August 25, 2009

It was the allrounders wot won it

Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann made a telling impact on the series with both bat and ball
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Sometimes, in a team game, a team can be too good for the good of the game. The 2006-07 Australia side, stuffed with all-time greats bursting for vengeance, were like that. The Ashes series that they won 5-0 delivered excellence without excitement. This one, on the other hand, delivered excitement without excellence.

The Test championship, which has relegated them from first to fourth, has been harsh on the Aussies, but fair. They have plunged from the highest heights to mid-table middlingness. The way they played the second half of this series was like their last two years in microcosm. In saving the Edgbaston Test and winning at Headingley, they showed great qualities - grit, resourcefulness, disciplined skill. But when they lost the toss at The Oval, and made one of the great selection howlers by leaving out their spinner, they were ordinary again. Meanwhile England, who bob up and down almost mechanically, like kids on a seaside bungee-trampoline, managed to find their feet and their form again at the critical moment. They didn't even get vertigo - though they were flirting with it when Andrew Flintoff produced that run-out. Flintoff's throw from wide mid-on, a position he had seldom wandered into in an 11-year Test career, was inspired and inspiring, and it settled not only England's nerves, but the series.

As a contest, the 2009 Ashes were terrific: beautifully balanced, always absorbing, packed with drama. The upper hand went first to Australia, then England, then Australia, then England. In a most unexpected twist, it was Australia who collapsed the most - three times in the first innings of the last four Tests. The pundits kept harping on about the century count, which was 7-1 to Australia after four Tests and 8-2 in the end. Hardly anyone noticed the five-for count, which was 4-2 to England. And five-fors do more to win matches, for the simple reason that they take out half the opposition. A rare five-for from Flintoff sealed one England victory; a less rare one from Stuart Broad set up the other - but it was very rare indeed in its suddenness, its precision, its Martin Bicknell movement and economy. Broad's 5 for 37 made his 6 for 91 look like 1 for 128.

It was significant that both England's key spells came from allrounders. The other stat the pundits kept citing was the one showing that all the leading wicket-takers and most of the leading run-scorers in the series were Australian. To look at these figures, which we got the chance to do a hundred times on Sky, you'd have thought that Andrew Strauss was fighting a lone hand. He was, to an extent - but only in the top order. England's bottom half were very handy. In 14 appearances the men at seven, eight and nine (Flintoff, Broad and Swann) made as many runs between them as two, three and four or five (Cook, Bopara and Collingwood), and they got them with more verve. England's second-biggest boundary-hitter, after Strauss, was Broad.

Australia had allrounders in their squad - Andrew McDonald, Shane Watson, arguably Mitchell Johnson - but they didn't have any on the pitch. McDonald was ignored, and Watson, while shining as a makeshift opener, was horribly rusty with the ball. Johnson had made stacks of runs in South Africa, but he mostly flailed and failed here. Brett Lee was missed for his runs as well as his reverse swing, and Andrew Symonds was missed even more. Australia's shortage of allrounders, their Achilles heel even in the glory years, meant that England simply had more players on their side. The Aussies had seven batsmen and four bowlers; England had nine batsmen and five bowlers. And unlike in the Warne-McGrath era, Australia's four bowlers didn't include anyone who could lop off a tail.

If England had marginally the better bowlers in the series, it was mainly because they had more of them. Just as Michael Vaughan did four years ago with Matthew Hoggard and Ashley Giles, Strauss could afford to forget about a bowler for a session or two. Collingwood, who could have been very handy at The Oval with his dustbowl cutters, was only given one over. It was the allrounders, and the five-fors, wot won it, as well as Strauss's own immense performance.

Hardly anyone noticed the five-for count, which was 4-2 to England. And five-fors do more to win matches, for the simple reason that they take out half the opposition

The victory was so slender, and clouded with qualifiers, that there has been little euphoria, and rightly so. Nobody thinks England are the finished article. Their most pressing need, as they go into a tougher series in South Africa, is to grow some more leaders.

