England v Australia, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 4th day

The Ashes dossiers

If England and Australia have been compiling intelligence files ahead of the return series, what have each of the teams learned?

Daniel Brettig at The Oval

August 23, 2013

Comments: 54 | Text size: A | A

Ryan Harris had Alastair Cook caught behind, England v Australia, 4th Investec Ashes Test, 3rd day, Chester-le-Street, August 11, 2013
Alastair Cook has been successfully tied down during the series, along with the other members of England's top three © AFP

If the words of Australia's former coach Mickey Arthur are to be believed, this has not been an Ashes series so much as a fact-finding mission: five Tests in England little more than a curtain-raiser for the main event down under during the southern summer, after which the winner will hold the urn for 18 months rather than a mere five. For all their desire to retain supremacy, England will feel the effort on home soil wasted if it is not followed up abroad. For all their apparent desperation to win away, Australia may have been primarily concerned with setting themselves up for a more definitive performance on more familiar turf.

So what exactly has been learned from these matches that can be used when the teams square up to each other again at the Gabba in November? There is plenty about the series that has matched its advance billing. England's experience and habit of winning has been critical against opponents nowhere near as well-versed. Australia's batting frailty particularly when batting second has been badly exposed at times. And Graeme Swann's high-quality spin and considerable guile will be a major point of difference whenever the two nations meet on surfaces of England's choosing.

But other trends have also emerged, intelligence of the kind that Arthur revealed he and the captain, Michael Clarke, had spoken of collecting across their journey around England. Australia have gained quite a lot from this series, their individual performances and match-ups with certain members of the England XI instilling confidence even if the series scoreline does not. At the same time, England have enhanced their knowledge of Australia, and areas of weakness they can exploit again, even when presented with pitches not made to Andy Flower's orders.

What Australia have learned

Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root are vulnerable to diligent planning. Cook and Trott were virtually impassable during the last series in Australia, but it now seems this was largely a result of poor and patchy bowling rather than any particularly outstanding qualities of the batsmen themselves. Australia have been far more patient with both this time around and it has paid off. If Cook is given nothing on his pads and nothing short in his cutting zone, he can be starved into snicking the ball going across him, or pinned lbw by a surprise break-back. Without a steady diet of deliveries at his hip, Trott can get edgy and jumpy, falling across his crease as an lbw or leg-side catch candidate. Similarly, Root has the makings of a fine top-order technique but his back-foot strength has yet to be allied to an adequate game when the ball is further up to the bat.

Ian Bell needs a third man at all times. England's most prolific scorer and repeated saviour in this series, Bell does not possess any obvious technical flaws to exploit, but there is one scoring region that can be cut off in Australia. So often, he has neutralised suffocating Australian spells by artfully gliding or late cutting decent deliveries to the third man boundary, invariably left vacant. While the position is more commonly the preserve of the limited-overs field, it would be worth using against Bell as a means of restricting him, and perhaps forcing shots with which he is less comfortable.

England's pragmatism is palpable, fighting hard for the victories they require in a series and then scrapping equally hard to avoid defeat, even if it means giving up all pretensions of trying to win

Matt Prior can be messed with, starting with his batting. For so long a pillar of England's success, Prior has been a much reduced figure this time around. It started with Clarke's setting of some intelligent fields against him at Trent Bridge, playing on his desire to leather the ball through the off side. This resulted in a pattern of muted batting displays, serviceable but not outstanding glovework and increasingly faulty judgment on the DRS. On surfaces offering greater bounce, Prior will again be tempted to pierce Clarke's fields in Australia, and whether he does may determine his confidence level and the substance of his subsequent contribution.

Tim Bresnan is among the most pivotal Englishmen. Bresnan did not even play in the first Test of the series, and England nearly lost as a result. Not one for eye-catching displays, he is more vital for linking up the spells of Anderson, Broad and Swann with sturdy displays that maintain pressure and squeeze out the odd vital wicket with the help of reverse swing. See his second innings removal of David Warner at Durham, presaging Broad's rampage, or his lbw defeat of Shane Watson to prelude Australia's capitulation at Lord's. Add to that his lower-order batting and little wonder Bresnan is regarded highly by many more within the two dressing rooms than without. His battle to regain fitness will be key to the outcome of the return series, and Australia must plan to treat his bowling with greater deference.

When Australia play well, England will play for draws. At both Old Trafford and The Oval, Australia won the toss, batted soundly to begin with and walked out on the second day to find opponents quickly preoccupied with stalling for time. England's pragmatism is palpable, fighting hard for the victories they require in a series and then scrapping equally hard to avoid defeat, even if it means giving up all pretensions of trying to win. They push the boundaries as far as they can, whether it be Broad finding the most opportune moment to take off his boots, or taking advantage of the umpires' curious reluctance to insist on a more sprightly over rate. Australia can take heart from this but will also note that such stubbornness is a quality they too have to gain on the way towards their desired place in the world rankings.

