The Investec Ashes 2013

England knew how to seize moment

England's brand of cricket was not always admired during the Ashes but they able to seize the moment and produce periods of exhilarating play

George Dobell

August 26, 2013

Comments: 80 | Text size: A | A

Stuart Broad beams with delight as he takes the final wicket, England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, 4th day, Chester-le-Street, August 12, 2013
For long periods the Ashes was a tight battle, but England won key moments such as with Stuart Broad's burst at Chester-le-Street © PA Photos

It is remarkable how demands change. A decade ago, any Ashes victory would have been celebrated as a stunning achievement. It is not so long ago it warranted an open-top bus parade through the streets of London and MBEs all round.

Now, it seems, the bar has been raised. Victory is not enough. England are not expected just to win, but to win with style and flair and grace. Despite the 3-0 result, they have been criticised for their perceived negativity, their perceived gamesmanship and their perceived limitations. They are judged by far harsher criteria than they used to be. They are the victims of their own success.

It was probably fitting that the series should end with a controversial umpiring decision. Issues associated with the DRS and umpiring errors have dogged the series with wearying regularity and overshadowed other on-field matters. The farce with bad light just showed, once again, how far the game's administrators have allowed the rules to stray from the necessity to respect spectators. Common sense is anything but common at the ICC.

It was also probably fitting that England's moment of success was mitigated by another negative news story. Reports that England players may have urinated on The Oval pitch after the game will serve not just to diminish the standing of the winning team, but deflect attention from Australia's lacklustre display. Australia may have lost the series, but they continue to win the propaganda war.

That is not to condone the actions of England's players. They sound both bizarre and uncouth. But there is a theme here: after almost every game, a story has emerged that has been designed to denigrate and demean the most successful Test team England have produced for many, many years. Whether it has been about England players smoking, England players not walking, the perceived deficiencies of England's captain compared to Australia's, or the latest 'slashes' story, all too often the narrative of this series has been manipulated to divert attention from Australia's failings.

England set out to win this series. They did not set out to entertain, to revive the spirit of the sport, to win 5-0, or to win Tests in three or four days. They set out to win. So this result can only be judged an unmitigated success. Many England supporters - particularly those who remember how grim things used to be - will find the margin entertainment enough.

Panesar available for Ashes tour

  • Andy Flower reflected on a number of players, and bad light, the day after the Ashes concluded
  • Simon Kerrigan

  • He's ok. I would imagine he feels very proud to have been part of a Test win [sic]. He's a good young man, obviously a good bowler, with a good first-class record, but he had a tough time. I think he'll come through that well, he's under a good man up at Lancashire. Hopefully he's learned a lot from the experience and I hope he comes back and has a successful career both with Lancashire and England. I think he's a good young man, he's a strong young man and I hope people get behind him and support him.

  • Chris Woakes

  • I thought he went ok. His pace was good. He's actually a swing bowler but he didn't get as much swing in this game as we would have liked. He can swing it both ways; he's quite skilful with the ball. I thought he showed a good technique and a calm mind when he batted. I thought he did really well.

  • Monty Panesar

  • He is available for the winter tours. It's not as if it [the incident with the bouncers] didn't happen, because it did happen. But there's got to be a cut-off time at which time he is available for selection and we didn't feel it would be right to pick him in this fifth Test match but the Ashes away is a few months away and I would imagine, all being well, he'll be available for selection by that time.

  • Tim Bresnan

  • He has a scan on Tuesday, but the results will only come out at the end of the week so we'll have a better idea then. Even in the worst case scenario, I wouldn't expect him to be ruled out of the entire tour, but he might not be able to play some of the early games.

  • Bad light

  • "It was a very tricky situation, because it was so close to a conclusion and the responsibility to entertain the people that were in the ground and watching on TV has to be taken seriously. So it was a tricky situation and I do sympathise with the umpires. Did they get it right? Ask them. We have spoken to the ICC a number of times over the years, but the description in the regulations of how they judge bad light is, I think, poorly written. The emphasis is on safety and very rarely is there a safety issue out in the middle. In my personal opinion it should be either a very strict reading on the light metre and there is a universal reading they could adhere to or it should be about the fairness of the balance of the contest between bat and ball."

England play hard, pragmatic cricket. They have developed not just a belief in their ability to win, but a hatred of losing. Those are excellent qualities and they have served the side well. They are now unbeaten in 13 Tests and have won seven of those, including five out of seven this summer. Not since 1977 have Australia contested an Ashes series without a single victory.

England went a long way to winning this series in the planning. They reasoned, long before the first ball was bowled, that the key difference between the sides was in the strength of spin bowling. They reasoned that the Australian seam attack was dangerous, that the Australian spin attack was modest and that the best chance of negating the former without incurring risk from the latter was by preparing slow, dry surfaces. That would take the sting out of the Australian seamers and highlight the greater potency of Graeme Swann over his Australian rivals.

It worked, too. While Swann claimed 26 wickets in the series - the most by any bowler on either side - the four spinners utilised by Australia claimed 15 between them. Andy Flower, who not only planned this strategy but persuaded the groundstaff to implement it, is, unquestionably, one of the key reasons in England's success.

So, too, is Ian Bell. While the rest of the England top-order endured disappointing series, Bell three times produced centuries when his team most required them. Each one has led to England winning. After a tough year or so, Bell has bounced back with the series that may well define his career. Mature, calm and possessing the confidence to defend for long periods without allowing himself to lose patience or composure, this was the style of batting that Bell's talent always suggested he could play.