If Strauss had been injured this summer, England would have been up the creek without a rudder. His vice-captain in the Caribbean last winter, implausibly, was Cook. Flintoff was a leader, but he has gone now. Collingwood is a solid senior pro, team man and ball-polisher, but even captaining the Twenty20 team seems to be beyond him. And he and Cook are playing for their places now, or should be. If a Martian had looked down on England at The Oval, they would have assumed the vice-captain was Jonathan Trott, who came in and played the Michael Clarke role to perfection. He was a senior player from day one; he anchored the second innings, grinding Australia down, while the allrounders had fun at the other end. Full marks to the selectors for picking him - but at the same time, no marks to them for allowing a bunch of less commanding figures to become automatic choices.

With Kevin Pietersen on the sidelines, the phrase "embarrassment of riches" has been used to describe the batting. Embarrassment, yes; riches, hardly. Only three batsmen have done enough to be inked in for the first Test in Centurion in December - Strauss, Pietersen and Trott. And in picking the squad, the selectors must give Strauss what Vaughan had: several people who can drive the car. If they won't pick the best batsman in the country, Mark Ramprakash - and they won't - the selectors should at least pick men who can think for themselves and run a show, like Robert Key. England started this Ashes series with the wrong opening pair, a brittle middle order, and an attack that was apt to be flaky; they ended it that way too. Somehow, in between, they managed to beat Australia. Three cheers - and no delusions.

Tim de Lisle is the editor of Intelligent Life magazine and a former editor of Wisden

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Chris_Howard on August 27, 2009, 1:42 GMT

    Here's a very simple stat for those looking for a statistical explanation: the team with the higher first innings won (or nearly won) all five Tests. Australia had three disastrous first innings collapses and lost the series. Someone else asked for the *missing stat*. Try this one: Why did Australia lose despite scoring heaps more centuries? Only ONE of their eight centuries was scored in a match they won. Whereas England scored two in their wins, that is, both their centuries for the whole series. Thus the centuries count in victories favours England 2 to 1. (Australia's breakdown of centuries was 1 in victories, 2 in losses, and a whopping 5 in draws.) It could be argued they nearly won one of those draws, which would have made their centuries in victories look much better. However, they didn't, so those centuries proved futile. As England's batting showed, it's not always about big totals, but when you do makes centuries, don't waste them

  • JKSFB on August 26, 2009, 21:08 GMT

    Excellent analysis and love the 1st paragraph. Could not have been more true! As for Eng's next assignment, I think Paul Collingwood is the 1st one under the scanner. Cook played a decent knock at Lord's and has age on his side. Plus he never looked troubled by short bowling (which is more than what you could say abt Bell, C'wood, Bopara); a trait that should serve him well in SA. Eng should also be worried abt the performance of anderson and onions in unhelpful bowling conditions, especially since they do not have the force of Flintoff anymore. That alone should be enough to get Harmison into the side....Swann and Broad performed well above expectations, especially with the bat! Perhaps that was the crucial factor in Eng's victory

  • atuljain_1981 on August 26, 2009, 14:26 GMT

    to think ramprakash is the man for england is a bit silly coz u want someone who has long shelf life and there i presume rob key is a far better choice.

  • rohanbala on August 26, 2009, 0:49 GMT

    bingohaley, Its not my intention to hint the superiority of India in any manner, but only to highlight the mediocrity of the England team while facing to their spinners (away from home).

  • Otautahi on August 25, 2009, 22:47 GMT

    How about this Tom.... When Dan Vettori takes 2 wickets over the next few days, he'll become the 8th person into the Genuine All Rounders club (3,000 runs ; 300 wickets). At present there are 7 members from 7 different countries - Hadlee, Imran, Kapil, Botham, Pollock, Vaas & Warne. Wouldn't Aussie have loved to have had Warne playing in this series.......and have they had any allrounders in the last 25 years who could have goten close to this list apart from him ?? How many notables got/getting close to this list? Flintoff, Cairns, Kallis........not an Aussie in sight. Had it not been for many injuries, England would have had Botham and Flintoff in this exclusive club; South Africa would have Pollock and Kallis; New Zealand would have Hadlee, Cairns, and Vettori.