What England have learned

Chris Rogers loses his off stump, England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day, July 21, 2013
Chris Rogers has struggled to play Graeme Swann's offspin, falling to him six times out of nine in the series © AFP

Chris Rogers has a serious problem with Graeme Swann. Before the series it was Phillip Hughes thought most vulnerable to English spin, but with each match it has grown apparent that the otherwise highly accomplished and gritty Rogers has found no adequate means by which to either score off Swann or keep him out. Six dismissals, several of them at crucial moments, have marked Swann as the man to bring on as early as possible to face Rogers, with the added benefit that before being dismissed the left-hander will lose much of his earlier momentum. As a very good technician, Rogers will work on this shortcoming himself, and may find another option. The get-out-of-jail sweep he used to reach 100 at Chester-le-Street may be one such path.

Michael Clarke struggles to survive against Stuart Broad. Whether it has been partly due to his increasingly fragile back or not, Clarke has been reduced to a batsman of far less presence than he managed during the past two years when facing Broad's pace, bounce and hostility. His wariness of the short ball has made him increasingly vulnerable to something pitched up, though the deliveries from Anderson and Broad that flicked the outside of Clarke's off stump in Nottingham and Durham were each of the highest class. Bounce was a problem for Clarke against England in 2010-11 also, and it will not be a surprise to see Chris Tremlett drilled by the bowling coach David Saker for a Broad-like attack on Australia's captain should circumstances dictate his inclusion.

Shane Watson has a prominent front pad but is learning to defend it. England's plan to target Watson for lbw has been simple and repeatable, and for most of the series wildly successful. The lack of runs made by a batsman of Watson's ability in the first three Tests can be viewed as perhaps the most glaring failure for Australia in the series, but in the final two matches there have been signs he is improving. Following the Lord's Test, Watson spent time in London working with Rogers and the batting coach Michael Di Venuto, and the fruit of their labours was increasingly clear at The Oval. England will know they need to keep a step ahead of Watson, for innings of the kind he played on day one in Kennington need only be played once or twice in Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth for the urn to change hands.

A fit Ryan Harris is as vital for Australia as a fit James Anderson for England. It may be argued that Anderson produced the most influential display of the series with his 10 wickets in Nottingham to turn a tight match England's way, and his consistent harrying of Australia's batsmen is something Cook can rely on at any time. But he has been matched spell-for-spell by Harris, who has defied a career beset by injuries to emerge as an opponent both skilful and durable. At The Oval, England's stodgy batting may have been as much about keeping Harris in the field for an extended period as much as anything else, seeking to sap him of energy and increase the chances of an injury that might affect his efforts back home. England clearly respect Harris' bowling, but they must now find a way to see him off more consistently.

Australia's players - and selectors - lack resilience if tested for extended periods. Perhaps the most significant way in which England are undeniably better than Australia is in the holding of their nerve. When they have possessed strong positions they have not relinquished them, and when Australia have been similarly placed the hosts have not panicked. This is true as much at the selection table as on the field. How the tourists could have resorted to Ashton Agar at the start of the series instead of Nathan Lyon remains a mystery, while the constant shuffling of the Australia batting order is also instructive. England now know that a good start at the Gabba will create all kinds of doubt among their opposition, yet there will not be quite so nearly as much within Cook's men if the reverse occurs.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Roshan_P on (August 26, 2013, 13:36 GMT)

@Lliam Flynn - You're out of order, mate. Jimmy would without doubt make it in to the Aussie side as a permanent fixture. Broad and Bresnan may be in and out of the side. Swann obviously would, though Lyon is a good spinner, and I think all of the batsmen have the talent to make it in to the side. Where are your great batsmen now? I see one, Clarke. There are no other established great batsmen like Cook, KP or Bell. There are some good batsmen, e.g. Rogers, and some emerging players, e.g. Smith (Root is more talented anyway).

Posted by hhillbumper on (August 26, 2013, 11:54 GMT)

morally Australia won this series 5-0.We know that in Aus England will be poor because all the posters on here say it is so.As for the boring cricket arguement.Well we won 3-0 so how did it go for you Aus fans.Years of preaching re the Australian way is all fine when you have great players but lets face it Without Warne.McGrath,ponting and Gilly you suddenly aren't so much attacking as somewhat kamikaze.Also the bowling was saved by Ryan Harris.What happens if he gets injured? All your reserves have not looked that great.But no worries we know you were the real winners.Hold on to that fact and then get used to losing until you accept that the chopping and changing don't help.