The downside - such as there is one - in England's choice of pitch for this series was contested on relatively slow surfaces. That did nothing to encourage positive, attractive cricket and rendered much of the series attritional. It was, at times, even mediocre, compared to the high-standards of previous Ashes encounters.

There is a theory - a theory expounded by those who peddle Australian propaganda mainly - that England will not like the quicker pace of Australian pitches. While it is true that Swann may find less assistance, the top-orders and seam attacks of both sides will probably prefer such surfaces. It may well result in a more entertaining series.

But it is simplistic to admonish England for their tactics. Apart from truly outstanding teams, the likes of West Indies of the '80s or the Australia team that followed, Test cricket has often been as much about patience and discipline as flair and adventure. England have been successful playing a brand of cricket that, in the T20 world, may appear somewhat sedate, but it would be wrong to underestimate its value.

Besides, after long passages of careful cricket, England were able to seize the moment and produce periods of exhilarating play. They were behind on first innings in four of the five Tests but, whether it was Swann or Bell or Stuart Broad or James Anderson, they invariably produced outstanding individual performances to define games.

Australia might do well to learn from England, not mock them. Certainly James Faulkner, a man without a Test victory to his name, lecturing Flower and co. on tactics at the end of the third day of the final Tests was incongruous. It was like a mouse telling a lion how to roar.

There are a few clouds in the distance. Two or three of this England team - and its main coach - are rather closer to the end of their careers than the start and there is no sign of a replacement for Swann. He may be appreciated more after he has gone. His contribution has been immense.

But such issues can wait. England have retained the Ashes. They have retained them without losing a game and without playing at their best.

English cricket is not perfect, but it is much better than it used to be. And it better than Australia's. In a landscape where victories between the two nations remain the benchmark by which they are judged, the current team deserve rather more than the begrudging praise they are receiving.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by garibaldi on (August 28, 2013, 15:02 GMT)

I find it extraordinary to read so many negative comments about England and Cook's captaincy. People have such short memories! Just 12 months ago, this side was in crisis - utterly dominated by a brilliant SA, with the team in turmoil due to the KP affair, Strauss resigns, leaving Cook with a shocking mess to sort out. A year later, Cook has won in India, drawn in NZ (now that series *was* a disappointment), beaten NZ at home 2-0, and beaten Aus at home 3-0. If anyone had predicted that sequence of results this time last year, they would have been laughed out of town! Yet we hear this endless carping: "Cook is too negative" - really? Negative captains don't inspire match-winning performances - think of Cook's inspiration in the dressing room before the final session in Durham. A negative captain wouldn't have even attempted that run chase on the last evening at the Oval.

Posted by Chris_Howard on (August 28, 2013, 14:35 GMT)

@Chris Ward Well said. Being Aussie, I get sick of our media (and a lot of fans) jumping on every small achievement and making out we are suddenly brilliant.

Posted by 2MikeGattings on (August 28, 2013, 13:43 GMT)

IMO the pitch preparation was one of the most unsatisfactory features of this series. Criticism of England's slow batting can largely be laid at the groundsman's door. And the toss was far too important. I wonder what the results would have been if Australia had won all 5 tosses. My guess is that they would still have lost the first 2 tests because they picked the wrong players, but Chester Le Street might have been a different story.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (August 28, 2013, 9:11 GMT)

@gazoontapede, I think you seem to have forgoten that England played on wickets, made to order by MS Dhoni and the BCCI in 2012, and remind me what the result was, 2-1 to England wasnt it.

In regards to Faulkner, having seen him bowl, he looks like he has promise but really not that impressive as an allrounder, but difficult to judge after 1 game, Jackson Bird was supposed to be a good as McGrath, he didnt impress.

In regards to england retirements, there are maybe 3 that are due within the next 4 years, Swann who at 34 is getting on, KP at 33 might look to wards more lucrative T20 leagues, but will want to set some records, and finally Anderson who at 31 is entering the last stages of his bowling career and it will depend on injurues.

All the others Prior & Bell are 31 and as bastmen have 5-6 years, the others are all sub 30, and unless theres a career threatening injury, will be around for another 6-10 years.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge. on (August 28, 2013, 9:01 GMT)

My only concerns, as a proud Englishman, are:

* Anderson doing well in only one test, his career average of 30 revealing itself to be entirely reasonable/fitting * Swann looking his age and also bowling at a tick under 30 * Cook's dreadful captaincy, reactive and defensive as always

Ultimately Australia gave us more of a fight than we bargained for and will ever admit to, and our media did its best to dilute their successes and focus on their negatives, ignoring larger 'controversies' such as the Panesar incident or the urinating English players.

Broad, under Cook's instruction, made us look like sore losers with his shoelace incident and hypocrisy re: bad decisions. This diluted the wonderful performance by Ian Bell - without him we'd have lost the series.

We are a boring, methodical side, which is why even parts of our society are willing to admit that we lack flair, myself included, however we are effective. Australia are a long way off but closing, Cook needs to sort it out.

