0Ashes to Ashes, England to Dust

For what I am about to say may I be struck down from above…but I am glad that this Ashes series is at an end. Quite simply Aus­tralia have played far bet­ter than the sum of their indi­vidu­al parts and Eng­land have been, for the large part, abso­lutely diabol­ic­al.

As sure as night fol­lows day the Aus­sies wrapped up a dev­ast­at­ing 5–0 series win, yet again bowl­ing Eng­land out for a piti­ful total not worthy of an inter­na­tion­al line up. The vis­it­ors now need to go back, re-group and pick up the pieces from this poten­tially dis­astrous tour down-under.

‘Poten­tially’ is a word that is used with great care. Inquests have already star­ted into what went wrong and who must take the blame. It is import­ant of course to ‘learn les­sons’ but hope­fully this tour was but an aber­ra­tion for a once highly suc­cess­ful and cap­able team (yes, really!). Just as one swal­low does not make a sum­mer, one snow flake does not make a winter. Fin­gers crossed it was just an unfor­tu­nate set of cir­cum­stances that all came togeth­er two wreak hav­oc on the vis­it­ing side. All bats­men lose form at one time or anoth­er – per­haps this was just the moment for every­one to slip up. Com­bine that with the best Eng­lish spin­ner for a gen­er­a­tion decid­ing to fin­ish on a low and you are already going to be strug­gling. Some play­ers have also clearly been in need of a rest – cap­tain­ing the side and open­ing the bat­ting is always a big ask and Alistair Cook has looked tired of late. Matt Pri­or and Jimmy Ander­son have for too long had too much respons­ib­il­ity laid on their admit­tedly broad shoulders. Then of course there was the unfor­tu­nate devel­op­ment in the case of Jonath­an Trott. Very sad and every­one wishes him well. It’s doubt­ful, how­ever, that he will play inter­na­tion­al crick­et again. If he does it won’t be at the same level. Some of the squad have also been at the start of their inter­na­tion­al careers – Joe Root has the neces­sary skills to make it at inter­na­tion­al level and is worth per­sever­ing with – but it will take time. Michael Car­berry will flour­ish at one day level but the test arena is a little above his skill set. Jonny Bair­stow is worth keep­ing on the fringes – although ques­tion marks remain about his abil­ity to deal with the short ball. He is not a first choice pick. Then of course Ben Stokes has stepped for­ward and grabbed his oppor­tun­ity with both hands. Runs and wick­ets when every­one else around you is los­ing their head is a fant­ast­ic accom­plish­ment. Def­in­itely one for the future and the one bright light to come gleam­ing out of the tour.

It is of course very easy to look at this tour and say all is lost. It may well be – Eng­land might be a bus­ted flush – but there is hope yet as well.

Review of the tour – indi­vidu­al Eng­land and Aus­tralia play­ers and their series rat­ings (not out scores not doubled in aver­ages)

Alastair Cook – 246 runs, 3 half cen­tur­ies, top score of 72 – avg of 24.6

Cap­tain Cook led from the front and set the tone for the dis­mal show from the entire team. Poor bat­ting (albeit meas­ured against his incred­ibly high stand­ards) as well. Eng­land expect and need him to lead from the front. He didn’t    3

Michael Car­berry – 281 runs – 1 half cen­tury, top score of 60 – avg of 28.1

England’s second highest run scorer (although played an extra test than Stokes just behind him in the runs scored column) – reg­u­larly flattered to deceive and likely that age and poor shot selec­tion through­out the series will mean he doesn’t play at test level again. Can do a job at one day level                4

Kev­in Pietersen – 294 runs – 2 half cen­tur­ies – top score of 71 (avg of 29.4)

Scored the most amount of runs in the Eng­land side but came in for sub­stan­tial cri­ti­cism. Pieterson is able to play the long and patient innings when he puts his mind to it – but rarely both­ers – even if it is what is needed. It is a major weak­ness of a bril­liant play­er but he won’t ever change so there is no point try­ing to make him – at least you know what you get with him   5

Ian Bell – 235 runs – 2 half cen­tur­ies – top score of 72 (avg of 23.5)

Bell is becom­ing Mr Depend­able for Eng­land. Played a couple of use­ful innings includ­ing car­ry­ing his bat in one. Eng­land can’t keep rely­ing on him to res­cue the side                       5

Joe Root – 192 runs – 1 half cen­tury – top score of 87 (avg of 24); 32 overs, 5 maid­ens, 98 runs, 0 wick­ets

Dropped for the final game but clearly remains in England’s plans going for­ward. Has the tal­ent and the tem­pera­ment to suc­ceed and the man­age­ment need to decide where his best pos­i­tion is in the bat­ting order. Shame he couldn’t con­trib­ute more with the ball.                            4.5

Matt Pri­or – 107 runs – 1 half cen­tury – top score of 69 (avg of 17.83)

Anoth­er dis­mal series and the select­ors showed they are not afraid to drop a seni­or pro like him. If there was a ready made replace­ment it’s likely Prior’s days would be ser­i­ously numbered but at the moment no one is lay­ing down a ser­i­ous chal­lenge. He will be back in the sum­mer              4

