So that’s it then. The Great White Hype is over.
This must rank as the worst Ashes series over. With both teams vying for underwhelming batting performances the not particularly brilliant bowling looked much better than it actually was.
This series will, in my mind, will be seen in history as a landmark of sorts. The turning point that finally killed off Test matches. When the most most vaunted rivalry in cricket history has 5 matches, none of which last into the 5th day, we have a problem, Houston. And a big one.
Notice the batting performances from Australia came largely from Chris Rogers, playing in his last few Test matches. A forgotten hero, thrown in when the young turks, the exciting talents had failed over and over. He brought in solidity. Even David Warner, one of those incendiary cricketers, tamed himself and his best performances came from hard graft rather than flashy stroke play.
On the England side, Root and Cook, played the old fashioned way. Working for their runs, not swinging their bats around and expecting edges to go for six over shortened boundaries. Very few batsmen on either side emulated these. Read almost no one.
England bowled at home. Yes, it’s a Dukes ball, it’s England. But they prepared slow pitches, but they bowled up to their usual standard. In England, their usual standard is right up there.
The Australian bowlers suffered from a lack of focus. Mitchell Starc has a lot of work ahead of him to convince anyone ( and himself ) that he can keep up the work over multiple spells over multiple sessions. Josh Hazlewood completely lost the plot. Before the series I’d heard talk of him being the new Glenn McGrath. There was none of that that we saw. Hazlewood forgot the role and bowled too wide and tried to bowl it too fast. He was the leak in the cistern, instead of the stopper he was supposed to be.
Watson: What else can I say about him that I haven’t already bitched about. He should never have been in the side. Haddin: the same. Clarke wasn’t the Clarke we’ve seen before. Now they’re all gone, I think, for good. Shame about Rogers. I don’t think we’re going to see Haddin or Watson anymore either.
The question is why did Australia play this way? The all out, “we’re going to blow them away” approach did not work. Why then did they attempt it?
Two major reasons. Johnson’s reputation from the 5-0 at home and the brouhaha that England created over their own team selection gave them the idea that England were going to rollover and all they had to do was show them Johnson and Starc. The continued non-selection of Siddle and the non-dropping of Starc had everything to do with “we’re going to scare them into submission”.
The other reason was the feeling that they could play attacking shots and get runs in England because they batted all the way down to #10. In actual fact, Clarke went AWOL, Haddin too, “Front Foot” Watson was never going to be a serious contender and Voges was lucky to be there at all. Smith faded away and the tail did not wag.
On the England side, I think they have issues with their batting too. Cook will find a way, because he is a grinder. Root is established. Bell is the Rohit Sharma of England, with slightly better credentials. England need an opener, a spinner and oh, a proper wicketkeeper, too, because Buttler is not there yet.
The England bowling is still very reliant on Anderson and Broad. Stokes may kick on to be a fixture. The supporting cast is a revolving cast of characters with a spinner who is a #8 batsman, a potential opening batsman, a frontline spinner, I’m not sure what the hell he is. England will never select Adil Rashid, because he is a legspinner and England remain suspicious of legspinner. The last legspinner to have played for England was Ian Salisbury in the 90’s. Before him Robin Hobbs was the specialist legspinner and he played his last Test in 1971. I see no reason for that thinking to change anytime soon.
What this series revealed is two mentally weak teams, both with big holes in them. It was survivor. 3-2 to England tells us that the slightly stronger of the two weak teams edged ahead.
A most boring series of underwhelming performances from both sides.