The final Test of the summer started later than any other Test in the UK, in the middle of September.
Schools were back, children had started the new school year, and yet there was still the small matter of one final Ashes Test match to round off an exciting summer of cricket.
Australia, despite what they said prior to the Test beginning of being ready to win the series, played some pretty ordinary cricket.
The toss was a big talking point. Australian captain, Tim Paine admitted at the post match press conference:
I can’t read a pitch so I’m always 50-50
How can you be the captain of a side if you can’t read the pitch and make informed, educated calls at the toss?
Tim Paine may be the first Australian skipper since the legendary Steve Waugh to retain the Ashes on English soil, but Australia would be far better off without him at the helm.
His batting leaves a lot to be desired. He scored 180 runs in the series, at the low average of only 20, with only one half-century to his name. As a wicket-keeper batsman, that should not be enough to sustain your place in the final XI.
Paine’s DRS calls are also atrocious. In the final Test alone, Paine made the disastrous mistake of not reviewing both Joe Denly and Jos Buttler on Day 3.
Denly, on 54 at the time would have been out on review but went on to add another 40 runs. Jos Buttler added another 28 runs when his not out LBW call was not reviewed by Tim Paine, who was quoted as saying:
I’m getting it wrong, I don’t know what else to say. We’re having a mare (nightmare). We’ve got it wrong. It’s fast. It’s a tough job as I’ve said throughout the whole Test series. I’ve got a new respect for umpiring, particularly in Test cricket because it’s a hard job.
Paine took over the Australian captaincy in its darkest time and he did a wonderful job in trying to gain back some respect. However, his time is done and Australia need to look at a new leader.
Australia’s performance was just disappointing, and it can be said that they were tired, having been in England since the start of the World Cup in May, and they quite possibly could have had one foot on the plane going home, but the series wasn’t won, they still had a game to win.
They just didn’t have the same intensity in this Test.
England were the better team in the final Test, and deservedly won by a mammoth 135 runs. The feeling while watching the Test was that England wanted it more.
The performance of Jofra Archer was exciting. His dual with Matthew Wade late on Day 4 was gripping Test match viewing. Archer picked up the Man of the Match award for his excellent first innings figures of 6-62, his second five-for in only his fourth Test.
David Warner suffered an embarrassing series, scoring only 95 runs at the terrible average of 9.5, with three ducks to his name and only two double digit scores. Warner is now the proud new owner of the record of having the lowest Test average in a series of any opener to have played 10 innings.
His main tormentor? Stuart Broad.
Broad’s bowling to left-handers was excellent, and he managed to pick up the wicket of David Warner seven times throughout the series.
His lines and lengths were exact and relentless. South Africa are fortunate that they only have three left-handed batsmen in their recognized Test squad (Deal Elgar, Quinton de Kock & Kagiso Rabada).
When England lost the services of James Anderson on the first morning of the first Test, it was up to Broad to pick up the mantle. That he did. He enjoyed a wonderful Test summer, taking 23 wickets at 26.65.
As their bowling stocks are growing, England still have concerns over their batting, especially their opening pair. While they are still on the lookout for a genuine opener, they can at least rest assured that Rory Burns has firmly cemented his place in the side for England’s winter tours to New Zealand and South Africa.
Burns scored 390 runs throughout the series, which included two half-centuries and 1 century, at an average of 39. Considering his Test average is 30, this is a promising stat for a youngster who seems to be enjoying his time at the top of the order.
The Australian bowling was brilliant. World number 1, Pat Cummins was the leading wicket taker in the Ashes, taking 29 wickets, at the splendid average of 19.62. Fast bowlers work in pairs and Cummins was ably supported by Josh Hazlewood, who took 20 wickets at 21.85.
This Ashes series had some incredible highlights, including Ben Stokes’ match winning century at Headingly, Jofra Archer’s aggression and pace, and proper Test match batting from Marnus Labuschagne. However, this Ashes series belongs to only one player, Steve Smith.
Smith scored 774 runs at the phenomenal average of 110.57 in the seven innings he played, which included three half-centuries, two centuries and one double ton. He was simply brilliant. This was his Ashes.
It is the first time since 1972 that an Ashes series was drawn. Both teams had their struggles and it was only certain individual performances from both teams that made a difference.