Ben Stokes – 279 runs – 1 cen­tury – top score of 120 – (avg of 34.87); 116.5 overs, 15 maid­ens, 492 runs, 15 wick­ets (32.80 runs per wkt)

Com­fort­ably England’s best play­er – third in the over­all runs scored list (hav­ing played a test less than the oth­ers) and second highest wick­et taker – the one shin­ing light in a very dark series for Eng­land. Still a little rough around the edges but Eng­land have a real dia­mond on their hands  8

Stu­art Broad – 155 runs – top score of 42 – (avg of 15.5); 161.5 overs, 24 maid­ens, 578 runs, 21 wick­ets   (27.52 runs per wkt)

It was always dif­fi­cult for England’s bowl­ing attack to make any real in-roads into a dom­in­ant and cock-sure Aus­trali­an side, espe­cially when their bats­men nev­er man­aged to apply any lever­age by scor­ing a decent total. Behind Stokes, Broad was England’s best play­er. Decent amount of wick­ets and a few runs         6.5

Jimmy Ander­son – 41 runs – top score of 13 not out — (avg of 4.1) ; 190.3 overs, 43 maid­ens, 615 runs, 14 wick­ets (43.92 runs per wkt)

Like his fast bowl­ing part­ner, Ander­son suffered from no sup­port from the bat­ting line up and is clearly in need of a rest. England’s man­age­ment need to send him home and make sure his bat­ter­ies are re-charged for the home tests – he will still take plenty of wick­ets in Eng­lish con­di­tions 5

Graeme Swann – 36 runs – top score of 19 not out (avg of 6); 142 runs, 21 maid­ens, 560 runs, 7 wick­ets (80 runs per wkt)

Dis­ap­point­ing final series for the best Eng­lish spin­ner in a gen­er­a­tion and failed to con­trib­ute a mean­ing­ful score with the bat either. Swann must be remembered for his pre­vi­ous endeav­ours and not this final hur­rah           4

Tim Bresnan – 34 runs – top score of 21 (avg of 8.5); 62.3 overs, 14 maid­ens, 206 runs, 5 wick­ets (41.2 runs per wick­et)

Just a couple of tests for Bresnan to prove him­self after a lengthy lay off. Con­trib­uted noth­ing with the bat but bowled eco­nom­ic­ally at times. Always looks good when oth­ers around him are play­ing well too but an un neces­sary lux­ury when the side is strug­gling. Jury is still out on his place in the side – 4.5

Monty Pan­esar – 4 runs — top score of 2 (avg of 1); 70.5 overs, 9 maid­ens, 257 runs, 3 wick­ets (85.66 runs per wkt)

Usu­al flood of runs from the bat of Monty! With Swann hav­ing closed the cur­tain on his inter­na­tion­al career it’s likely Monty will be the first name the select­ors turn to in the future giv­en the lack of ready-made options. Eng­land put a lot of faith in the play­er after his recent off-field issues but Aus­tralia decided to get after any twirler that came their way; Monty was no excep­tion.  3.5

Jonny Bair­stow – 49 runs – top score of 21 (avg of 12.25)

Picked ahead of Pri­or for the final two tests but failed to put a mark­er down with either bat or gloves. Occa­sion­ally showed glimpses of hav­ing what it takes to suc­ceed at this level by counter-attack­ing against a rampant oppos­i­tion. Is likely to remain on the fringes of the side as a keep­er-bats­man simply because there are no stand out altern­at­ives. But the man­age­ment must stay awake at night pray­ing for Matt Pri­or to redis­cov­er his form of old.         4

One test won­ders:

Jonath­an Trott – 19 runs – top score of 10 (avg of 9.5)

Tor­tured bat­ting dis­play in his one test – fol­lowed by announce­ment that he was depart­ing the tour. Eng­land missed the once rock of the side – fin­gers crossed he can comeback – but it’s a long road ahead

Gary Bal­lance – 25 runs – top score of 18 (avg 12.5)

Very dif­fi­cult time to make his debut in a side (bat­ting line up espe­cially) devoid of any con­fid­ence. Must be giv­en a prop­er chance to suc­ceed.

Chris Trem­lett – 15 runs – top score of 8 (avg 7.5); 36 overs, 5 maid­ens, 120 runs, 4 wick­ets (avg of 30 runs per wick­et)

Not bad bowl­ing stats hide the fact that he has lost a yard of pace since last on Aus­trali­an shores. With the emer­gence of Stokes to sup­port Ander­son and Broad in the bowl­ing unit and Onions chomp­ing at the bit back home his days would appear numbered.