  • m0se on August 25, 2009, 22:21 GMT

    I think the article is using the analysis method, "after dismissing all the evidence to the contrary, our theory works." The statistics do point to a major anomaly. I did watch bits and pieces of the Ashes and all I saw were English bowlers laboring and being ineffective. For example, in the final test, I watched until the rain break where the Aussies were 80 for no loss. The English bowlers didn't look like getting a wicket after the initial few LBW appeals against Watson. Then, I check the scorecard in the evening, and it's 160 all out. And, it's not the only test match in the Ashes this has happened. Maybe it's the propensity of the Aussies to collapse, but I still feel we are missing a vital statistics that really clarifies why the Aussies lost the Ashes. Maybe the English also collapsed but the lower middle order always buffered the fall. But for the Aussies, without Symonds and Gilchrist, a minor collapse jack-knifed right to the bottom.

  • KiwiPom on August 25, 2009, 21:58 GMT

    Totally agree with your basic analysis. Australia's problem was that their attack allowed England's tail to make too many runs. Over their great years this has been Australia's greatest strength - bundling it out for next to nothing. My only disagreement is over Alistair Cook. On a number of occasions he made some runs when few others did. I think he has both the temperament and the bread and butter shots to be a regular England opener for years to come. Wih Cook you can see what he needs to work on. That's a big plus. With others it's their all-round game - not quite up to it. I'm predicting he will come through it and make stacks of test runs when he fully matures his game. However he can't do it if he isn't picked. Stick with him please!

  • oldmanofsea on August 25, 2009, 18:09 GMT

    All the talk about Australia played better overall cricket becuse they have better stats than England dont mean anything. For instance, a player can lose a tennis match 6-0, 6-7, 6-7, 6-0, 6-7. That doesnt mean tht he was the better player (because he won more games). What the stats tell you is that Australia had a couple of huge games (Leeds and Cardiff) when England were nowhere to be seen. But in the close game that mattered most, England were better than Astralia.

  • CricketingStargazer on August 25, 2009, 16:23 GMT

    The issue with Stuart Broad was that in the first three Tests he had forgotten everything that he had learnt in the Caribbean about bowling the right length and line. After 3 Tests his place was under severe threat, but he was mature enough to learn the lessons and correct the mistakes. Credit to the selectors for persisting with him when many would have dropped him and credit to Stuart Broad for knowing what to do. However, as he knows, he has to maintain this development in South Africa. It's well worth remembering that after 10 Tests Andrew Flintoff had 7 wickets @ 66 & 255 runs @ 15.9 (Broad had 26 wkts @ 45 & 373 runs @ 34). After 22 Tests the contrast is almost as stark: Flintoff 33 wickets @ 51, Broad 64 wickets @ 36; Flintoff 683 runs @ 20.7, Broad 767 runs @ 30.7.

    At the same stages of his Test career, Stuart Broad has had returns that far outshine Andrew Flintoff's. That is the talent of the lad and the reason why the selectors are investing in his development.

  • stumpandbail on August 25, 2009, 15:17 GMT

    Xcellent comment on the stat other pundits were mentioning. all the century they scored never matters if there bowlers arent doing the job, its the bowler who win test matches. lets hope Australia wud stay at this standard for some time so the cricket world can see gud competetion for the pennacle

  • Chris_Howard on August 27, 2009, 1:42 GMT

    Here's a very simple stat for those looking for a statistical explanation: the team with the higher first innings won (or nearly won) all five Tests. Australia had three disastrous first innings collapses and lost the series. Someone else asked for the *missing stat*. Try this one: Why did Australia lose despite scoring heaps more centuries? Only ONE of their eight centuries was scored in a match they won. Whereas England scored two in their wins, that is, both their centuries for the whole series. Thus the centuries count in victories favours England 2 to 1. (Australia's breakdown of centuries was 1 in victories, 2 in losses, and a whopping 5 in draws.) It could be argued they nearly won one of those draws, which would have made their centuries in victories look much better. However, they didn't, so those centuries proved futile. As England's batting showed, it's not always about big totals, but when you do makes centuries, don't waste them

  • JKSFB on August 26, 2009, 21:08 GMT

    Excellent analysis and love the 1st paragraph. Could not have been more true! As for Eng's next assignment, I think Paul Collingwood is the 1st one under the scanner. Cook played a decent knock at Lord's and has age on his side. Plus he never looked troubled by short bowling (which is more than what you could say abt Bell, C'wood, Bopara); a trait that should serve him well in SA. Eng should also be worried abt the performance of anderson and onions in unhelpful bowling conditions, especially since they do not have the force of Flintoff anymore. That alone should be enough to get Harmison into the side....Swann and Broad performed well above expectations, especially with the bat! Perhaps that was the crucial factor in Eng's victory

  • atuljain_1981 on August 26, 2009, 14:26 GMT

    to think ramprakash is the man for england is a bit silly coz u want someone who has long shelf life and there i presume rob key is a far better choice.