Posted by   on (August 26, 2013, 9:16 GMT)

England bat slow, tats their way of playing test cricket. Don't understand why people find it boring or less aggressive? Who says scoring at a high rpo makes a team aggressive...test match agression comes wid good planning and execution of strategies session by session and England are doing that well. Am pretty optimistic about the Top 3 firing all guns in Australia. Its not going to be easy at all for the aussie folks even back there at home.

Posted by brittop on (August 26, 2013, 8:58 GMT)

@milepost on (August 25, 2013, 9:06 GMT): but you think Australia's performances do warrant predictions of victory? When England are behind, they fight for a draw. When Australia are behind, they crumble and lose.

Posted by WhoCaresAboutIPL on (August 26, 2013, 6:10 GMT)

All those predicting a big turn around in Oz should look back very carefully at the 2009 series and its follow-up. in 2009 England were overall the weaker side but won 2-1 mainly because of a Broad series winning afternoon (that aspect,at least, may sound familiar?) Predictions of the winter series after this certainly did not suggest 3 innings victories, only the loss at Perth! Most pundits suggester a tight series - in fact 2010-11 was nothing like it.

Posted by   on (August 26, 2013, 2:12 GMT)

I'm looking forward to the return leg (not just because I have tickets for boxing day!). I actually reckon some of England's underperforming batsmen may relish the pitches in Australia, with their extra pace and bounce. Cook, Trott, Prior, even Pietersen tended to get bogged down on these slow tracks. Only Bell, who played the ball incredibly late, really prospered on either side (notice how Root, Clarke, Watson and Pietersen all only made one big score each to rather inflate their averages, while Cook and Trott could only make 50s).

I think Aus will be better as well - hopefully after a few players make some decent runs in the Shield and the one-dayers - so it could be tight. I'm going to predict 2-1 to England, with one of the draws a tight one and the other a batting snoreathon.

Posted by Lara213 on (August 25, 2013, 18:58 GMT)

@ Lliam Flynn

That's got to be the most perverse, in-denial comment in the 20 year history of cricinfo, and points to one of the biggest problems Aus: has accepting they are just not very good.

We've tonked you 3-0 with only 5 players: Swann, Anderson, Broad, Bell and a couple of cameos from KP + Aus' helpful DRS incompetence, were enough to wrap up the Ashes after two tests.

There's an old saying you need to recognise you're in a hole before you can get out of it. On your evidence Aus still believe their top of the world they've just been unlucky!

Posted by carterjose on (August 25, 2013, 11:36 GMT)

@Train Stationer Ryan Harris would get into any side in the world at the moment.

Posted by sachin_vvsfan on (August 25, 2013, 10:52 GMT)

Matt priors case is interesting. I think he will get a life line for next Ashes but if he continues to do the same for 3 tests then i think that could well be the curtains to his test career. Cook, Trott and Root are there to stay for sometime (Even if the likes of Root are dropped they are certain to make a comeback at some time later)

Posted by milepost on (August 25, 2013, 9:06 GMT)

I think England will struggle in Australia, their performances don't really warrant any predictions of hammering Australia. Australia are improving and Clarke is by far the better captain. 3-0, yes, they deserve that, no excuses. However, they don't seem to be able to win from tough positions and if they go behind early in Australia their tactics of drawing or merely not losing won't be any good. They will need a different strategy to the one that won them the Ashes this summer and nothing about their performances to date suggests they can change gears. But, let's see!

Posted by   on (August 25, 2013, 8:15 GMT)

England would be a better side with a different captain. Cook is a nice lad and a fine batsman, but he is not a natural captain at all.

Posted by   on (August 25, 2013, 7:19 GMT)

The only Poms who would make it in the current Aussie team are Bell (who has looked class all series) and Swann (Australia lacks a penetrative spinner). Why should Australia take Cook or Bairstow or Trott if the incumbents already series average around 30 and score at a much faster clip? Not a single one of the "worlds greatest attack" pace bowlers (all with 30+ average) would make it in the Aussie team either.

Posted by Cantbowlcantbat on (August 24, 2013, 23:55 GMT)

England's "play for a draw" approach can only work when they have a series lead. The #1 lesson for Oz is that they must get off to a good start in Australia, so that England cannot employ their negative tactics.

Posted by keithmillersmesserschmitt on (August 24, 2013, 23:39 GMT)

This is a good summary of the series, but I hope you're wrong on one point---I dearly hope Australia don't learn to play the dish water dull (and cynical) defensive cricket of England. They didn't need that when they were a great side, they don't need it to become one. To my mind it is a sign of the degeneration of England's cricket---they are a better team, but if they keep this up, they won't stay one. And they're certainly not inspiring a new generation of great players. England are odds on in Australia, but the Aussies have a good chance.

