The Ashes series has finally come to an end and with that, a miserable month and a half as well for England. There was a huge build up for the oldest rivalry in the game but as it turned out, it was not a competition, rather a sheer domination from the Australians. A result of 4-0 aptly shows how the hosts have dictated terms over the visitors.
Before the series, there were talks about how the 2 sides were equally balanced and that the Englishmen had a great chance of retaining the urn. They were in with a chance but just for the first couple of days of the tour. The knockout punch was delivered by the Australians in the first Test itself and it was all downhill for Joe Root and his men from then on.
Steve Smith made the difference
England had Austalia on the mat in the first Test after reducing them to 209/7 in reply to their first innings score of 302. But the Australian skipper put his hand up and slammed a magnificent knock of 141 and single-handedly took his team to safety and ultimately the win in the opener arrived.
That’s not where he stopped. The No.1 batsman in the world in whites went on to accumulate 687 runs in the series at a humungous average of 137.4. He notched up 3 centuries and 2 half-centuries that also included a double ton in the 3rd Test in Perth. Steve Smith has made giant strides in Australian cricket and his saga does seem to end in the near future.
Cook-Root not good enough
England’s chances of retaining the Ashes were heavily dependent on the two most experienced batsmen in the side – Alastair Cook and Joe Root. The former and the current captain were just not up to the mark. They did score big on occasions but just like their team in the series, those contributions were just not good enough.
At the end, Cook finished as the 3rd highest scorer of the Ashes series with 376 runs but that included a knock of 244 in the 4th Test. Apart from that, his numbers in the 8 other innings read 2, 7, 37, 16, 7, 14, 39 and 10. Barring that double century in Melbourne, the opener had a forgettable outing.
Root scored 5 fifties in the series but not on a single occasion did he go on to convert those into something substantial. He is far too good a player not to score any century in 5 Tests which hurt the side woefully. On the contrary, his Australian counterpart did wonders to his side, an aspect where Joe Root fell country miles behind.
Bowlers on the 2 sides miles apart
Another area where the Englishmen fell too far behind was in the bowling department. The top 4 bowlers of Australia each bagged 20 wickets or more while none of the English bowlers was able to achieve that. Pat Cummins claimed 23 wickets, Mitchell Starc bagged 22 while Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon picked up 21 apiece.
When it comes to England’s bowlers, James Anderson took 17 scalps and ended up being the highest wicket-taker for his side and he was the sole bowler who bagged a five-wicket haul. But the problem lied with the others. Stuart Broad was nowhere close to his best and managed to pick just 11 wickets in 5 Tests. Moeen Ali had a torrid time as he could take just 5 wickets despite bowling 169.2 overs.
Stokes’s absence too big?
In the build-up to the Ashes, England suffered a massive blow as Ben Stokes was ruled out of the squad due to his alleged involvement in a brawl in Bristol in September. The verdict didn’t come out soon enough and he had to miss out on the berth to the Ashes. It was a massive loss considering his contributions with both bat and bowl.
He has had a huge influence on his team’s performances in the recent years across all formats and especially in the longest format of the game. It was evident that he was being dearly missed and there was no one who stood up to fill in for him. Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali were the all-rounders in the side but none of them even flourished in either department of the game.
It wasn’t as if the conditions were too alien but the might of Australians was too good for the visitors. England had a similar fate when they toured India last year and lost the Test series 4-0 where the pitches didn’t turn too viciously. In Australia as well, the surfaces were good to bat and there wasn’t much on offer for the bowlers. One thing that’s for sure is that if the conditions don’t assist the seamers, Joe Root and Co. can be pushed on the back foot easily. The Ashes is gone for now and the repercussions could be huge.