The Ashes 2010-11 January 8, 2011

New highs for England, new lows for Australia

Alastair Cook and James Anderson were the star performers in an outstanding Ashes campaign, while Australia had few memorable moments

In the end, the margin of victory was emphatic - a 3-1 series verdict, with all three wins by an innings, is more than what any England fan would have hoped for when the series began. After the Perth defeat, England were so much better than the hosts that the last two Tests were no-contests. The overall series numbers tell the story of a surprisingly one-sided contest.

  • England averaged 51.14 runs per wicket, which their is highest ever in an Ashes contest. The only other instance when they averaged more than 50 was way back in 1926, in England, when they scored 50.63 runs per wicket. Their previous highest in Australia was 43.18 in 1928.

  • Australia's average of 29.23 is their lowest in an Ashes home series since 1978, when a second-string Australian team averaged 19.17 during a 5-1 series drubbing. The last time a full-strength Australian team did worse was in 1954.

  • England scored nine hundreds, which is their highest in an Ashes series. Alastair Cook led the way with three, Jonathan Trott made two, while Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Matt Prior and Andrew Strauss contributed one each. Australia, meanwhile, struggled to convert their starts - they managed 16 fifties, but only three centuries, two by Michael Hussey and one by Brad Haddin. The last time they had such poor returns at home in an Ashes encounter was in 1990-91, in a low-scoring series which had only six hundreds in all from both teams. Australia won that one 3-0.

  • England's run-rate of 3.50 is also their highest in a series in Australia. However, in their home wins in 2005 and 2009, they scored at a better rate.

  • Australia's strike rate of more than 87 balls per wicket was their worst in a home Ashes series since 1970-71.

The key overall numbers for both teams in the series
Team Runs scored Wkts lost Average 100s/ 50s Scoring rate Bowling strike rate
England 2864 56 51.14 9/ 11 3.50 56.73
Australia 2631 90 29.23 3/ 16 3.09 87.57

Throughout the series, Australia struggled with their top-order batting. Apart from Shane Watson and Michael Hussey, none of their specialist batsmen had series to remember. The contrast with England's batsmen is clear from the table below: while five of England's top seven averaged more than 50, Hussey was the only one to manage it for the hosts. Cook was clearly the standout player: his tally of 766 runs is fifth-highest in an Ashes series, and the second-best for England, while his series average of 127.67 is second only Don Bradman's 139.14 (among those who scored 500 runs in an Ashes series).

The only batting position where Australia completely outdid England was at the No.5 slot, where Paul Collingwood had five miserable Test matches. For Australia, on the other hand, there were no hundreds from the top four - compared to seven for England - while numbers three and four averaged less than 22. The repeated failures of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke were perhaps the biggest setbacks for Australia. Together, their No.3 and 4 batsmen had an aggregate of 364, which is Australia's lowest in a five-Test Ashes series since 1902. (Click here for Australia's batting and bowling averages, and here for England's.)

Position-wise batting stats for England and Australia
Position Eng - runs Average 100s/ 50s Aus - runs Average 100s/ 50s
Openers 1073 82.53 4/ 5 629 33.10 0/ 5
No.3 445 89.00 2/ 1 171 19.00 0/ 1
No.4 360 60.00 1/ 1 193 21.44 0/ 1
No.5 77 12.83 0/ 0 570 63.33 2/ 3
No.6 214 42.80 0/ 3 172 19.11 0/ 0
No.7 255 51.00 1/ 1 396 56.57 1/ 4

It's more of the same story in the partnership stats too: England's average partnership for the top three wickets were all more than 70, which means they were seldom under early pressure. Australia's on the other hand, were all under 40 - with the third-wicket average less than 18 - which meant they were almost always under early pressure and forced to fight rearguard battles. Hussey and Haddin fought back on a few occasions, but when they couldn't, England were all over the hosts. England had five century partnerships for the first three wickets, compared to only one for Australia.

Average partnerships for each wicket
Wicket Eng - average 100/ 50 stands Aus - average 100/ 50 stands
First 78.42 2/ 2 36.90 0/ 4
Second 95.50 2/ 0 30.67 1/ 1
Third 71.16 1/ 3 17.67 0/ 1
Fourth 30.33 1/ 0 45.55 2/ 1
Fifth 40.33 1/ 1 30.88 0/ 2
Sixth 87.80 2/ 1 60.33 1/ 2
Seventh 33.20 1/ 0 10.55 0/ 1
Eighth 36.80 1/ 0 24.11 0/ 2

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two sides, though, was the quality of their pace attacks. Four of England's fast bowlers averaged less than 35, with their main man, James Anderson, conceding only 26.04 runs per wicket. In fact, Anderson's haul of 24 wickets is the highest by an England bowler in Australia since John Snow took 31 in six Tests in 1970.

Australia's pace attack, on the other hand, was toothless in comparison. Mitchell Johnson was their leading wicket-taker, but he conceded almost 37 runs per wicket. Leave out the Perth Test, in which he was admittedly outstanding, and his bowling average shoots up to 78.67. Similarly, Peter Siddle had 14 wickets for the series, but 12 of them came in two innings via two six-wicket hauls. Ben Hilfenhaus, the other fast bowler who played at least four Tests in the series, was Australia's most economical bowler, but also their most ineffective, requiring 135 deliveries per wicket.

The kind of scores the two teams put up is a good indication of the kind of bowling attack they were up against. Australia's batsmen were always under pressure, thanks to the ability of the England fast bowlers to find seam and swing even with an old Kookaburra ball. Australia's bowlers, though, hardly got the old ball to do anything, which made it much easier for England's batsmen to go on to big scores once they made starts. The only column where Australia lead is in five-fors, but that only means England shared the wickets around and all the bowlers contributed their bits.

Also, England had Graeme Swann to block an end up and take a few wickets - he had 15 at an average of less than 40. Australia's spinners, on the other hand, were an embarrassment.

How the bowlers fared in the Ashes
  Overs Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
England - pace 626.5 70 27.64 53.7 2/ 0
Australia - pace 631.1 51 40.96 74.2 4/ 0
Aus pace, excl. Perth 531.4 31 58.03 102.9 2/ 0
England - spin 224.1 16 38.31 84.0 1/ 0
Australia - spin 186.1 5 135.80 223.4 0/ 0

The head-to-head battles

Before the 2010 Ashes, Anderson had averaged 56.17 against Australia, with 17 wickets from eight Tests; in Australia he averaged 82.60 from three Tests. One of his biggest worries in the past had been Ponting, who'd completely owned him in previous contests, averaging 204 in the duel, and getting out only once in 280 balls. This time, though, the tables turned completely, with Anderson dismissing Ponting three times in 67 balls. Ponting's average - a miserable 9.67.

Ponting versus Anderson
  Runs Balls Dismissals Average Run rate
Before the 2010 Ashes 204 280 1 204.00 4.37
In the 2010 Ashes 29 67 3 9.67 2.59

The two Australian batsmen who handled Anderson well were Hussey and Watson, who averaged more than 40 against him. Clarke, though, had no answers to Anderson and Chris Tremlett, falling to them five times at an average of less than ten.

More head-to-head contests
Batsman Bowler(s) Runs Balls Dismissals Average
Michael Hussey James Anderson 112 215 1 112.00
Shane Watson James Anderson 148 298 2 74.00
Michael Clarke Anderson & Tremlett 44 130 5 8.80

Johnson had a largely forgettable series, but the one batsman he continued to dominate was Ian Bell - he dismissed Bell twice at an average of less than 20. In previous encounters, Bell had fallen to Johnson four times at an average of 9.25. Bell had no problems against Siddle, though, not falling to him even once in 126 balls, and scoring at nearly five runs per over.

Australian bowlers v England batsmen
Batsman Bowler Runs Balls Dismissals Average
Alastair Cook Mitchell Johnson 139 173 1 139.00
Ian Bell Mitchell Johnson 39 106 2 19.50
Ian Bell Peter Siddle 104 126 0 -
Kevin Pietersen Peter Siddle 51 100 2 25.50

The final word in this series, though, must belong to Alastair Cook. The table below shows his head-to-head stats against each Australian bowler. His performance, more than any other, captures the English dominance in this Australian summer.

Alastair Cook v Australian bowlers
Bowler Runs Balls Dismissals Average Run rate
Mitchell Johnson 139 173 1 139.00 4.82
Ben Hilfenhaus 121 286 0 - 2.53
Xavier Doherty 109 200 0 - 3.27
Peter Siddle 94 242 2 47.00 2.33
Shane Watson 86 172 1 86.00 3.00
Ryan Harris 68 124 2 34.00 3.29

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo