Incompetent Competition – An Ashes Review

My overriding view of the recently completed Ashes will be that, despite the excitement and topsy-turvy nature of the contest, it was a series low on quality. Yes, I am very pleased that England prevailed 3-2 but once the dust settles this series will not linger too long in the memory and will certainly not go down as a classic.

Why is this? Well basically because of the five Tests not a single one offered up a real close contest. England’s 169 run win in the opener at Cardiff was the closest in terms of scoreline – every subsequent match was a thrashing to one side, then the other. What was disappointing was that as soon as either side fell behind in a match they abjectly surrended. Sadly the fight and bottle that Ashes contests are famous for was lacking.

I will remember the series most, as I’m sure a lot of England fans will, for Stuart Broad’s extraordinary spell of 8-15 which dismissed Australia for 60 on the first morning at Trent Bridge. I was commentating on Park Cricket Radio at the time and rather than gloating over my Australian cohorts, I and we spent most of the morning open-mouthed and shaking our heads. Whilst Broad bowled an immaculate spell which perfectly exploited the traditional English greentop, the ineptness of the Aussie batsman was incredible. 9 of the 10 wickets fell caught behind or in the slip cordon and it was almost like watching the same wicket on a continuous replay. Australia’s chances of winning the Ashes was lost in less than two hours and the heavy defeat led to both Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers confirming their careers would be finishing after the Oval Test.

And once we reached the Oval it was clear the Aussies had learned their lessons too late. Peter Siddle showed what they had been missing with a superb performance in his first Test of the summer, bowling a great line and length. As an experienced head in English conditions it must go down as a major selection faux pas that he was discarded until it was too late. The Australian batsman too knuckled down and played a more attritional first innings which was enough to grind England into the dust.

The individual statistics threw up some anomalies too; Joe Root was far and away England’s most prolific batsman and showed he will be a star for years to come – the rest showed occasional glimpses but not much else. Poor Adam Lyth averaged only 12 for the series and surely now faces time in the international wildness. For Australia Rogers bowed out showing his comfort in English conditions and Smith continued to score heavily on the flatter surfaces.

The bowling showed a similar story, with Broad finishing top of the wickets ladder, followed by the Australian attack. I think this shows that some amazing individual performances at the right moment were what just saw England across the line.

So overall I’m happy England have retained the Ashes – I was convinced they would lose before it all began, 3-1 in fact. On a personal note it was great to be on the radio for some of it, it definitely enhanced my interest of this series and was great fun to do. WE said farewell to Rogers and Clarke, both of whom can be proud of their careers. The former for showing that it’s never too late to have success and the latter for his longevity, triumph in the face of adversity and battling spirit. Clarke sits just below the greatest for me, but a tremendous player nonetheless.

So now 27 months until the next Ashes. Quite frankly, I think we could do with a break from it for a while – there has been Ashes overkill the last 18 months. So when the next one does come around, we’ll be champing at the bit for it to start. And this enjoyable but flawed series will recede even further into the background.

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