The stats don’t tell the facts
This was not a classic Ashes contest. The history books will record that, as expected, England won the series and thus retained the urn, but statistics can never convey the full story of the English summer.
The series had it all; the David Warner-Joe Root affair, left-field selections by both teams, a world record debut for Ashton Agar, England’s often glacial approach with bat and ball, some blatant time wasting by certain players, the Australian coach publicly calling an England player a cheat and, in between all that, a smattering, but only just, of decent cricket from both sides.
The series was much tighter than many observers had anticipated. Talk of a 5-0 whitewash to the host nation became so much hot air in the aftermath of the thrilling first Test at Trent Bridge where Australia came within a whisker of claiming an improbable victory.
The final 3-0 scoreline suggests the England juggernaut ran over the Australians, but in truth there was little between the teams.
A number of players enhanced their reputations. For England, Ian Bell, once seen as mentally fragile, dug his team out of several holes and put his critics’ noses out of joint not just by scoring big runs, but by really performing when the chips were down. Chris Rogers, once seen as a one-Test wonder, looks to have made himself undroppable at the top of the order for Australia and Warner’s courage under fire eventually won the respect of the English crowds.
In their own ways, England’s James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann made major contributions to the series, but Australia’s Ryan Harris was the real bowling hero of the summer. Harris’ commitment to the cause was exceptional and he deserves every plaudit coming his way. It seems unlikely Australia will risk him in the forthcoming one-day tournament, such is his value with the red ball, and so Harris will be quietly put out to grass until the Australian summer series rolls around in three months’ time.
That The Oval Test boiled down to a nail-biter was the work of one man. Michael Clarke’s brave declaration showed that he’s not afraid to risk losing a game in the hope of winning it. If Australia had lost, Clarke would have suffered the ignominy of being the first Aussie skipper to succumb to a 4-0 defeat in England and it speaks volumes that those considerations were thrown to one side as the baggy greens sought a consolation victory. Had the boot been on the other foot, it’s unlikely England’s Alastair Cook would have made such a declaration and the Australian captain is rightly being lauded for his sportsmanship.
Although it’s been officially denied, there is undoubtedly some simmering ill feeling between the teams. That could bring an edge to Australia’s game when the return series begins and England needs to stay alert. Although Cook’s team remains odds-on to win, come November the everinventive Clarke may be in the mood to pull a few more rabbits out of the hat. Watch this space. Contact the writer at email@example.com