  • rohanbala on August 26, 2009, 0:49 GMT

    bingohaley, Its not my intention to hint the superiority of India in any manner, but only to highlight the mediocrity of the England team while facing to their spinners (away from home).

  • Otautahi on August 25, 2009, 22:47 GMT

    How about this Tom.... When Dan Vettori takes 2 wickets over the next few days, he'll become the 8th person into the Genuine All Rounders club (3,000 runs ; 300 wickets). At present there are 7 members from 7 different countries - Hadlee, Imran, Kapil, Botham, Pollock, Vaas & Warne. Wouldn't Aussie have loved to have had Warne playing in this series.......and have they had any allrounders in the last 25 years who could have goten close to this list apart from him ?? How many notables got/getting close to this list? Flintoff, Cairns, Kallis........not an Aussie in sight. Had it not been for many injuries, England would have had Botham and Flintoff in this exclusive club; South Africa would have Pollock and Kallis; New Zealand would have Hadlee, Cairns, and Vettori.

  • m0se on August 25, 2009, 22:21 GMT

    I think the article is using the analysis method, "after dismissing all the evidence to the contrary, our theory works." The statistics do point to a major anomaly. I did watch bits and pieces of the Ashes and all I saw were English bowlers laboring and being ineffective. For example, in the final test, I watched until the rain break where the Aussies were 80 for no loss. The English bowlers didn't look like getting a wicket after the initial few LBW appeals against Watson. Then, I check the scorecard in the evening, and it's 160 all out. And, it's not the only test match in the Ashes this has happened. Maybe it's the propensity of the Aussies to collapse, but I still feel we are missing a vital statistics that really clarifies why the Aussies lost the Ashes. Maybe the English also collapsed but the lower middle order always buffered the fall. But for the Aussies, without Symonds and Gilchrist, a minor collapse jack-knifed right to the bottom.

  • KiwiPom on August 25, 2009, 21:58 GMT

    Totally agree with your basic analysis. Australia's problem was that their attack allowed England's tail to make too many runs. Over their great years this has been Australia's greatest strength - bundling it out for next to nothing. My only disagreement is over Alistair Cook. On a number of occasions he made some runs when few others did. I think he has both the temperament and the bread and butter shots to be a regular England opener for years to come. Wih Cook you can see what he needs to work on. That's a big plus. With others it's their all-round game - not quite up to it. I'm predicting he will come through it and make stacks of test runs when he fully matures his game. However he can't do it if he isn't picked. Stick with him please!

  • oldmanofsea on August 25, 2009, 18:09 GMT

    All the talk about Australia played better overall cricket becuse they have better stats than England dont mean anything. For instance, a player can lose a tennis match 6-0, 6-7, 6-7, 6-0, 6-7. That doesnt mean tht he was the better player (because he won more games). What the stats tell you is that Australia had a couple of huge games (Leeds and Cardiff) when England were nowhere to be seen. But in the close game that mattered most, England were better than Astralia.

  • CricketingStargazer on August 25, 2009, 16:23 GMT

    The issue with Stuart Broad was that in the first three Tests he had forgotten everything that he had learnt in the Caribbean about bowling the right length and line. After 3 Tests his place was under severe threat, but he was mature enough to learn the lessons and correct the mistakes. Credit to the selectors for persisting with him when many would have dropped him and credit to Stuart Broad for knowing what to do. However, as he knows, he has to maintain this development in South Africa. It's well worth remembering that after 10 Tests Andrew Flintoff had 7 wickets @ 66 & 255 runs @ 15.9 (Broad had 26 wkts @ 45 & 373 runs @ 34). After 22 Tests the contrast is almost as stark: Flintoff 33 wickets @ 51, Broad 64 wickets @ 36; Flintoff 683 runs @ 20.7, Broad 767 runs @ 30.7.

    At the same stages of his Test career, Stuart Broad has had returns that far outshine Andrew Flintoff's. That is the talent of the lad and the reason why the selectors are investing in his development.