Posted by trav29 on (August 24, 2013, 23:12 GMT)

england really shot themselves in the foot with this policy of preparing dry pitches

we got far too carried away with how dire Australia were in india and tried to maximise the perceived advantage we would have on dry turning pitches and ended up negating a lot of our strengths as a result

against a team that had very good plans and executed those plans fairly consistently most of our batsmen struggled to find any form on pitches that by and large were slow and whilst swann has performed well I think we should have been more confident about matching our seam attack against Australia's

England have won this series despite our top order under-performing and we should expect a much better overall showing in Australia, can Australia really say that about their batting? As an England fan I am fairly confident about the return series as I just see far more room for improvement in our side, with bat and ball.

Posted by brittop on (August 24, 2013, 22:30 GMT)

@ravi_hari on (August 24, 2013, 12:04 GMT): Ifs are always pointless. If Cook, Trott & Prior had scored more runs, it might have been 5-0. Wouldn't get too carried away with Smith either. He scored runs in two innings when Aus batted first (on the back of two large hundreds by other players, the sort of thing Ian Bell used to get castigated for), but averages less than 16 when batting 2nd & 4th i.e. under pressure.

Posted by   on (August 24, 2013, 22:18 GMT)

You forgot a few .....

Feed Warner wider outside off stump with 3/4 slips .... eventually he will chase one without moving his feet. (Average of <25 for last 13 innings .... not a word from journo's)

Hughes can play 1,2,3,4,5 or 6 but is vulnerable to the new ball, old ball, spin and seamers, and is most likely to be out playing back to spin or being caught. (Average of <21 in India and England .... not a word from journo's).

Clarke doesn't like batting in the second innings, and is likely to give you an early chance in the first innings ..... but beware if he gets past 60-runs.

Keep beating Australia and the selectors will keep changing the team so there can be no established team members. Eventually they might run out of NSW Players to select.

Keep the Australians in the field and their training system will ensure that their bowlers will breakdown.

Posted by   on (August 24, 2013, 20:50 GMT)

It should be worth mentioning that on performances this series, only Bell, Anderson and Swann would be good enough to play in the Aussie team although there might be argument for Pietersen too. That's right - the Aussies have been statistiically far superior - go to the stats page for this series and check it out. Rogers, Watson, Smith and Clarke are easily doing better than any of the English batsmen bar Bell. Without Bell, the Aussies would have won the Ashes in a canter. What worries me though is that batsmen such as Trott and Pietersen are more suited to the bouncier wickets Down Under.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (August 24, 2013, 20:28 GMT)

Too much has been made about this 'forgetful' series. England were better overall; big deal ! Of course they deserve to win it, any other result would have raised eyebrows. Australia, well.. they are an average team with a decent bowling attack. Nothing more, nothing less. Like any team in history, we need to provide them the time and space to improve themselves. So I expect Australia to improve over time. Having said that, this is the peak of English test cricket. Can't see them getting any better with time. Some of their youngsters are not that good (from my first impressions). Root, Bairstow, Woakes, Kerrigan have all looked average. Like the Australians, whether they improve remains to be seen. But England are a confident and settled unit overall. The result down under should be along similar lines unless Australia undergo a complete momentum shift and psychological make over.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (August 24, 2013, 18:26 GMT)

This is a really great summary Daniel - one that both teams should read well and take notes. I tend to find that performances in one series have little/no baring in the next, particularly if the next series is in a completely different country/playing conditions etc. "Form is temporary; class is permanent!" as they say. Nevertheless, I expect many of the key players will be working very hard between this series and the next to try and rectify their fault(s).

Whilst England have barely had to tinker with their team and batting line-up, Australia have chopped and changed theirs more often than their kits. Certain players trialled are simply not test-standard; others have great potential but despite what they say to the media I don't believe this leap-frogging throughout the batting order is helping with confidence and form. Clarke needs to bite the bullet and stay down at 5 where he is phenomenal. Haddin is streaks ahead of Wade in my opinion and should be persisted with.

Posted by   on (August 24, 2013, 17:48 GMT)

Australia possess only one player who would make it into the England side, Clarke. I expect England to win down under against a side that is weaker than the one they defeated in the last away series.

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (August 24, 2013, 17:34 GMT)

England are still the superior side but Australia will take comfort from this series that the gap isn't as big as they imagined if they bowl properly at the likes of Cook & Trott. As an aside Cook has had 3 Ashes series averaging in the 20's and Australia will need to avoid the smorgasbord they served him in 2010/11 for THAT to become the norm. Australia's top 6 is still a work in progress at the end of this series , the surprise is I imagined England would have settled their top with the inclusion of Root & Bairstow. Bairstow has been oddly dumped just when he could have used the Oval pitch to consolidate and Root hasn't quite emerged as the Blonde Bradman we were promised. I think the Australian series will reveal better quality more expansive cricket on proper pitches rather than the sub-continental surfaces England have cautiously ordered. If anything the better pitches will favour the better team ie England.

