This is the first of a several posts I shall be producing today. I hope you will all enjoy it.
AUSTRALIA WIN THE BATTLE HAVING ALREADY LOST THE WAR
Australia won the Oval test match very comfortably to narrow the series score to 3-2 in England’s favour. Although it takes a little gloss of England’s overall victory this cannot really be considered significant – there have been many occasions when a side who have already won the series early have failed in the final match. Examples include England in 1928-9, 1986-7 and 2015, and Australia in 1902, 1924-25, 1968, 1993 and 1997. For the rest of this post I am going to look at England’s players through the series…
ENGLAND SUCCESSES AND FAILURES
So, who did what?
Alastair Cook: as captain he unequivocally did was required – his task was to win the Ashes and that objective was achieved with a match to spare. As a batsman he had an ordinary series, with no century and only two really significant scores, one of which was made with the match already lost (85 at the Oval).
Adam Lyth: he was an unequivocal failure at the top of the order. Nevertheless, while I would have no quarrel with him being dropped at this point, I maintain that the England selectors were right to give him the whole home season of tests in which to make his mark – and as a veteran of the second half of the 1980s and the whole of the 1990s, during which England were an international laughing stock I saw far too many occasions when selectors chopped and changed and changed and chopped so that no one ever knew whether they were coming or going I was delighted to see this example of consistency of approach.
Ian Bell: By his own standards a poor series – only three 50 plus scores and none of them a century.
Joe Root: Quite simply magnificent – his century at Trent Bridge on a pitch on which the Aussies had rolled over for 60 in 18.3 overs was a classic innings, made when runs had to be earned.
Gary Ballance: Only played the first couple of matches, but he will be back.
Jonny Bairstow: A fine innings at Trent Bridge, when he backed Joe Root splendidly, but not much else to show for his participation in the series.
Ben Stokes: Mr X Factor – runs, wickets and the moment of the series – that catch at Trent Bridge.
Jos Buttler: A shocking series with the bat, adequate behind the stumps.
Moeen Ali: A fine cricketer, but not in the way England used him in this series – he is not a front-line spinner. In the UAE where pitches are likely to take spin he could be useful as an opening batsman (a role he plays for his county) and back up spinner to Adil Rashid and possibly another.
Mark Wood: A good prospect, and Cook’s decision to give him the opportunity (which he took) to wrap up the Trent Bridge match was an excellent piece of captaincy.
James Anderson: The only England bowler to date to have taken 400 test wickets – it is a tribute to messrs Broad, Finn and Wood that he was not missed at Trent Bridge. The UAE would be a good tour for him to miss – there will be no assistance for him there, and he will be needed in South Africa.
Stuart Broad: Can one be player of the series almost entirely on the strength of one spell of bowling? Yes, if that one spell is 8-15 off 9.3 overs and makes the outcome of the series effectively certain.
Stephen Finn: After a couple of years in the wilderness he is back to some thing like his best, he achieved one of a run of four straight six plus wicket hauls by four different England bowlers (the others were Anderson, Stokes and Broad).