Posted by 5wombats on (August 28, 2013, 8:52 GMT)

@ gazoontapede on (August 28, 2013, 7:04 GMT) what are you talking about? England found the Indian pitches 6 months ago very much to their liking and won the series there 2-1, in case you forgot. The bleating from the Aussies, including their management and players has been extremely amusing as the results just have not gone the way they assumed they would. I haven't seen that much gloating from England fans, but I've seen an awful lot of whingeing and excuse making from Aussies. Enjoy.

Posted by gazoontapede on (August 28, 2013, 8:04 GMT)

I've read how England have more decorum.(pissing on the pitch) And Australia have no culture alah D.Gower. You won ,its done and dusted. How the Ausies cant stop whingeing.Faulkner should shut his mouth what would he know about cricket. The last Aussie that spoke out like Faulkner tore your hearts out for years.Beware mr Faulkner my pommie friends. He has what it takes and is just starting out. Mr Dobell says 2 or 3 are at the end of thier carreers ,try 4 or 5 mabey even 6.Cant wait to see if you whinge about Indian wickets next time you tour there. Seeing it was such a triumph to have doctored your own wickets at home.The gloating from the english i have found extremely amusing as the results are no different from the 80's alah Gattings side 86 or gowers sides pre 89. We Aussie fans know the more you win the more your going to hurt when you lose. Its not not that far off.

Posted by 5wombats on (August 28, 2013, 7:25 GMT)

Good discussion here. My take on series; 1 Aus went to England not expecting to win, and they didn't. 2 Knowing this, Aus wanted to "get something out of" the series. They didn't. 3 Aus always play smoke and mirrors, strong or weak team bluff is always a big factor they hope it will have some impact. It didn't. 4 Aus batting only came off when it batted first. When it batted second it looked flakey, and not just against Swann. Frankly - Aus batting looks terrible and is likely to not be any better on the fast bouncy pitches proposed in Aus. 5 Aus best bowler the excellent Harris is likely to play only 2 or 3 games in Aus. Without Harris the Aus attack looks average at best. Englands bowling is fit, proven in Aus and has the measure of the Aus batsmen. 6 England batsmen did not perform as well as expected - but because our bowlers bowled as expected, it didn't matter. Conclusion; England the better side. Not much will change in the next 12 weeks. England to win in Aus.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (August 28, 2013, 4:09 GMT)

I have been critical of England's approach myself occasion. They do seem, at times, to allow themselves to get becalmed and, even if they do manage not to get out for some time, when they inevitably do get out, they have nothing to show for it. I think we saw some of that in UAE against Pakistan in particular and also in the first Test in SL. Maybe the first Test in India too. To my mind, that approach will cause them to lose some games that they might have drawn and to draw some games that they might have won. They could even lose the odd game that they might have won. In the case of the last Ashes Test at the Oval though, I have absolutely no issue with the way England batted. Once Australia scored ~500, even without rain, the chances of an England win were remote at best but the chances of an England loss were very real. The way England batted on the final day showed quite clearly that they felt that they were safe once they avoided the follow on, which they were.

Posted by GrindAR on (August 28, 2013, 0:19 GMT)

@Jaybird67: You are ridiculously on spot. Isolating Clarke alone... yes, but applicable only when his team wud've had at-least 3-4 consistent performers. You name one, who performed consistently in Aus camp (Excluding Ryan Harris)... Betting on that setup to inflict a win without the risk of loosing the match...Apparently, he escaped an embarrassment of unnecessary risk taking (mercy of umpires), as eng played their last innings as close to T20 mindset.

You also put a light on why eng batted slowly- postmortem thoughts... is their faith in their resilience, as they should in last innings. They did not try to put Aus in pathetic situations... Whenever they sensed out of control situations, Broad (almost single handed) brought things under control, on all such situations. It does not mean Cook is greater than Clarke. He just had the right person at his disposal.

I think comparing Cook and Clarke is rubbish. They don't even match in 10% of the attributes. They are completely different

Posted by GrindAR on (August 27, 2013, 23:54 GMT)

Eng seizing the moments: Successful implementation by Broad 98% of the times. If not Broad, the result would have been 1-0. So, almost all wins were inflicted by Broad (either by bat or by ball). Just take his contributions out and see.

Without Bell result would have been 1-2 on Aus favor.

Without both... can we get the picture (0-5) ?

So, kangaroos need to focus on how to mitigate this tricky guy called Broad, their prime party spoiler :-)

Posted by subbass on (August 27, 2013, 17:06 GMT)

Good points, but it has always irked me somewhat in the last 2 years how some see us as easily the 2nd best Test side(truth of the matter is the rankings/points difference between the likes of England, India and Australia are about right and the points gap to the SA team does not lie) and astonishingly Vaughan even thinks England can get back to number one ! Hmmm ! I think you have to treat the current SA side as one which has every chance of emulating the WI and Australian sides of yesteryear.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (August 27, 2013, 16:48 GMT)

@YorkshirePudding Ryan Harris was very much the outstanding bowler of the series. He carried the Australian attack. No one else on either side carried the same level of threat. Peter Siddle's numbers look good but, he only took two wickets in the last 5 innings of the series, leaving Harris without his most effective support. While I think that the Australian batting order is now getting settled, the bowling attack was weak apart from Harris, with only Harris of those who played more than once striking at better than 65, Pattison at 78, Lyon at 79, Watson & Agar at 250+.