Posted by   on (August 24, 2013, 16:27 GMT)

I'd say Australia have far more positives to take than England. Alright the scoreline reads 3-0 but competent umpiring/ 14 more runs at Durham and the series would have panned out rather differently. Add in bad weather to deny them a likely victory at Manchester and scoring the series only two 400 scores to date and you see two evenly balanced teams more or less. Should be a close series back in Aus. Keep Cook and Trott down again, get Clarke in the runs and Aus stand a good chance. Going to predict a 2-2 scoreline..

Posted by   on (August 24, 2013, 15:59 GMT)

The thing I most hope that England have learned is that the tactic of playing on dry pitches was woefully misguided. Detrimental to the top 3 and seamers and nowhere near as beneficial to Swann as was apparently anticipated. And at the same time nothing like the problem to Australia as was thought to be the case after their struggles in India. Very much a mistake and one not to be repeated.

Posted by Trickstar on (August 24, 2013, 15:50 GMT)

A point should be made about England supposed dull play & also playing for a draw. Lets be frank it's rubbish, they've never played for draws from the off in a series before and it all needs to be put into context. England in the first couple of tests and the 4th hardly played dull cricket, it was the opposite. At times they played too many shots & that lead to giving away wickets. In those tests they scored at 3.64 and 3.60 in the first inning, very good rates. Whereas Aus scored in the 2nd test 2.3 and 2.5 and also 2.6 in the 2nd inning of the 1st test. The two test where England have scored slowly is because they had already retained the Ashes at OT and the only way Aus were going to get back into the test is if England gave their wickets away, Similarly here, Aus have put up nearly 500 on a slow flat pitch, the chance of winning from that point is zero,we already lost a full morning & also the weekend looked poor. England are just very hard to beat, Aus could learn a thing or 2.

Posted by disco_bob on (August 24, 2013, 15:37 GMT)

The English have no idea what's coming. Ashton Agar's performance in the first Test was no fluke. Oh non non et non. He is part of a production line of super no. 11's. We were just testing him out. Watson, Warner, Smith, even Clarke, they are just place holders for a team of super no.11's from whom we shall select our real batting 6. We'll have to make do with our standard bowlers and keeper though. Just you wait.

Posted by Trickstar on (August 24, 2013, 15:34 GMT)

@HatsforBats I think the fact that in the 1st test Anderson had to bowl the overs where Broad was injured and didn't bowl for ages and also he had to bowl for Finn because he was leaking runs. England nearly bowled him into the ground that test, 56 overs in a test where Aus only scored 280 and 296. He bowled spell of 13 overs and 11 on the bounce, could you imagine Harris ever playing a test again if he was asked to do that. It's really taken him till this test to look anything like the bowler he's looked the previous 4 or 5 years. Not taking anything away from Harris he's been excellent for you lot this series but I felt it needed pointing out.

Posted by Trickstar on (August 24, 2013, 15:23 GMT)

Cook has been out of form for a while, including the recent CT, so it's been no surprise he's struggles. Similarly Prior could hardly score a run for Sussex in the lead up to the Ashes and has continued to struggle. Trott's a funny one because each time he's batted he's looked in great form but he's found all kinds of ways to get himself out. KP's played a few good innings especially the one at OT ad his knock's at TB and Durham proved crucial. Tbh these pitches have done him no favors and I don't think he's in the form he was last year. Root's done alright and you can see he's still learning his trade at this level, I think he'll prefer the pitches down in Aus to the ones this series. I think England would have been better preparing typical English pitches, although the dry summer hasn't helped. We've seen when the ball's swung, ordinary or reverse, the Aus batmen drop like flies. Although we've won 3-0 I actually think we could have done better with green tops.

Posted by Optic on (August 24, 2013, 15:09 GMT)

@dmat Wrong, both Finn & Tremlett are better than Starc and their stats back that up. For that matter they are better than Bird who looks a medium pace trundler. I think what we've learned is that the Aussie bowling depth is very very overrated. Harris is a very good bowler and without him the Aus attack would be pretty woeful. Siddle's an improved bowler and I like what he brings but apart from that I haven't been impressed with the much vaunted Aus attack. Pattinson has got an inflated bowling average mostly from facing India at home and NZ. England have 3 match winners with the ball & that's been the difference. Anderson, Broad and Swann can get you 20 wickets and have done. If we can get Tremlett on the plane and Finn as back up we'll be good to go. England have had Cook & Prior out of form this series, they were before though but they are class and will come good. Cook, KP and Trott especially will feast in Aus, especially if the pitches are like what SA played on.

