman dismissed most often (12 times) by the Nottinghamshire star in his Test career.

    Langer still believes Warner is a "champion player", though, and hopes he can now recover following the series, with the next Ashes not until 2021-22.

    "I think, talking frankly, he let Stuart Broad get into his head and he thought way too much about it," said Langer.

    "I've seen it before, even with the great players, every now and then they have a series [like this] – and I'm talking about the all-time great players. I remember Gilly [Adam Gilchrist] with Andrew Flintoff.

    "I remember seeing Steve Waugh sit on the team bus in South Africa and the guy had been a run machine for so long, he got out just before stumps and I, in a sick sort of way, thought it was the best thing I'd ever seen.

    "I didn't think great players had lean runs. I used to have lean runs all the time but even great players have lean runs and David – we know he's a very good player, there's no question about that – had it tough, particularly against Stuart Broad.

    "I used to have it against Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] and I couldn't solve the issue and it's so hard when you try to problem solve and then you're in the middle of a big series trying to solve the puzzle.

    "In this instance, I don't think David solved the puzzle, and he'll be first to admit that.

    "He'll probably be very relieved he gets on the Qantas flight in a day's time and doesn't have to face Stuart Broad for a while, I reckon. But there's plenty of upside still to his batting.

    "I've learned over a long period you never write off champion players – it doesn't matter what sport, you never write off champion players. They tend to come good, don't they?

    "So he's had a tough series, no doubt about that, but he's also a champion player, so usually with champion players, they get a bit more time to come good."

  • Ashes 2019: Smith joins illustrious list, Broad dominates Warner and England keep streak alive - series in Opta numbers Ashes 2019: Smith joins illustrious list, Broad dominates Warner and England keep streak alive - series in Opta numbers

    The Ashes battle is over for this year - England fought hard and made sure they avoided a series defeat on home soil, but a 2-2 result sees Australia retain the urn.

    Steve Smith was the catalyst for triumphs at Edgbaston and Old Trafford but, in the main, ball dominated bat.

    Pitches offered some assistance to the two high-quality seam attacks and with the English weather occasionally getting involved, there was rarely a dull moment across the five matches between the old rivals.

    After the first drawn series since 1972, we have picked some of the notable numbers from Opta...

     

    2 - In making scores of 144 and 142 in the opening Test in Birmingham, Smith became the fifth player to record two centuries in the same Ashes Test.

    4 - Nathan Lyon is just the fourth Australian bowler to reach 350 Test wickets. He moved above Dennis Lillee into third place on the all-time list for his country, with just Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne now above him.

    5 - With victory at The Oval, England are still unbeaten in a Test series on home soil since June 2014. Sri Lanka were the last visiting team to prevail, recording a 1-0 triumph under Angelo Mathews.

    7 - Stuart Broad dominated his personal duel with David Warner, dismissing the Australia opener seven times while conceding just 35 runs against him.

    8 - England's eight-match unbeaten streak in Tests at Edgbaston came to an end; the last time they had previously tasted defeat at the venue was in 2008 (against South Africa).

    10 - An impressive run of successive half-centuries in Ashes games for Smith came to an end in his final knock of the series. The right-hander was caught at leg slip off the bowling of Broad for 23 in the fifth Test.

    16 - Broad got more left-handers out than anyone else (16); he averaged just 13.7 against them, compared to 56.3 against right-handed batsmen. 

    20 - England had played 20 successive Tests without a draw before the game at Lord's, where rain wiped out the entire first day's play of the second Test.

    29 - Pat Cummins set an unusual record - his tally of wickets is the most in a Test series by a bowler without claiming a five-for in any innings.

    135 - Ben Stokes posted his highest Test score against Australia with an unforgettable match-winning knock at Headingley that included eight sixes.

    390 - Left-hander Rory Burns was easily the top-scoring opener for either team. Australia's trio of David Warner (95 runs), Marcus Harris (58 runs) and Cameron Bancroft (44 runs) all struggled for the visitors.

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