Bell, Swann and Harris take the honours
If the overall numbers from five Tests were to be shown to someone who had slept through the last six weeks, he would probably give the series to England by a one-match margin: after all, England's average runs per wicket was about three runs more than Australia's. That would, in a normal series, indicate a close contest, but this series has been quite a bizarre one, and the contrast between the result - 3-0 to England - and the numbers is a good indicator of that. England scored 121 more runs, and one century, more than Australia, and took four more wickets. Australia's bowlers were more economical, but England won all the key moments in the series.
In many ways, Ian Bell was the difference between the two teams - his 562 runs at 62.44 was streets ahead of anyone else. He was the only batsman from either team to average more than 50; in fact, no other England batsman who played more than a Test averaged even 40 - Kevin Pietersen's 38.80 was the second-best. (Click here for England's batting and bowling averages.) Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, two of the mainstays of England's top order, had a series to forget: together they aggregated 570 runs in 20 innings at an average of 28.50. England's bowling was largely a three-man act, with Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Stuart Broad taking 79% of the total wickets, though Tim Bresnan made vital contributions too.
Australia's heroes were their fast bowlers. Ryan Harris, the pick of the lot, Peter Siddle and, to a lesser extent, Mitchell Starc were relentlessly accurate: each went at less than three runs per over, and offered very few freebies to England's batsmen. Harris deserved his 24 wickets; his average of 19.58 was the 36th instance of a bowler taking 20-plus wickets in an Ashes series at a sub-20 average, and the first such instance since Stuart Clark's 26 wickets at 17.03 in the 2006-07 series in Australia. The batsmen started the series poorly, but picked up as it went along and in the end finished with almost as many 50-plus scores as England's batsmen. Their top seven averaged 32.49, to England's 35.78, and made 15 fifty-plus scores to England's 17.
|Team||W/L||Runs scored||Bat ave||100s/ 50s||Wkts taken||Econ rate|
|England||3/ 0||2856||33.60||5/ 13||89||3.37|
|Australia||0/ 3||2735||30.73||4/ 13||85||2.99|
Though England won the series, their top-order performance was a concern throughout. The average partnership for the top two wickets was lower than 30, with no century partnerships for either wicket.
What saved England, though, was that each of the top five partnerships was progressively more productive than the previous one, in terms of average stand: the third one was in the mid-30s, the fourth almost 50, and the fifth 73.88. The top two partnerships were both for the fifth wicket, as Bell added 153 with Joe Root and 144 with Jonny Bairstow, both at Lord's. The fourth highest was also for the fifth wicket - 115 between Bell and Pietersen at Old Trafford. In fact, Bell was involved in six of the seven highest partnerships for England in the series.
Australia were fairly solid at the start with their opening partnerships, thanks to Rogers, but they struggled with their second and third wickets, averaging less than 30 for each. Australia's most productive partnership was for the fourth wicket, where they had a stand of 214 (Michael Clarke and Steven Smith at old Trafford), 145 (Smith and Shane Watson at The Oval) and 98 (Clarke and Usman Khawaja at Lord's). The second-highest average partnership for them, though, was for the tenth wicket, which is a damning indictment of their top-order performances. Australia's aggregate of 321 runs for the tenth wicket is the third highest for any team in a Test series (Australia are the only team to have aggregated over 300 runs for the last wicket in a series). Of those 321 runs, 228 were scored in the first Test, at Trent Bridge.