Posted by Brownly on (August 24, 2013, 14:03 GMT)

I agree with all except "Australia can take heart from this but will also note that such stubbornness is a quality they too have to gain on the way towards their desired place in the world rankings" to which I say no thank you! Yes to not giving up and fighting all the way down, but no to stalling, time wasting and rain-dancing to avoid defeat.

I like the way Australia are playing their cricket at the moment - if only they could play it better!

Posted by ravi_hari on (August 24, 2013, 12:04 GMT)

Good analysis of the hyped series. One can say Aussies have lost the series than England won. Atleast 3 occasions Aussies could have won the game but their own surrender and rain have deprived them of victory. If Haddin had a little more patience in the first test, if rain stopped on day5 in the third and if Clarke and Watson played with responsibility at Durham, the scoreline would have been 3-1 in favour of Aussies. It was only at Lords England has outplayed Aussies. The learnings by both the teams will definitely make the return ashes more interesting and close. However, the pitches in Aus might tilt the balance to a better bowling side. On present bowling form, Aus have a slight edge. Both the teams have problems in batting and if they do not sort them out quickly will face trouble. Apart from Bell and KP other Eng batters failed and barring Smith none of the Aus batters were consistant. If others dont improve, next series will have low scoring games and 3 day tests. Wait and see!

Posted by Pyketts on (August 24, 2013, 11:54 GMT)

Some interesting points but would sugget that Aus losing Harris would be more damaging than Eng losing Anderson (with Tremlett, Finn, Onions as back up).

@landl47 I agree with all your comments, particulary that none of Eng's top 3 perform well on slow wickets as they don't like forcing the pace. I think we'll see a return to form in the Winter and Eng will win 3v1.

One swallow doesn't make a summer, Watson may have worked hard to reduce his issues with LBW's but I think it's foolish to suggest he has totally resolved the issu. I think he'll be back to a walking LBW wicket pretty quickly.

Posted by rk350 on (August 24, 2013, 11:38 GMT)

Of course it's fair to talk about what lessons have been learned, but this is just a list of players who are in and out of form! And some of them are ridiculous - 'when Australia play well, England play for draws' - which sides try and win (feasibly) facing a lead of 500! It's happened like twice ever. England have batted slowly all series, in good and bad positions.

What I think we have really learned, is that the gap between these two teams is not that great, and if Australia can put a good performance in they can definitely win the series.

Posted by SNIFFLEATHER on (August 24, 2013, 11:28 GMT)

Finn should improve in Australia - if he doesn't, then something is wrong. Australia's bowling is nowhere near as strong as England's - take away Harris and they would get flayed by most half decent test sides. I see England using Swann in addition to Anderson, Broad, Bresnan and Finn down under - way too much quality for the hosts to match. As for the Aussies, they will need to play out of their skins as England will come at them hard. I don't see it being 3-0 or anything like that, but England will certainly retain the Ashes, again.

Posted by Chris_Howard on (August 24, 2013, 8:41 GMT)

Not so sure Watto's LBW issue has improved.

He could have been out LBW twice earlier on. In fact, both were like ones he'd been previously given out for - the ol' "umpire's call" line ball. And then he got one over turned late in his innings.

The fact is, he's still being banged on the pad with regularity. Luck just went his way this innings

Posted by   on (August 24, 2013, 7:41 GMT)

On the bowling side I have been more than impressed with Harris, Siddle and Lyon. Starc continues to frustrate but he is the guy that is almost always in the mix to take a wicket, no matter how flat the track is he always seems able to get the ball to swing a bit and as seen yesterday, has genuine pace, just needs the experience to go with it. Needs to get the batsman playing more often, but it will come. For mine we are putting together a nucleus of young blokes now in Warner, Smith, Lyon, Starc and Pattinson that can genuinely form a very good side in two or three years time. Just need a few more to find their feet at test level, get the experience of winning some tight matches under their belts and then watch the results flow.

Posted by   on (August 24, 2013, 7:33 GMT)

I think this is largely right. I reckon the biggest bonus to come from this series though will be the batting of Smith. Whatever faults we can find with the English team are great, but we have to improve a lot ourselves in order to start beating teams like England, SA and India again. Smith and Rogers coming in and doing well have given us a big boost, now if only we can find one more! I don't think we should continue with the five bowler formation, I think Lyon has shown that he is good enough now to be a serious threat on assisstive pitches and at least able to hold down an end on flat tracks, throw in Watson and Smith and a fifth bowler simply isn't warranted, far more important to keep looking for another genuine middle order batsman. I think in hindsight we have been trying too hard to turn top order bats into middle order ones, while the likes of Hughes and Warner may be amongst our best batsmen they don't belong at 4,5 or 6. Far better to look for the genuine article.