  • stumpandbail on August 25, 2009, 15:17 GMT

    Xcellent comment on the stat other pundits were mentioning. all the century they scored never matters if there bowlers arent doing the job, its the bowler who win test matches. lets hope Australia wud stay at this standard for some time so the cricket world can see gud competetion for the pennacle

  • geedubnz on August 25, 2009, 14:15 GMT

    I agree to an extent with what was written, but while Broad, Swann and Flintoff produced good displays at vital moments they were horribly inconsistent producing poor performances when the heat was on - particularly at headingly, as a result their series averages cloud the matchwinning performances they did put in. Had England lost the ashes you could easily blame the same players for their inconsistency. As far as Australia are concerned, it's clearly important to have good allrounders, but if you don't have them then picking mediocre ones (like McDonald) is not a substitute - he should never have toured and perhaps if they had had an extra batsman (like Hodge) they wouldn't have had to bet on makeshift combinations (like Watson - albeit a bet that worked) in the top order and perhaps the likes of Hussey might have felt more pressure to perform knowing their was a credible replacement in the wings.

  • bingohaley on August 25, 2009, 13:49 GMT

    Spot on! A big difference between the sides was the way in which the bottom half batted for England! England has resilient batters all the way down, and Broad probably a genuine all-rounder in the mould of Botham.

    BTW it appears that rohanbala did not read the article. He merely dropped in to leave an opinion about how good India is.

  • SidArthur on August 25, 2009, 12:44 GMT

    Aussies lost to a much inferior team of because they choked at the big moment. Ponting, Hussey and Clarke all failed because they were overcome by the magnitude of the moment - they knew they HAD to make some runs or lose the Ashes, and so they failed. The English bats of course would have done the same thing in the same situation. As in all things, the media goes with the winner at the time, regardless of the real reasons.

  • MartinAmber on August 25, 2009, 12:24 GMT

    The misleading headline doesn't do sufficient credit to the quality of the analysis. The points are all valid, but how quickly people forget! Broad was hopeless for the best part of three Tests, and his 6-91 was both flattering and futile. Swann's fifty at Leeds was similarly meaningless. And Flintoff winning man of the match at Lord's still rankles for those of us who think a Test lasts for five days rather than one morning. Regarding the lack of an all-rounder being Australia's so-called "Achilles heel": this made me laugh for two reasons. 1) During the 20 years for which they were the first or second best team in the world, one of their six batsmen (Border, the Waughs, Clarke) also took occasional wickets, though a fifth bowler was usually superfluous because of the quality of their attack. 2) Wasn't Adam Gilchrist an all-rounder who almost single-handedly revolutionised the nature of lower-order batting in Tests?

  • srtt on August 25, 2009, 12:01 GMT

    Too much is being made of England's victory. They were the better team...but to me that says more about the poor cricket AUS played rather than the good cricket ENG have played.

    AUS needed 1 wicket in the 1st Test that would have drawn the series and if they had put even a half decent score in the 1st innings of the 5th Test the series would have no doubt had a significantly different scoreline...

    England's obsession with allrounders will polute the balance of their Test side. Surely it will be exposed against more established and formidable Test opponents...SA next you say???

  • Nerk on August 25, 2009, 11:20 GMT

    what is the obsession in world cricket with all rounders. In the search for an all rounder, Australia picked Andrew Macdonald over much more qualified batsmen and bowlers. Macdonald is a good cricketer, granted, but is he a test cricketer. Australia dominated without an all rounder, as the Windies did before them. All rounders should only be selected if they can bat and bowl at test level, not because every team apparently needs an all rounder.

  • rohanbala on August 25, 2009, 11:18 GMT

    The English Team is no doubt strong and will be unbeatable only on home soil.. Send the same team to India and you will see all the batsmen getting out, dangling the bat suspiciously when facing the Indian spinners.

  • CricketingStargazer on August 25, 2009, 10:17 GMT

    dutchy, maybe the term "all rounder" is perjorative in this sense. Broad, Swann and Anderson all got useful runs at different times. None of them would be selected as an all-rounder in the classic sense of being worth a place in the side for both batting and bowling, but would be in the modern sense of a specialist bowler whose batting is a valuable bonus. In this, Ashley Giles was the modern England precedent in that he was a "specialist number 8": a bowler, who could be relied upon to score 20s and 30s regularly (and the occasional 50), either marshalling the tail into prolonged resistance, or supporting any specialist bat who had hung around in counter-attacking.

