The stats don’t tell the facts

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

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 paultomic@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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