Posted by GeoffreysMother on (August 24, 2013, 7:14 GMT)

A very good article and some good additions. Landl47's comment about how the English strokeplayers (and I would include Bairstow in this) will fare better in Australia is a good point. It seems England sacrificed their talents (and a lot of entertainment) by playing on slow wickets and assuming Australian batsmen were more mentally fragile and would cope less well - especially against Swann. Perversely though a strength can easily become a weakness and Lyon's improvement and the sudden lack of a back up spinner for Swann could come back to haunt England. I also agree with HenryPorter - of all the wannabee's it is Smith (and to some extent Root - given the pitches and opening against Harris) who has secured his place. The fearsome young Australian bowlers we heard about seem o.k but no more and keeping Harris fit may be Australia's best bet of retaking the Ashes.

Posted by liz1558 on (August 24, 2013, 6:38 GMT)

England's demise and Australia's rise have been greatly exaggerated. The fact remains that no Australian bowler has produced or looked capable of producing a match winning spell of bowling. Whereas each of England's bowlers have. England's batsmen have done enough in every Test to either win or draw it. Australia have nothing but illusions and delusions to take with them from this series. It looks good on paper but if they are realistic, they will give a huge sigh of relief that they competed enough to not get beaten 5-0.

When assessing Cook in particular this article overlooks the fact that his away record is vastly superior to his home record - averaging 55 to 43. He's a back foot player who likes fast bouncy tracks.

Posted by   on (August 24, 2013, 6:24 GMT)

Landl47 is quite right. These mediocre dry and slow pitches haven't helped the England batsmen at all. We'll be a much better prospect down under with pace and bounce and it coming on to the bat. I expect a similar result down under, 3 zero or 3 one to the England, the mighty mighty England.

Posted by haha102 on (August 24, 2013, 5:34 GMT)

Aussies have found a top 5. Number 6 should be filled by another specialist batsman and it should come out of either Voges, Bailey, Burns, Wade or Silk. Hughes, Khawaja and Cowan have had a plethora of chances to secure their spots and it is time to tell them to go back to first class cricket permanently.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (August 24, 2013, 3:13 GMT)

When comparing the coming tour to Australia to the tour of 2010/11 you need to consider Australia's bowling during that tour. It was woeful. It was the worst bowling performance in a series by Australia at home I had seen in almost 30 years. England are a good side and I think the series will be close and Australia will not bowl at that level last time England were there.

Posted by dmat on (August 24, 2013, 3:11 GMT)

Farooq. Neither Tremlett nor Finn would get a game for Australia. Aus fast bowling depth is better than Englands. I agree with landl47 - Cook, Trott and Pietersen will be better suited to Aust conditions but my concern is Cook's negative leadership. Not only is he doing his team a dis service, he will turn people away from test cricket - 215 runs in 98 overs when you are 3-0 up???? If it was on a last day pitch and they were fighting to save the test match, ok. But this was ideal batting conditions.

Posted by Moppa on (August 24, 2013, 2:21 GMT)

@landl47, I think (or hope, as I'm an Australian fan) that the difference for Cook and Trott this time around compared to 2010-11 is the bowling strategy, not the pitches. In Australia, all the pacemen except Harris bowled short of a length which fed Cook and Trott's strengths off their hip and allowed them to leave anything around off-stump simply on length. The bowlers lost the battle of patience and allowed Cook and Trott to accumulate with low risk shots off their hip and pads. I hardly recall Cook playing a drive all series. Siddle at that time was still wedded to the 'bang it in' style of bowling, whilst Johnson and Hilfenhaus also bowled consistently the wrong length. McDermott's coaching stint continues to pay dividends with the bowling group become aware of the benefits of a fuller length, especially to those two. Siddle is now a convert to that approach, along with Harris. Pattinson consistently bowls a full length. Even Starc has bowled a fuller length in this series.

Posted by TomPrice on (August 24, 2013, 2:09 GMT)

Australia's young quicks seem to need favourable conditions. We will see green bouncy pitches down under that play to the home side's perceived strength in pace bowling and to negate Swann, who is crucial to England's 4 bowler strategy and nemesis to Australia's left handers.

Not that these dead slow pitches are doing England any favours. They are levelling the sides down. Plus, too much advantage to the side that wins the toss.

Posted by pat_one_back on (August 24, 2013, 1:14 GMT)

Get Hughes back in up top, Warner down to 3 and hold your nerve selectors, Khawaja the reserve bat when injury requires, Siddle, Harris & Lyon with either Patto, Starc, Bird or Hazelwood in that order or Agar as a second spinner This squad needs 2 years of stability to build belief and find a winning way or even just the Eng non-losing way. Man for man there is very little daylight between teams, it's sustained experience alongside each other, batting & bowling for each other as a team rather than for your own survival that seems to be the difference to me, selectors can easily fix this now.