    As Australia found time and time in this series, the difference between the sides was the way that the low-order batsmen ensured that their own efforts as bowlers would not be wasted. There is nothing that breaks a side's spirit more than to dismiss the top 6 cheaply and then see the tail add 100, 150 or even 200 vital

  • rockiniboepip on August 25, 2009, 9:36 GMT

    A nice article.. The weakness is clearly Cook for me, one good score in the series for him - and that was on a Lords road with Johnson bowling worse than club 2nd team standard. His defense is poor - you watch him get out - both feet pointing back towards the umpire - if we had a french cricket team he'd be perfect. I actually have more faith in Broad keeping out the good ones, his technique is awesome, he will bat 7 no problem. Cook has never really had to prove himself at county level, it is time he did because some of his dismissals have been you've been framed material.

  • dutchy on August 25, 2009, 8:08 GMT

    England's obsession with allrounders - as exemplified by this piece - has been a cancer on their game, and is the main reason why their test side continually under-performs. Their batting is forever collapsing, their bowling underperforming. Has Tim forgotten that England won more without Flintoff than with him?

    England got away with it this time, as in 2005, because their lower order managed to fire . But if they insist on playing all rounders they will find they will run into the problems they did 2005-2009 eg if Prior doesn't score runs do you drop him like Jones? Is Broad judged on runs or wickets?

    To say the Australian team of the last ten years - one of the greatest in history - had an "achilles heel" because they didn't have an allrounder is absurd and "If England had marginally the better bowlers in the series, it was mainly because they had more of them" silly.

    The difference was that England's players came through at key moments - Australia's didn't. Not allrounders

  • CricketingStargazer on August 25, 2009, 7:59 GMT

    An excellent summary. England won, despite everything because Australia piled on hundreds when it no longer mattered and collapsed horribly when it did. One wonders if the Headingley collapse by England would have happened if the players had not had their sleep so severely disrupted. In contrast, Australia, for all their run-scoring, collapsed like a card house and were left playing catch-up in three of the five matches.

    At the end of the day, however flaky the England attack, someone always got stuck in. All the bowlers, bar Monty, had at least one big performance yes, even Steve Harmison, who ensured on the last afternoon at The Oval that the Australian tail would not get a chance to see if Monday's forecast rain might just help save them.

    The side has come forward a long way from 3 times in 6 Tests last winter letting victory slip away at the death. They know though that they can do much better & should only improve. I am not so sure that Australia can have the same confidence

  • Jeremy68 on August 25, 2009, 7:46 GMT

    Congratulations Tim, your analysis is spot on. I also back Chris_Howard's points about the Australian selectors blinking, and would add that the bitter harvest reaped at the The Oval was sewn as long ago as against India at the WACA last year. This is our comeuppance for not making hard decisions about our spinners and fielding a balanced attack, and has bitten us in the bum in the most painful way. The successul South African tour gave us the false impression that we could remain in denial in a post-Warne era, and forget that in all previous eras of Australian Test strength an at least serviceable spinner was always present, and often a great one. England were rewarded for maintaining faith in Swann, while since early last year we have treated our own spinners, individually and collectively, rather shabbily. Our Oval selections were fundamentally risk-averse, and in truth born of a somewhat understandable lack of faith in our seamers in the first three tests.

  • Chris_Howard on August 25, 2009, 6:59 GMT

    Tim, something else that everyone seems to have missed is England's ability to regroup. Their two victories came directly after their two worst Tests (Cardiff and Leeds). That's really quite impressive.

  • Chris_Howard on August 25, 2009, 6:51 GMT

    In the end it all came down to one match, The Fifth Test. The Ashes would be won or lost in that one last Test. A good toss to win, indeed, but Australia still managed to restrict England to a score that both teams exceeded in their second digs. This supposedly on a minefield where batting would get harder. In the end, the Ashes were won by the selectors with the courage to make the brave decision. Play a debutant in the most crucial match in four years? England. All Australia had to do was decide which quick to leave out for their spinner, but they couldn't. They didn't have the courage to make that decision. (In reality, they could have easily left out Hussey.) All the talk from the Aussies has been that it wasn't leaving out the spinner that cost them, it was the 160 in the first innings. Have to disagree. England would have only made 250 if Australia played Hauritz, and then it would have all been very different. The Australian selectors blinked, and lost.