I was struck by one unusual statistic: only twice did England pass 100 with fewer than three wickets down in the first fours Tests and in those two innings England made its lowest totals. They seemed to need the adrenaline rush of feeling threatened to raise their game. While Australia only passed 300 twice, winning on neither occasion, England did it six times, four of those totals contributing to wins.

Posted by   on (August 27, 2013, 15:40 GMT)

England have much more mental strength than Australia and are willing to graft and be patient. This will be crucial in the return series Down Under, where England will probably triumph 2-1 or 3-1. There is no evidence currently to suggest Australia will win - form is against them. A 4-0 loss against India followed by a 3-0 loss to a side that beat that same Indian side 2-1. It's not looking good for Australia.

Posted by SamRoy on (August 27, 2013, 15:35 GMT)

Yes, the bar is raised as the current Australian Team is not even a good team forget the all time great one in 2005. While the current Australian Team isn't weak, any team with a good bowling line-up isn't weak, but their batting is quite weak and against any good team with good batting and bowling lineups they will struggle. Having said that England need Tremlett back. I don't think Bresnan and Woakes are good enough to be third seamer. Once Swann reitres in the not-too-distant future (may be 3 years tops) England's bowling is going southwards as 4 bowler strategy won't work.

Posted by 2MikeGattings on (August 27, 2013, 15:29 GMT)

The usual balloons full of hot air are wanting us to know that they aren't burst yet.

I wish I was a bookie taking money off the people predicting a big Aussie win down under.

Posted by skinnycandy on (August 27, 2013, 14:14 GMT)

Well surmised George and I agree with @Jaybird67, wholeheartedly. Amidst much of the guff that has been clogging up commentary throughout this series one of the things that consistently makes me smile wryly are the predicted scores in Australia's favour. Some simple facts remain that shouldn't be forgotten too soon based upon what we actually witnessed: Aus although they played very spiritedly throughout were thoroughly outplayed, on balance, in both the first two tests (save for Agar and were abject at Lords); batted too long in their 2nd innings at Old T; beaten reasonably comfortably in Durham; save for two very good centuries at the Oval their batting was generally poor. Every English top 6 batsman certainly contributed valuably albeit with scores not quite as large as they are used to making. And the pitches were slow. It was accurately predicted before the series began that it was likely to be a bowler's series and thus it transpired. Cook captained excellently - well done.

Posted by Int.Curator on (August 27, 2013, 14:05 GMT)

Is this PROPAGANDA? Being Australian admiring and supporting the outstanding teams like the 80's West Indies and later 90's Australian team you learn to expect great things from your cricket team, and we took it for granted for so long. It has always felt normal to measure a cricket teams performance against these great teams that we so long for again. I believe the current England team could be great, but showed little positives this series to prove it.

Posted by 2MikeGattings on (August 27, 2013, 13:01 GMT)

As of right now England are best priced evens to win outright down under, Aussies 2-1 against, with the draw 11/2. That makes England pretty firm favourites to retain the Ashes as things stand. The odds haven't changed since before the Oval test. Evidently the market doesn't think it learned much from the recent skirmish - a lost opportunity to have a look at Tremlett, perhaps.

The England pros will have a nice rest before the return series. Clarke and co will play a pointless ODI series in India. Have a nice trip lads, and don't forgot the homework!

Posted by Jaybird67 on (August 27, 2013, 12:24 GMT)

To anyone who's clinging to the "Clarke set up the last day" line...

He didn't do it because he loves the fans, or because it's in The Spirit Of Cricket. He did it because it was the best (only) chance to manufacture a win for his team. When it became obvious that his gamble wasn't going to work, and was actually liable to backfire completely, he couldn't get off the pitch fast enough. I've got no problem with his behaviour at all: the same rules were applied equally to both sides in the same circumstances. But I'm sick to death of hearing about what a genius captain Clarke is compared to Cook. I can't think of a single thing Clarke did that altered the course of a match. He declared when declaring was the obvious thing to do. Ironically, if he'd kept batting in the fourth test (as Cook undoubtedly would have done) as it turned out Australia might well have been able to enforce the follow-on and force a win. That's the sum total of the "genius captaincy" right there.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (August 27, 2013, 12:06 GMT)

@zarasochozarasamjho australia are not a very weak side, they have problems like most countries playing spin on turning pitches. Pattinson from memory had an average of something like 22 in the sub continent. but he was sidlined by the home work incident. I suspect if this team played india now they would fair a lot better.

Posted by zarasochozarasamjho on (August 27, 2013, 11:49 GMT)

Australia are a very weak side and played England AFTER having been out-played 0-4 in a 4-test series against India.

Posted by rappedonthepads on (August 27, 2013, 11:09 GMT)

Had said before the beginning of the series that Aus would do well to get away with a draw at best. They did better- 2 draws. But with 1 and half batsman with quality and repute, they were always on the wrong slide of the hill. Having said that huge respect for Chris Rogers and Steven Smith for kicking beyond their weight. Pity the skipper couldn't bat as well as he talked. Also Aus seemed to be dropping players who batted well at crucial times- Agar, Hughes and Starc. England is a tough side and I still say its the depth in their batting+ Graeme Swann that makes them the top side.

Posted by milepost on (August 27, 2013, 10:30 GMT)

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (August 27, 2013, 8:56 GMT) thanks for the myth busting, I was so confused when an expert panel of ex-test cricketers said completely the opposite to what you have said. @YorkshirePudding, nice, balance and objective comments. The series is done, England won and the return leg won't be all these English supermen busting out of phone booths to realise their career averages. The Aussies made many moments tough and I think it will be close in Australia.

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (August 27, 2013, 9:56 GMT)

Myth #1 - Aussie pace bowling is better than Eng. I suggest you guys go check the bowling stats for the whole series. Broad, Bresnan and Anderson pretty much bowled to their career stat. With the exception of Harris, Starc, Siddle, Pattinson and Co averaged in the 30s and had worse SR. Myth #2 - Clarke is a great captain...WRONG! Clarke got out foxed by the poms. Fell right into a trap and almost lost a match which by all accounts was impossible to lose. Myth #3 - this Eng team is an average squad barely beating a weak Aussie team. The Eng pace bowlers bowled pretty much to their career figures and that was the difference. If the batsmen had batted to their career average Aus wouldn't stand a chance of even sniffing a victory. Unlike 2010-11 where bat, ball, and fielding clicked, only the bowling clicked this time and the scoreline still read 3-0.

Posted by brusselslion on (August 27, 2013, 9:53 GMT)

England "..did not set out to entertain, to revive the spirit of the sport, to win 5-0..". Just an idea, perhaps they should?

Posted by crockit on (August 27, 2013, 9:52 GMT)

It does say something about England's mental strength and Australia's limitations in this regard that England could seize those crucial moments in spite of the signifcant underperformance of some of the batters (esp Cook, Trott, Prior). With the winter tour coming England need to think hard about selection - strong squad players are needed to complement the 9 certainties from the oval team. Tremlett, Finn and Bresnan if fit are the only certainties. Panesar will go if issues far enough behind him. Bairstow probably as a combined sub keeper / sub batter. Woakes will probably also go. That leaves 1 or 2 places for additional batters. I would personally look to take a guy who can open such as Moeen Ali and then Ballance as a middle order option. I am assuming Onions will be injured still.

Posted by liz1558 on (August 27, 2013, 9:41 GMT)

two other key moments that seem to have slipped under the radar: 1. Old Trafford, Aus first innings. 190/3 - Smith plumb LBW, given not out. 2. Oval - Aus 150/3 - Cook drops Watson just after making 100.

In both cases the momentum was shifting England's way and Aus were let off the hook. If those moments had gone England's way, it's hard to see anything other than Australian collapse and 5-0. Probably.

Posted by   on (August 27, 2013, 9:29 GMT)

Who'd have thought that after all the criticism England copped from Aus after day 3, the final test would end with Clarke pleading with the umpires to stop the match to avoid a 4 - 0 defeat. It's a funny old game!

Posted by 5wombats on (August 27, 2013, 9:14 GMT)

@Optic (August 26, 2013, 20:04 GMT) hi again mate. Yeah I couldn't agree more. Do you remember how the Aussies were largeing it last time in the 2010/11 series? They said England were lucky with the toss, lucky with the conditions, lucky because Aussie selectors had picked the wrong team, lucky that Warne wasn't playing, lucky, lucky lucky old England.....etc. Remember how they said Australia would have won, except for... x...y.. z? The thing is - that Ashes series in 2010/11, containing as it did 3 Innings defeats for Australia in Australia could not by any definition be described as "lucky". This series - which contained 3 more defeats for Australia and no wins looks on paper to be not as bad as those 3 Innings defeats at home. But just because Australia did not lose by Innings defeats this time - that doesn't mean this series was "close". I'm with you - some of the whingeing seen on these boards this time has been astonishing. I'm looking forward to the series in Aus - aren't you?!

Posted by jmcilhinney on (August 27, 2013, 9:03 GMT)

It's rather funny that some neutrals are telling us that Test cricket is dying because of the way England play when Test cricket is alive and well in England with its popularity rivalled only by that in Australia. If Test cricket is dying it's because of the countries those neutrals live in, not because of England. Also, plenty of people are saying that the last day was only as exciting as it was because of Michael Clarke's declaration. Well, Clarke only had to declare because England made damn sure that they didn't have to follow on and hand Australia an easy victory. Clarke only had to declare because England had ensured that Australia had no other way to win. England batted at 4.5 runs an over for the first part of day 5 in their first innings. Australia, desperate for runs to set a possible win managed just 4.8 an over. England then went at 5.1 an over in their second innings. If Australia knew more than just one way to play they might win more often and especially lose less often.

Posted by milepost on (August 27, 2013, 8:55 GMT)

@FFL, agree, England are the deserved winners of this series. However, Clarke set up the match at the Oval and England never deserved to win it. You can't play in the dark, that's not how it goes. As far as 'not playing anywhere near their best', that's a testament to Australia's bowling and also that performance, not potential, is the only thing that matters. @optic, England didn't get out of second gear because they couldn't. That's not something to be proud of!

Posted by Notasgoodastheythink on (August 27, 2013, 8:26 GMT)

I don't think England HAVE more than 2 gears. The way they play their cricket puts you to sleep. Yes, they deserved to win, but my point is that they should have dominated - that's what the top teams do when they have the chance. But against the worst Aus team we have seen for decades, they were only 5% better and just got across the line in two of the three tests they won. It was mediocre against awful.

