England lose, but lift the ashes

Few would have predicted anything other than an Australian victory at some stage either today or tomorrow. Despite persistent hope of some influential rain, England lost in the afternoon after an excellent day for Peter Siddle. Ultimately of course, the ashes are once again in English hands, but this result hardly inspired a carnival or party atmosphere.

It was the first innings’ failure that really let the home side down. Even if the heavens had opened and play had been abandoned for the day, Stuart Broad was in by the time the weather did turn. Both Wood and Buttler fell before the break, Siddle trapping the former before England’s wicket-keeper chipped to mid-off. Siddle then took the final two wickets this afternoon to finish with figures of 4-35. Often unfairly under-rated, the Aussie seamer once again staked his claim for another shot at wearing the baggy green. His side won by an innings and 46 runs, giving captain Michael Clarke a fitting send-off and an emphatic victory.

Whether or not England switched off for the game, subconsciously or otherwise, they were outclassed by Australia for the second time this series. When batting to save a game, or in the face of scoreboard pressure, the home side haven’t delivered. At Lord’s they crumbled up against a mammoth total, and in London’s other venue they fared no better. That will have to be addressed before the series in the UAE, as Adam Lyth’s lack of form in particular is a huge concern. Wickets might well be significantly harder to come by on the unhelpful pitches for the likes of Anderson and Broad, so England’s batsmen will have to produce more consistent displays. While on the subject, it might not be a bad idea to rest James Anderson for that tour. He has never been as effective in the sub-continent, and although he will undoubtedly be very eager to play, it might be a little more useful if he’s rested before the trip to South Africa. That is a matter for another day though, as all over England cricket fans can enjoy the return of one of sport’s smallest (literally, not metaphorically) trophies.

Joe Root was rightly awarded man of the series. He has made runs when it counted most, and has brought a calming influence with him whenever he’s wandered out to the middle. After Trent Bridge, Root replaced Smith at the top of the ICC test rankings, and quite rightly. He bats with the best technique in the side which, considering Ian Bell also makes up England’s XI, should not be understated. Perhaps the series outcome would have been entirely different if he had been held by Brad Haddin on the first morning at Cardiff. Dropped he was though, and credit to him for making the most of his chance. Stuart Broad must also be given an honourable mention, for consistently performing well throughout the summer, as must Alastair Cook. He has replied in perfect fashion to criticisms of his captaincy and his batting, and should enjoy all the plaudits he is rightly receiving now.

As for Australia, a good deal of rebuilding might well be necessary, especially in the batting department. Rogers’ departure leaves a gaping hole at the top of the order, with his replacement being presented with a rather large pair of boots to fill. Adam Voges has looked out of form for most of the series too, while Peter Nevill needs to work on leaving the ball before he can feel at ease in the side. When Clarke’s departure is added to these woes, Australia’s problems do become apparent. That said, the Aussies do tend to produce cricketing talent in all departments on a regular basis. Their replacements will certainly look to hit the ground running, and few would bet against them doing just that.

Looking forward, there are obvious issues to address for both sides. The one day series will be hotly contested as it always is, but both test sides are at a crucial stage. England are on the up, but must improve and make changes to compete in the UAE, while Australia need to bring in several new faces.

Anyway, that’s all from this year’s ashes series. England lift the urn after coming into the series as underdogs, and have provided the perfect response to that quite awful episode down under a year and a half ago. Also, I did predict a 3-2 England win…

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