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ESPNcricinfo evaluates the performances of Australia's players after their 5-0 Ashes whitewash
January 6, 2014
In a word, terrifying. So fast did Johnson bowl and so finely calibrated were his previously untrustworthy sights that England's batsmen and bowlers were often made to look like club cricketers who had stumbled their way into batting in Tests. Starting with a nightmarish burst on day two in Brisbane and concluding with arguably his finest new ball spells of the series at the SCG, Johnson did not slacken off at any point, a tribute as much to his long-standing physical durability as his new-found mental strength.
In any other era, Stuart MacGill would have taken 400 Test wickets. In any other Ashes, Haddin would have walked away with the man of the series award. Bailing out Australia's batting every first innings of the contest, Haddin's batting bore the fearless look of a man with life and cricket in perspective. He was also wonderfully nimble behind the stumps, claiming fewer catches than he had done in England only because edges flew more frequently to the slip fielders beside him. Michael Clarke's best lieutenant, Haddin also added much wit and wisdom to the dressing room.
Unrelenting in his effort and unwavering in his skill, Harris repeatedly punched through England's top order batting to allow Johnson to surge through the breach. Lacking only the extreme speed of Johnson, Harris is otherwise the complete fast bowler, across the series earning comparisons with anyone from Malcolm Marshall to Sir Richard Hadlee. Although aged 34 and nursing a battered body, Harris now wants to push on to the 2015 Ashes tour. Provided his fitness holds up he will be the first man chosen.
Flight, turn and bounce reaped 19 wickets for Lyon as he outshone Graeme Swann to be the most accomplished spinner on either side. Lyon's confidence grew throughout, as he benefited from the decision to have his mentor John Davison at hand for most of the series. Gave his all with the bat and in the field also, while also settling happily into his role as the team song master. Still only 26, Lyon is on his way to becoming Australia's most prolific offspinner of all.
Unobtrusive but endearingly consistent, Rogers wore down England's bowlers in the manner of the best opening batsmen. He struggled initially for batting form and rhythm, but fought out the series admirably to compile centuries in Melbourne and Sydney. Having waited so long to add to his one Test, the garland of leading run-maker over the two Ashes series was just reward for his persistence.
Unsung but indispensable, Siddle bowled spell after spell of wholehearted and questioning fast medium. His role in building up pressure by bowling "boring" was rewarded most of all by the wicket of Kevin Pietersen, England's most dangerous batsman developing a major problem with an adversary he was prone to underestimate.
Consistency is still to flow completely through Smith's batting but his best in the series was worth waiting for. First-innings centuries in Perth and Sydney, on pitches favourable to fast bowling, spoke volumes for his progress from the fidgety stripling who was directed to "come into the team and be fun" in 2010-11. Has a long Test career ahead, not only as a lively batsman but also the most likely next long-term captain of Australia.
Though his returns tapered off somewhat around the time the series was won, Clarke made critical runs when it mattered most while also leading his team with typical aggression and nifty tactics. A calculated attack on Swann in Brisbane neutered England's most critical bowling option, before his barked threat to the arm of James Anderson revealed Clarke's ruthless side to the Australian public. His catching at slip was never less than exemplary. At series end there was no prouder man in Australia.
Fitter, happier and more productive, Warner confirmed his threat to England by scoring swiftly and decisively to build Australia's leads. Reaping the rewards of pre-season work with his personal batting coach Trent Woodhill, Warner batted with a clear mind and intent to attack, no longer muddled by defensive thoughts. If this meant the occasional low score, the rewards outweighed the risks. A few more first-innings runs will further enhance his improving reputation.
A useful rather than overwhelming contributor, Watson cracked the most brutal century of the series in Perth and also played busily to help Rogers guide Australia home in Melbourne. His change bowling was invariably handy, claiming useful wickets at important times, while his problematic body held up decently to the challenge of five Test matches.
Limited in his stroke range and vulnerable outside off stump, Bailey found the going harder than many teammates. Only one half century from five Tests was a poor return, even if he contributed usefully to the team's cause at times while also catching well at short leg. The only member of the Ashes XI whose place is in doubt for the South Africa Tests.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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