Posted by GRHinPorts on (August 27, 2013, 7:36 GMT)

Its quite astonishing to me that the writer feels its necessary to write such an article. "Australian propaganda war"? Really? Whats more important the cricket or the propaganda? The writer would like us to believe he thinks its the former but its pretty clear that here he is more interested in the latter. At the conclusion of the series my feeling is that England are quite comfortably the better of the two teams. However they were not particularly stellar in their play this summer, yet were good enough to win 3-0. That to me would seem more of a reflection of where Australia are at. Will this remain the case always? No. Will it be the case in the return series? Quite possibly. Certainly on paper England have nothing to fear Down Under this winter but IMO they will need to be more on their mettle than what they have shown this summer.

Posted by   on (August 27, 2013, 6:58 GMT)

Some very salient points made, especially the one about how England* successes have been belittled (in attempts to soothe wounded Aussie feelings one wonders). However, there are two passages of play that illustrate the vast gulf between the two teams and that's the final two sessions of the series. Despite Clarke's intentions, his batsmen could only manage 111-6 at 4.26 while England had little difficulty in chasing that target down. In the end, Clarke had to resort to time-wasting and applying pressure on the umpires to get him out of the hole he had dug for himself, another example of how unsporting a captain he is same as when he declared mid-way through an over to deny Jimmy Anderson a chance of a five-for against Nathan Lyon. What this test has demonstrated is that Australia do not have the tools for the tactics chosen while England have.

Posted by siddhartha87 on (August 27, 2013, 6:55 GMT)

Sir Botham predicted 10-0 for England. Only England gets white washed in Ashes :D

well to be honest England's good days are over. Overrated Root,Cook,theWorst captain i ever seen apart from Khaled Mahmud of bangladesh,Misfirsing Trott,Pror. Only positive was Bell.This is rebuilding stage for Aussies so Poms are having some fun. They should know decades long agony and suffering are looming above them.

Posted by   on (August 27, 2013, 6:17 GMT)

It gets tiring sometimes, having to constantly big up Australia for their performances, despite losing three zero. For years England were the whipping boys and were never given much credit for any gallant 0-3 losses. So what if Australia played well, so what if they didn't deserve to lose 3-0, the fact is they DID lose 3-0, and they lost to a better team with better batsmen, better bowlers, a better coach, better organisation and better decorum. And great, if the pitches in Australia are fast and bouncy then the fact that we are better than Australia in every department means that a similar scoreline shouldn't be unexpected.

Posted by deeplongon on (August 27, 2013, 5:57 GMT)

How could anyone think England were dominant? Lets see just how convincing this win was.

(1) England won game one by 14 runs and were saved by rain on two other occasions when they were toast. That's pretty close to 3 -2 without the rub of the green.

(2) Australia led on the first innings 4 out of the 5 matches. Very convincing England, very convincing !

With dead wickets designed for them and the rub of the green England's posted what looks like a great series win. But is it really? We won't have to wait too long.

Posted by KishoreMalladi on (August 27, 2013, 5:50 GMT)

Kudos to England. The difference between England and Australia in this series was when both had their chances and both teams seized their moments, England seized them at the right time. From an evenly fought first test at Lords to the Broad's spell at Chester-Le-Street to the DRS errors to the rain affected days, it was a good for them. While the statistics show otherwise, in the end the scoreline matters. A 3 - 0 Ashes drubbing will haunt the Australians at least for now, till they take the English on again in their own backyard. But if England can replicate the act of seizing the most crucial moments, they could wag their tails in the 'kangaroo's' den too.

Posted by phermon on (August 27, 2013, 4:54 GMT)

I don't think the issue is so much the spectators as the safety of the players. That is the critical judgment to be made and the guidelines could be a lot clearer. I sincerely hope the poms were not trying to urinate on bouncers - that would have been not only foolish and inappropriate but bloody dangerous after a few beers - I can only imagine that the light had got worse since the early close of play. Check it out with Michael Slater: The poms would not be the first international team to celebrate by pissing on the pitch.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (August 27, 2013, 4:52 GMT)

People talk about how Australia set up that final day at The Oval and certainly things would have been very different if Clarke hadn't declared but it's been really overlooked by many that on that final day in England's first innings they scored at 4.5 an over. There's lots of talk about Australia's attacking brand of cricket yet they only managed to score at 4.8 an over themselves when they were desperate for runs in that second innings, which was then eclipsed by England scoring at over 5 an over in their second innings. For a team that are supposedly naturally attacking, Australia didn't look that great against a supposedly boring England team.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge- on (August 27, 2013, 4:14 GMT)

I am still reeling at how unreflective of the play a 3-0 scoreline ended up being. It is so lucky we ran into Australia at one of their lowest ebbs, with an unsettled lineup, upheaval with a new coach, and low confidence, as the average performance of much of our players would have been found out by any other Australian generation. Bowling averages of around 30 and only one top 6 batter averaging over 40 for the series certainly highlights that we are only middling.

Lucky for weather saving us from bad positions and an Aussie team who have lost the art of winning. It worries me that we went so far backwards and the Aussies only took steps forward considering the state both teams started the series.

Our negative tactics helped us hang in there until weather came to our rescue. I do wish the England team could provide a bit more value for the fans though. I think of the great teams like Aus and the WI who dominated their opponents all series. Unfortunately we are not in their class.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge- on (August 27, 2013, 4:03 GMT)

On refection it was disappointing to see England fans disgrace themselves after the sporting gesture and sheer entertainment value that Clarke's declaration generated. Their booing was representative of the laddish and uncultured sporting culture in England that certainly does no credit to our average cricket team that is so far above the very ordinary England teams of a decade ago.

