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The Ashes aftermath

England's marks out of ten

Andrew Miller

September 13, 2005

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Andrew Flintoff: a colossus © Getty Images
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10
Andrew Flintoff
Simply immense. A true sporting hero in the absolute sense. Inspiration, perspiration, even desperation - they all melded into one when he was involved with the ball, and there was no more stirring sight than the 18-over spell at The Oval with which he confirmed England's supremacy in the closing stages of the series. His Edgbaston heroics had clawed the series back from the brink; now he closed it out in a final push for the line. Genial and deadly in equal measures, he has just become the biggest star in the game.

9
Simon Jones
The revelation of the summer, Jones's absence at The Oval was unsettling for team and fans alike. No-one else enjoyed such a matchless command of the old ball, and with him in the ranks, England had a licence to attack, attack, and attack some more, in the knowledge that there was always a fresh seamer around the corner. Driven by the memories of his agonising first day of Ashes cricket - at Brisbane almost three years ago - he found an extra gear that few had realised he possessed.

8
Kevin Pietersen
He wasn't going to be kept out of the limelight for long. For a man whose approach is so fuelled by confidence, Pietersen's lustre seemed to be fading as the series wore on, as the indignity of those six dropped catches began to sink in. But two early let-offs at The Oval - including a critical reprieve from none other than Shane Warne - and the rest has already taken its place in history. It's hard to believe he was a debutant before this series. He already seems to have been around forever.

Marcus Trescothick
Still no century in 15 Tests against Australia, but invaluable contributions to each and every match of the series. His attitude was every bit as important as his accumulation. After fulfilling every prophecy in the book by becoming Glenn McGrath's 500th wicket at Lord's, he refused to be cowed, and carried on slugging the cover-drives and playing his own - oft-maligned - game. The most intimidating left-handed opener of the series, which is saying something.



Matthew Hoggard: king of the swingers © Getty Images
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7
Matthew Hoggard
The king of the swingers and England's shop-floor steward. Hoggard took a while to find his feet in the series, aside from a rash of first-ball strikes, but as the tension mounted and series fatigue set in, Hoggard's legendary stamina came to the fore. His 11-over three-wicket spell at Trent Bridge was another of many significant turning-points, while his 4 for 4 in 19 balls at The Oval confirmed England's superiority. But, like Giles, it was his batting that will linger in the memory - not least that cover-drive off Brett Lee.

Michael Vaughan
Desperate form in the first two Tests threatened to destabilise England's entire campaign, but turned his game around after that infamous double let-off at Old Trafford, and recorded his fourth century in eight Tests against the Aussies. Never quite at the peak of his powers thereafter, but how much of that was down to the captaincy is anyone's guess. In that department he was simply immense - planned, proactive and ruthless from first over to last.

Andrew Strauss
Nominated as Shane Warne's bunny before the series, and duly fell to him on six occasions out of ten. But in between whiles he was a rampant rabbit, carrying on his incredible conversion-rate to record his sixth and seventh Test centuries in 17 appearances, including the performance of his career in the first innings at The Oval. Safe in the slips for the most part, he provided one of the iconic images of an epoch-making series with his soaring pluck off Adam Gilchrist at Trent Bridge.



Steve Harmison: the crucial wicket © Getty Images
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Steve Harmison
Doled out pain as if it was going out of fashion, particularly for the long-suffering Justin Langer, but after a thrilling first morning at Lord's, he found wickets to be a rarer commodity. Even so, Harmison's imprint can be found all over the series - the duelling scar that he left on Ricky Ponting's cheek; the slower ball that castled Michael Clarke at Edgbaston, and of course, the ball that brushed Kasprowicz's gloves the following morning, and made possible everything else that England achieved this summer.

Ashley Giles
For those who love an underdog, Giles's performances this summer were a triumph. Never remotely in Shane Warne's class with either ball or bat, he did his duty when a nation expected, extracting each member of the Aussie top eight at least once in the series, and providing an improbably safe pair of hands in the gully. It was his batting, however, that set him apart. His cool and collected 7 sealed victory in the nerve-shredder at Trent Bridge, while his maiden Ashes fifty staved off the fear of defeat at the last.

6
Geraint Jones
No man encapsulated the sheer terror of this series better than Jones, whose glovework veered from the ordinary to the simply awful, and yet who clung on to the chances that really, really mattered - none more important than the leg-side snatch that sealed the two-run win at Edgbaston. His impish batting was equally hit-and-miss - take Trent Bridge, for instance, in which he soared into credit with an impish 85, then plumped the depths with a horrific second-innings smear. Brrr.

5
Paul Collingwood
Only one outing in which to demonstrate his skills, and though the runs did not flow, his 14-over alliance with Pietersen was the moment that England began to believe their destiny. At 126 for 5, had he fallen early, Australia might have streamed through the breach, but with every prodded dot-ball, the nation began to emerge from behind the sofa.

4
Ian Bell
Twin half-centuries at Old Trafford looked like the start of something substantial, but sadly Bell managed just one other double-figure score in the series, and wrapped up his series with a spirit-sapping pair at The Oval. Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne were simply too wily for this most wide-eyed of rookies, but he will learn from the experience and will be backed to bounce back by a sympathetic management. One undoubted plus was the speed of his reactions at short-leg.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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