Scott Borth­wick – 5 runs – top score of 4 – avg 2.5; 13 overs, 0 maid­ens, 82 runs, 4 wick­ets (20.50 runs per wkt)

A brave decision by the select­ors to pick a leg-spin­ner (the first leg­gie since Ian Salis­bury played his last test in 2000 (against Pakistan) – espe­cially giv­en the Aus­trali­ans’ determ­in­a­tion to get after any spin­ner presen­ted to them – Borth­wick at least claimed a few scalps. Eng­land must decide who their spin­ner is going to be (Monty; Ker­rigan or Borth­wick) and the stick with them for a decent amount of time to see who has what it takes (if any of them). Borth­wick must play the next test if con­di­tions suit.

Boyd Rankin – 13 runs – top score of 13 (avg of 6.5); 20.5 overs, 0 maid­ens, 81 runs, 1 wick­et (81 runs per wkt).

Has so far suc­ceeded at one day level – needs more time to see if will devel­op into a main­stay of the side but will face con­sid­er­able oppos­i­tion when the side is back on home soil.

And now for the Aus­trali­ans!!!

Chris Rogers — 463 runs, 2 cen­tur­ies, 3 half cen­tur­ies, top score of 119 (avg of 46.3)

Along with his open­ing part­ner Dav­id Warner Rogers time and time again got his side off to a good start with con­sist­ent per­form­ances – two tons and two half cen­tur­ies says it all      7.5

Dav­id Warner – 523 runs, 2 cen­tur­ies, 2 half cen­tur­ies, top score of 124 (avg of 52.3)

Exactly the same as his part­ner Rogers, with only a few runs sep­ar­at­ing them. Has more than repaid the select­ors’ faith in him fol­low­ing the off-field antics               8

Shane Wat­son — 345 runs, 1 cen­tury, 2 half cen­tur­ies, top score of 103 (avg of 34.5); 47.4 overs, 17 maid­ens, 122 runs, 4 wick­ets (avg per wkt of 30.50)

Use­ful con­tri­bu­tion with the bat but able to bowl a few use­ful overs and keep the pres­sure up as well by tak­ing of wick­ets 7

Michael Clarke – 363 runs, 2 cen­tur­ies, top score of 148 (avg of 36.3)

Two out­stand­ing and con­sec­ut­ive tons sur­roun­ded by mediocre totals; no mat­ter – he strained every last sinew out of his entire team to demol­ish and demor­al­ise Eng­land and claim a 5–0 white­wash                            8.5

Steven Smith – 327 runs, 2 cen­tur­ies, top score of 115 (avg of 36.33); 11 overs, 1 maid­en, 58 runs, 1 wick­et (avg per wick­et 58)

Her­al­ded as the series Smith came of age – are his runs down to his bril­liance or col­lect­ive ineptitude on England’s part. It’s a 50/50 call in my opin­ion – if he does the same when facing the South Afric­an pace bat­tery when over­seas then I’ll keep my trap shut           7

George Bailey — 183 runs, 1 half cen­tury, top score of 53 (avg of 22.87)

The one weak(ish) link in the Aus­trali­an side with a dis­ap­point­ing series over­all  5

Brad Had­din — 493 runs, 1 cen­tury, 5 half cen­tur­ies, top score of 118 (avg of 61.62)

Derided as a jour­ney man (by me), Had­din was simply at the top of his game and knocked his crit­ics for imper­i­ous sixes. Eng­land simply had no answer to him. He was the joint top play­er of the series — 10

Mitchell John­son — 165 runs, 1 half cen­tury, top score of 64 (avg of 20.62); 188.4 overs, 51 maid­ens, 517 runs 37 wick­ets (avg of 13.97 runs per wkt)

Simply out­stand­ing. Eng­land just couldn’t cope with his pace – although again this says as much about the oppos­i­tion than it does John­son. But you can only bowl at what you are presen­ted with and he lapped up the tasty morsels with great aplomb. More than one quarter of his overs was a maid­en too. Excel­lent effort for a quick. Joint top play­er for Aus­tralia and over­all                       10

Ryan Har­ris – 117 runs, 1 half cen­tury, top score of 55 (avg of 19.5); 166.2 overs, 50 maid­ens; 425 runs, 22 wick­ets (19.31 runs per wkt)

Bril­liant Ginger to Johnson’s Fred, what his fel­low quick didn’t deal with Har­ris picked up. A per­fect foil for John­son and man­aged to stay fit as well. A few use­ful runs and again gave very few runs away with 50 maid­ens  9

Peter Siddle – 38 runs, top score of 21 (avg of 5.42); 156.4 overs, 48 maid­ens, 386 runs, 16 wick­ets (avg of 24.12)

If Fred and Ginger ever decided to employ an extra then Siddle would have been it. His bowl­ing danced around the pitch as his tar­gets dis­played the foot­work of club crick­eters. If John­son or Har­ris didn’t get you then Siddle would – a bril­liant triple act – leav­ing Eng­land with no chance       8

Nath­an Lyon – 60 runs – top score of 18 not out (avg of 10); 176.2 overs; 42 maid­ens; 558 runs, 19 wick­ets (29.36 runs per wkt)

Rather over-shad­owed by the pace trio Lyon still picked up 19 wick­ets and was an integ­ral part of the bowl­ing attack                 8

 

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