As England fans we should've taken a leaf out of the Australian fan's book whose appreciation of Graeme Smith's gutsy decision to play an enterprising brand of cricket when he twice declared in the hope of forcing a result on a previous Australian tour. It went unrewarded due to a solid Australian 4th innings chase but the Australian team and fans respected Smith for his style resonated with the positive brand of cricket the Australians have always promoted.

Just wish our boys would show a similar enterprise an actually entertain more as neutral supporters the world over are losing respect for our team.

Posted by manak_18 on (August 27, 2013, 3:54 GMT)

"Andy Flower, who not only planned this strategy but persuaded the groundstaff to implement it, is, unquestionably, one of the key reasons in England's success.' If as mentioned by you,the doctring is acceptable,pls do kindly elaborate on the reams of newsprint wasted on lamenting similar tactics adopted in the subcontinent. If to win is the ultimate ,then why cry over pitches anywhere in the world.Accept that pitches will suit the home teams strengths and get it over with.Perth will be Green and Mumbai will turn square ....

Posted by MrKricket on (August 27, 2013, 2:01 GMT)

It's a game of inches as they say and England won the small victories which led to the large victories. A more experienced side like SA in these situations would have won those and won the series (as they did last year). I think for England to hide behind pitch curators is pretty lame. England post Manchester 1956 was never like this! Australia can at least hold the higher moral ground at home with the pitches likely to be true to form.

The vainglorious boasting of England (not the players mind you) does it no credit. How about some humility? Enjoy these fading days of a golden era - soon enough you'll be looking at these as the good old days once Australia overthrows the rot at the top of CA and gets it together again.

As they say a strong England is good for cricket. For some reason a strong Australia is bad. Don't ask me why.

Posted by Not_Another_Keybored_Expert on (August 27, 2013, 1:58 GMT)

Well done England, you might not make many fans by the conservative way you play but I guess that's not the point is it.

Posted by Mindmeld on (August 27, 2013, 1:48 GMT)

Yep, the problem is that everything went England's way, and in the moments when they didn't they were dominated. England prepared specially dry, crumbling pitches for Swann, and both times they lost the toss they conceded 500-odd declared and were only saved by rain. England fans thinking they would have scored 400-odd on crumbling last-day pitches are kidding themselves - and it has to be remembered that in both those games Australia lost only 14 wickets, and about five of those each time going for the bash in the second innings. In the fifth test Australia was 150-odd in front with ten wickets to spare before going for the bash. The artificial finale can't hide the fact that England would have been thrashed if not for the rain. But when England won the toss they had two narrow wins and one big win - and no rain to stop the result. God must truly be a Pom.

Posted by wellrounded87 on (August 27, 2013, 1:39 GMT)

This is a good english side and certainly better than AUS at the moment, but not as good as they've been touted. This Ashes showed that. These comments that the Australian side in the last Ashes was a better team is absurd. Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke were in awful form, Mitchell Johnson was... well Mitchell Johnson. Peter Siddle was timid at that point, it wasn't until Craig McDermott coached him that he found his extra pace and sting. Hilfenhaus is toothless and Bollinger was mediocre. Harris got injured and Hauritz makes Lyon look like Warne.

Australia are a much better side this time around than the last and with a young batting lineup these guys are only going to get better.

Australia have a very good chance of taking home the ashes in the return series

Posted by Chris_Howard on (August 27, 2013, 0:55 GMT)

Even when England were seemingly losing, they still looked in control of the situation.

This was most clearly highlighted on day five here when, really, if we be honest, they set up the day.

They got the quick runs early which pushed Clarke into a corner where he would also be obliged to follow suit (especially on the back of Faulkner's comment) and then offer England a gettable target.

Throughout, it felt like Australia were trying to win by brawn but England by brain.

It's hard to judge who really were the better cricket team, but England were clearly the best strategic team and the best at the mental games of controlling themselves and the opposition.

Posted by mjcoxx on (August 27, 2013, 0:32 GMT)

@FFL - I don't deny England were the better side in the series but they most certainly were not robbed in that last test. If it were not for their cynical delaying tactics on day 2 and their go-slow on day 4 they might have given themselves more time (and light) to win the match. A draw was all England deserved in the 5th Test. They had no intention of winning the match from the moment they lost the toss.

Posted by cloudmess on (August 27, 2013, 0:19 GMT)

Well said, George Dobell. I've just been amazed by the Aussie supporters, players, ex-players and even their coach - I've never seen such a collective wave of bitterness, self-delusion and self-exculpatory excuses from a group of grown men. You've been so good at it, even some of the more impressionable English media have been affected. Australia, we are told, were the only side really playing positive cricket, to win games.This from a team who've just been beaten 8-0 over their last 3 series (and 8-2 over last 3 Ashes). Funny way to go about it. Perhaps you just need to concentrate on drawing a few more to begin with.