  • proteasfan99 on August 25, 2009, 5:44 GMT

    Good analysis... i think that Cook is a good opener that should be given the same pressure AB got from his captain and coach....he should mature, no doubt about his class, i dont think the opening combination was wrong....Threscothick's unavailability leaves no good opener in the country....as for the rest of the mid order, Trott has shown the world, Collingwood should start the S.A series, he is a proven man but should prove or risk his place...i think if kevin is back, the team shud read...strauss, cook, collingwood, pietersen, trott, prior, broad, swann, harmisson, sidebottom and anderson unless another all rounder can come to block a long tail...Broad n Swann are growing as players nice to see but being a proteas fan...i promise england the tour of S.A wont be as easy as they had it in the ashes

  • Arunkr on August 25, 2009, 4:20 GMT

    Tim, What a beautiful analysis. Yes everyone keeps talking about the century not the five for's all the matches the Aus lost were due to devastating spells from England Bowlers. Aus just managed one that was in Headingley. The other key point was the lower order resistance from England. They robbed Aus of a victory in Cardiff, shifted momentum in rest of the matches, trimmed down leads. Aus could polish them off quickly only in headingley that too only in the first innings. One wishes Gillespie, Shane warne, or Brett lee were around to bolster the lower order of Aus the same way. The other defining factor being the first innings collapses from Aus. In three of them they promptly lost two of the matches and managed to save one. In Steve Waugh days the collapses would still occur but not in three matches out of five. That too when you dont have Warne or Mc Grath to inflict the same on opposition. Though Aus were appearing to be dominant through out theydidnt turn up at key moments

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  • Arunkr on August 25, 2009, 4:20 GMT

    Tim, What a beautiful analysis. Yes everyone keeps talking about the century not the five for's all the matches the Aus lost were due to devastating spells from England Bowlers. Aus just managed one that was in Headingley. The other key point was the lower order resistance from England. They robbed Aus of a victory in Cardiff, shifted momentum in rest of the matches, trimmed down leads. Aus could polish them off quickly only in headingley that too only in the first innings. One wishes Gillespie, Shane warne, or Brett lee were around to bolster the lower order of Aus the same way. The other defining factor being the first innings collapses from Aus. In three of them they promptly lost two of the matches and managed to save one. In Steve Waugh days the collapses would still occur but not in three matches out of five. That too when you dont have Warne or Mc Grath to inflict the same on opposition. Though Aus were appearing to be dominant through out theydidnt turn up at key moments

  • proteasfan99 on August 25, 2009, 5:44 GMT

    Good analysis... i think that Cook is a good opener that should be given the same pressure AB got from his captain and coach....he should mature, no doubt about his class, i dont think the opening combination was wrong....Threscothick's unavailability leaves no good opener in the country....as for the rest of the mid order, Trott has shown the world, Collingwood should start the S.A series, he is a proven man but should prove or risk his place...i think if kevin is back, the team shud read...strauss, cook, collingwood, pietersen, trott, prior, broad, swann, harmisson, sidebottom and anderson unless another all rounder can come to block a long tail...Broad n Swann are growing as players nice to see but being a proteas fan...i promise england the tour of S.A wont be as easy as they had it in the ashes

  • Chris_Howard on August 25, 2009, 6:51 GMT

    In the end it all came down to one match, The Fifth Test. The Ashes would be won or lost in that one last Test. A good toss to win, indeed, but Australia still managed to restrict England to a score that both teams exceeded in their second digs. This supposedly on a minefield where batting would get harder. In the end, the Ashes were won by the selectors with the courage to make the brave decision. Play a debutant in the most crucial match in four years? England. All Australia had to do was decide which quick to leave out for their spinner, but they couldn't. They didn't have the courage to make that decision. (In reality, they could have easily left out Hussey.) All the talk from the Aussies has been that it wasn't leaving out the spinner that cost them, it was the 160 in the first innings. Have to disagree. England would have only made 250 if Australia played Hauritz, and then it would have all been very different. The Australian selectors blinked, and lost.