|Wicket||Runs||Average||100/ 50 stands||Runs||Average||100/ 50 stands|
|1st||266||26.60||0/ 1||434||43.40||1/ 2|
|2nd||288||28.80||0/ 4||255||25.50||1/ 1|
|3rd||355||35.50||1/ 2||185||18.50||0/ 0|
|4th||444||49.33||1/ 2||595||59.50||2/ 1|
|5th||665||73.88||3/ 3||302||30.20||1/ 1|
|6th||257||32.12||0/ 2||185||18.50||0/ 2|
|7th||208||26.00||1/ 0||164||18.22||0/ 0|
|8th||156||22.28||0/ 1||171||24.42||0/ 1|
|9th||106||15.14||0/ 0||123||17.57||0/ 0|
|10th||111||15.85||0/ 0||321||53.50||1/ 1|
The most even contest in the series was between the fast bowlers of both teams. Australia's pace bowlers took 11 more wickets and averaged marginally better. Harris, Siddle and Starc were the lead acts, while James Faulkner picked up six wickets in the only Test he played. For England, Broad shone in the fourth Test and also picked up wickets at The Oval after a disappointing start to the series, while Anderson also took 22 wickets. England's spin, though, was far more potent than Australia's.
|Wickets||Average||Strike rate||Econ rate||5WI/ 10WM|
The head-to-head battles
Five Tests between two teams meant there was plenty of opportunity for a bowler to dominate a batsman, or vice-versa. There were a couple of batsmen who fell to a bowler six times in the series - one of them was Rogers against Swann. Rogers was outstanding against England's pace attack, averaging 94 against them, but Swann completely dominated him, dismissing Rogers six times at a cost of just 79 runs.
The other bowler to dismiss a batsman six times was Anderson, but his victim was Siddle, a tailender, who scored only 24 runs against him. Anderson's mastery over Siddle was illustrative of his hold on Australia's lower order: of the 22 wickets he took, 12 were of the lower-order batsmen. Against the top order, Broad was more effective: 15 of his 22 wickets were of Australia's specialist batsmen or Brad Haddin. His mastery of Clarke was one of the bowling highlights of the series: Broad dismissed him five times at a cost of 84 runs, for an average of 16.80. Bresnan played only three Tests but had the measure of Watson in those games, nailing him five times (which was also 50% of the total wickets Bresnan took in the series). Not surprisingly, Watson's highest score of the series - 176 at The Oval - came when Bresnan wasn't in the bowling attack. On the other hand, Watson was dominant against Anderson, averaging 136 against him and scoring at the rate of more than four per over.
Swann was the highest wicket-taker from either team in the series, and he relished the opportunity to bowl at so many left-handers: against them, he averaged 18.18, taking 16 wickets; against right-handers, his average fell to 46.40.
Australia's stand-out bowler was Harris, not only because of the number of wickets he took but because of the quality of his wickets as well. Of his 24 wickets, only six were of the lower-order batsmen. (His 18 top-order wickets include those of Matt Prior and Chris Woakes, who batted at No. 6 at The Oval.) Harris was at his best against Root and Trott, dismissing them four times each for very little. Cook didn't have much success against him either, while even Bell scored only 56 runs off him in 158 balls and was dismissed twice.
Siddle had Pietersen's number, getting his wicket three times for 64, but he didn't have much success against Bell, dismissing him only once at the cost of 117 runs.
|Chris Rogers||Graeme Swann||79||230||6||13.16||2.06|
|Chris Rogers||Pace bowlers||282||581||3||94.00||2.91|
|Michael Clarke||Stuart Broad||84||161||5||16.80||3.13|
|Shane Watson||Tim Bresnan||49||94||5||9.80||3.12|
|Shane Watson||James Anderson||136||195||1||136.00||4.18|
|Joe Root||Ryan Harris||38||141||4||9.50||1.61|
|Jonathan Trott||Ryan Harris||48||82||4||12.00||3.51|
|Jonathan Trott||Mitchell Starc||38||71||3||12.67||3.21|
|Alastair Cook||Ryan Harris||71||168||3||23.67||2.53|
|Ian Bell||Ryan Harris||56||158||2||28.00||2.12|
|Ian Bell||Peter Siddle||117||239||1||117.00||2.93|
|Kevin Pietersen||Peter Siddle||64||134||3||21.33||2.86|
|Matt Prior||Peter Siddle||38||94||4||9.50||2.42|
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter