First published on Kettle Mag http://www.kettlemag.co.uk/article/ashes-2015-expect-unexpected
Five tests is the equivalent of twenty five days - at least that is what we expected. The 2015 edition of The Ashes was an unexpected total of eighteen days. Australia were strong favourites with pundits and fans alike predicting an expected Australian victory. Alas, England did the unexpected and won back the urn. Whether the victory was convincing however is a different matter altogether. The result was definitely deserved and England won the key battles and sessions that gave them the 3 – 2 win. Can you see a theme?
Where were The Ashes won?I believe that they were won on the green English pitches. Once given the conditions to perform, England’s bowlers embraced the wickets and took to the task of dismantling the Australian attack. On the days it mattered, Anderson and Broad rose to the task of taking wickets and were helped along the way by Finn, Stokes and Wood. Moeen Ali also contributed with regular wickets at big moments and in the three victories it was those spells that led to The Ashes coming back.
The stats do not really show a dominant team and the final score line indicate this. Steve Smith scored most runs in the series, with Chris Rogers and Joe Root closely following. When you look at the top ten leading runs scorers, this was evenly split between the two teams.
Where we do see a difference between the two teams is in the wickets. Here, England had six of the top ten wickets takers in the series. Australia’s four-man attack contributed with 65 wickets between them. Their English counterparts, albeit with six bowlers, bagged 76. It was in their most menacing spells that they caused the damage. Stuart Broads 8-15 is the standout of the series, but also think back to Finns first bowl back in the side and Anderson’s hostile spell too. Supplemented by Stokes with his five for and England’s bowling unit was a constant threat. Except at Lords and Oval that is.
Australia lost The Ashes early onThis was before any ball had been bowled and before they arrived in England. The selection of the squad was that which relied heavily on the experience of the players who had served the team so well previously. The selectors expected Ryan Harris to shrug off his injuries and all the batsmen to do what they had been doing previously. The loss of Harris, I feel was a key ingredient in the Ashes returning to these rainy shores. His control and pace and ability to bowl length would have caught out the majority of the England team, as shown by Peter Siddle in his one test. Imagine if Siddle was included earlier - actually, let us not.
The plan was to continue as before. Bowl out the opposition for a low score and then hammer them out of contention. This worked for Australia; however, unexpectedly this only occurred in two tests. In the other three, the bowlers, although taking wickets were unable to keep the run rate down and this allowed England to get the runs needed. More importantly as afore mentioned, the English bowlers were able to ruthlessly lay siege to the Aussie batting line up and this led to the effectively ending of Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Steve Rogers' Test careers.
The Ashes were not the greatest test of skill and talent. It was spectacular in its own way and the aggressive nature of both teams led to a thrilling but short series. 18 days of fast paced cricket. A series where batsmen were never really safe and where bowlers rarely were in full control. An expected war of attrition did not occur and it was in the sessions of bowling brilliance that England won the series. A lot of people will rightly mention the Root drop in Cardiff as the moment England wrestled back control. With the introduction of Trevor Bayliss, the positive mind-set was put into the England team and the doubts crept into the Australian side.
The home side were victorious and this series win will help them with their confidence going in to two tough tours in the winter. Captain Cook has shown courage and fight and with a few changes to the team, England can build a successful team.
Australia themselves are still a formidable team and I would not put it past them to go on a long winning streak again, especially with their bowling attack and number one test batsmen in Steve Smith.
Then again, after the summer we have had, I think we have learnt to expect the unexpected.