  • Chris_Howard on August 25, 2009, 6:59 GMT

    Tim, something else that everyone seems to have missed is England's ability to regroup. Their two victories came directly after their two worst Tests (Cardiff and Leeds). That's really quite impressive.

  • Jeremy68 on August 25, 2009, 7:46 GMT

    Congratulations Tim, your analysis is spot on. I also back Chris_Howard's points about the Australian selectors blinking, and would add that the bitter harvest reaped at the The Oval was sewn as long ago as against India at the WACA last year. This is our comeuppance for not making hard decisions about our spinners and fielding a balanced attack, and has bitten us in the bum in the most painful way. The successul South African tour gave us the false impression that we could remain in denial in a post-Warne era, and forget that in all previous eras of Australian Test strength an at least serviceable spinner was always present, and often a great one. England were rewarded for maintaining faith in Swann, while since early last year we have treated our own spinners, individually and collectively, rather shabbily. Our Oval selections were fundamentally risk-averse, and in truth born of a somewhat understandable lack of faith in our seamers in the first three tests.

  • CricketingStargazer on August 25, 2009, 7:59 GMT

    An excellent summary. England won, despite everything because Australia piled on hundreds when it no longer mattered and collapsed horribly when it did. One wonders if the Headingley collapse by England would have happened if the players had not had their sleep so severely disrupted. In contrast, Australia, for all their run-scoring, collapsed like a card house and were left playing catch-up in three of the five matches.

    At the end of the day, however flaky the England attack, someone always got stuck in. All the bowlers, bar Monty, had at least one big performance yes, even Steve Harmison, who ensured on the last afternoon at The Oval that the Australian tail would not get a chance to see if Monday's forecast rain might just help save them.

    The side has come forward a long way from 3 times in 6 Tests last winter letting victory slip away at the death. They know though that they can do much better & should only improve. I am not so sure that Australia can have the same confidence

  • dutchy on August 25, 2009, 8:08 GMT

    England's obsession with allrounders - as exemplified by this piece - has been a cancer on their game, and is the main reason why their test side continually under-performs. Their batting is forever collapsing, their bowling underperforming. Has Tim forgotten that England won more without Flintoff than with him?

    England got away with it this time, as in 2005, because their lower order managed to fire . But if they insist on playing all rounders they will find they will run into the problems they did 2005-2009 eg if Prior doesn't score runs do you drop him like Jones? Is Broad judged on runs or wickets?

    To say the Australian team of the last ten years - one of the greatest in history - had an "achilles heel" because they didn't have an allrounder is absurd and "If England had marginally the better bowlers in the series, it was mainly because they had more of them" silly.

    The difference was that England's players came through at key moments - Australia's didn't. Not allrounders

  • rockiniboepip on August 25, 2009, 9:36 GMT

    A nice article.. The weakness is clearly Cook for me, one good score in the series for him - and that was on a Lords road with Johnson bowling worse than club 2nd team standard. His defense is poor - you watch him get out - both feet pointing back towards the umpire - if we had a french cricket team he'd be perfect. I actually have more faith in Broad keeping out the good ones, his technique is awesome, he will bat 7 no problem. Cook has never really had to prove himself at county level, it is time he did because some of his dismissals have been you've been framed material.

  • CricketingStargazer on August 25, 2009, 10:17 GMT

    dutchy, maybe the term "all rounder" is perjorative in this sense. Broad, Swann and Anderson all got useful runs at different times. None of them would be selected as an all-rounder in the classic sense of being worth a place in the side for both batting and bowling, but would be in the modern sense of a specialist bowler whose batting is a valuable bonus. In this, Ashley Giles was the modern England precedent in that he was a "specialist number 8": a bowler, who could be relied upon to score 20s and 30s regularly (and the occasional 50), either marshalling the tail into prolonged resistance, or supporting any specialist bat who had hung around in counter-attacking.

    As Australia found time and time in this series, the difference between the sides was the way that the low-order batsmen ensured that their own efforts as bowlers would not be wasted. There is nothing that breaks a side's spirit more than to dismiss the top 6 cheaply and then see the tail add 100, 150 or even 200 vital

  • rohanbala on August 25, 2009, 11:18 GMT

    The English Team is no doubt strong and will be unbeatable only on home soil.. Send the same team to India and you will see all the batsmen getting out, dangling the bat suspiciously when facing the Indian spinners.