Posted by Bonehead_maz on (August 23, 2013, 23:49 GMT)

IDK what England have learned ? What We've (Aus) learned was as Daniel already said, previously known. England want Swann against left handers in favourable side spinning conditions. (good luck with that in Aus and bounce suits Lyon more than Swann ?)

I personally learned Bell and Bresnan are better than I previously thought.

Here I learned Landl47 talks mostly sense and to him.... G'day - I think all those mentioned might move it more when conditions are not hard work for seam bowlers ? In this series, the only time someone less than very hard working, might have had a dream run was when play began on Thurs at Kennington ? I also guess Woakes and Faulkner are not intended to be front line bowlers ? More 5th bowlers who can bat ? Pretty tough for any bowler out there !

Posted by HatsforBats on (August 23, 2013, 23:38 GMT)

@ landl47, I'm not sure I can agree with you here. I've rarely seen Cook or KP play better innings than they did in India. The '10/11 Ashes is looking more like the annus mirabilis. In that series they piled up big runs on slow, docile pitches in Brisbane and Adelaide against inconsistent and out-of-form bowlers, but then folded against high quality pace on a quicker pitch in Perth. It's more the quality of bowling performance that dictates a batsman's form than the state of the pitch, and Siddle & Harris have been naggingly accurate in their bowling plans.

Faulkner & Bird are predominantly seam bowlers and there has been precious little in these pitches to allow them to exact their skills. Neither bowled particularly accurately though which didn't help. I agree neither Faulkner nor Woakes are front-line test bowlers, certainly talented enough to be test all-rounders, but not the 3rd seamer. Bird is more than good enough, he just had a mediocre game.

Posted by HatsforBats on (August 23, 2013, 22:46 GMT)

So far this series: Anderson, 21@30 (taking just 7 top 6 wickets). Harris, 21@20 (12 top 6 wickets). I'd say talk of England being reliant on Anderson wil be shelved for a little while. Harris has ben head and shoulders above every bowler in this series, hopefully he's fit for the entire return series.

Posted by Westmorlandia on (August 23, 2013, 21:11 GMT)

landl47 - I think you're completely right about Root and his balance, as a technical matter. But I think you could also say about the whole England batting line up, as a matter of attitude, that they should always be intending to score off every ball. If the shot isn't there, they should then leave or block - 20 times in a row if that's what's required - but before the ball is bowled they should always be intending to score.

At times - today especially, but not just today - it has felt like they are intending to defend first and foremost, and only if they are sure that they have a ball they can score off will they swing a bat. It's a backwards way of playing, and probably not even any safer - they can't play the scoring shots well.

Posted by Chris_P on (August 23, 2013, 21:02 GMT)

@landl47. I would say give Bird some more time, for I have seen him, on plenty of occasions, keep a tight line & move the ball off the pitch (similar to McGrath).Whether the injury that sent him back to Australia was around when he played, am not sure, but he wasn't the bowler I have seen performing well. This guy has "it" but not sure how he would fit in when fully fit. Faulkner is a different bowler totally, better on Aussie pitches & figured the English pitches wouldn't suit (Copeland, over there would have been a far better option) but he does provide whole hearted commitment. If Woakes can't move the ball off the pitch, he is going to be cannon fodder down under, but let's wait, too early to judge on one test.

Posted by landl47 on (August 23, 2013, 20:04 GMT)

Some other issues: England's batsmen, with the exception of Bell, don't play nearly as well on slow pitches as they do on quicker ones. This may mean that Cook, Trott and Pietersen play better in Australia than they did in this series. They certainly did in 2010/11.

James Faulkner, Jackson Bird and Chris Woakes aren't front-line test bowlers, at least yet. I was surprised at how gentle Faulkner's pace is for such a strapping young guy. He never got up to 85mph today and since he doesn't move the ball in the air or off the pitch, all he has going for him is his left-handed line. Bird and Woakes also looked very ordinary. I don't see any of these three playing a role in Aus.

Joe Root needs to intend to drive every ball. When he drives, he has a very positive weight transfer and good balance. When he tries to defend, he hangs on the back foot and is vulnerable to any movement. Intending to drive and then reining back is way easier than defending from the back foot.

Posted by HenryPorter on (August 23, 2013, 19:50 GMT)

I guess I see things differently. The standout not mentioned here is Steve Smith who has played every game, totally earned his place, and proven that his selection for India was not as crazy as it seemed. The really hard lessons for both sides might all be negative and around their performance/selection struggles (Finn, Bairstow & Kerrigan on the one hand and Cowan, Hughes & Khawaja on the other).

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 18:52 GMT)

Not to forget Tremlett and Finn are going to be important additional assets down under, Australia don't seem to be as well stocked with such Bowling talent and experience. These tall fast men could cause problems.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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