Posted by JFAB on (August 27, 2013, 0:06 GMT)

Hi again George. I've been thinking about Faulkner. Perhaps he should stop playing and become an umpire or, better still, a match referee. He may be the only one with the courage to say something to Cook about overseeing a Test hour with only 11 overs (including some spin!). For all you or others may say defending Cook's 'negative' play this is the indefensible indictment on his captaincy. In the end England can bat how they choose, whatever the crowd or anyone else wants but should not be allowed to deny a fair and reasonable expectation of play. If Chris Broad can fine Ramdin for acting 'against the spirit of the game' then maybe he should have been at The Oval

Posted by brittop on (August 26, 2013, 23:41 GMT)

@Notasgoodastheythink on (August 26, 2013, 18:53 GMT): "Eng won the key moments, that's about the difference between the teams". You say that as though it's unimportant and not a skill. In fact it's crucial. You can have all that stats you want, but if you can't play under pressure - and Australia couldn't under the slightest hint of pressure - then you'll fail to win test maches.

Posted by liz1558 on (August 26, 2013, 23:19 GMT)

@Notasgoodastheythink - it's probably fairer to say that Aus could easily have lost this series 5-0, and just about did enough not to. For not rolling over and dying - which they would've done under Micky Arthur - they deserve credit.

Not convinced that Australia have quite reached rock bottom yet. Another home shellacking at the hands of England will probably be rock bottom.

I've no doubt that Australia will turn things around eventually, but the current top six, Clarke apart, aren't bad they're just not good enough for Australia. All mid-30s average sort of players who were born on the wrong side of the Tasman Sea. Also, none of the bowlers really looked capable of delivering a knock-out blow, whereas Anderson, Broad and Swann did. That ability is far more important than consistent stats- and that makes England a classier side than Australia. More like 40% better.

Posted by   on (August 26, 2013, 22:39 GMT)

@Hafsa Saeed, England were also in a position to win 3 out of 5 matches, and guess what? They did! That's the difference.

Posted by CapitalMarkets on (August 26, 2013, 22:25 GMT)

As an Englishman, I think that this series has shown the need to change the laws so that anyone who does anything with a view to slowing down the game without legitimate cause is penalised promptly and tangibly. I also think that integrating DRS into the laws with two non-neutral off field umpires able to override obvious errors and the ability to recall or dismiss batsmen at any time before the next first ball is received in a new over or by a new batsmen (without changing the score) will keep the game going with no obvious errors, no requirement for players to challenge, no breaks in play and no problems of only having four neutral umpires available.

England lost an opportunity in the last game to introduce a new strike bowler as they were selecting for the next series and slow bowlers are not going to win a series in Australia. I suppose Woakes could be justified as an inferior replacement to Bresnan but Rankin should have been selected if Tremlett was not thought ready to play.

Posted by   on (August 26, 2013, 21:55 GMT)

England played above average cricket that's about it. I could not make out all the lavish praise Dobell showers!. Fortunately any sane batting side (let alone SA, including the ones of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) would have shown better application. Oz batting was filth period. I don't see England getting far from here, looks about this is their peak. Cook, Trott and Root were just about average entire series. Batting held together by Bell & Pieterson (IMHO currently the only English players who can play anywhere). Bell will soon get over his best days. English Bowling was nothing exemplary. Yes they won the Ashes and they were a better team but long long way to go lads!, don't get too excited winning 3-0 against this batting line up.

Posted by   on (August 26, 2013, 21:50 GMT)

Australia has lot to take from this ashes series. Seriously they were in a position to win 3 out of 5 test matches but they failed to grasp the crucial moments.I hope and wish them best of luck in Australia

Posted by Optic on (August 26, 2013, 21:16 GMT)

@Notasgoodastheythink SA are the best side atm but not by miles at all. If we go with what you say, why didn't SA dominate this Aussies side like you expected England was supposed to do, they were far from doing that both at home and away. Lets also be right when they were in England, apart from the first test, England could have won the 2nd but for the weather and also the 3rd test, if England had taken the dollies they dropped they could have won that. But they are all if buts and maybe's, SA beat us and we move on. This is what crickets about at this level, it's having the guts when it matters and Aus didn't have them. Also if you want to talk about the return series, England beat a better side last time very easily and are very capable of giving Aus another hurting. No doubt if it does happen we'll see the continued pathetic whinging and excuses that they've been giving out all series long this time.Fact is England didn't get out of 2nd gear all series and won easily.

Posted by Tyler_Durden_is_my_uncle on (August 26, 2013, 21:06 GMT)

@notasgoodastheythink- All good stats, allow me to counter -

England 3 test match victories Australia 0 test match victories

They are the only stats which count, all the ones you have highlighted are irrelevant!

Posted by Optic on (August 26, 2013, 21:04 GMT)

Never in my nearly 30 years of watching cricket has a team come across so bitter, sad, poor losers in general & so desperate to deflect their own shortcomings. It's been pathetic from the first test, the Aussie former players like Warne who have seemed comment to troll and wum their way through the tour. Their media seem so preoccupied with England it's cringeworthy, especially Hacks like Conn.

Posted by Notasgoodastheythink on (August 26, 2013, 20:52 GMT)

I think England are a 'decent' team in a mediocre era. Certainly not compelling or particularly impressive, and in 2 years I won't be surprised if they're in Australia's situation. South Africa are miles ahead of everyone.

Posted by 2MikeGattings on (August 26, 2013, 20:44 GMT)

Shall we score the pre series predictions among recent players? Aussies scored it 2-1 to Australia (McGrath, Warne, Ponting), English mostly went 3-1 to their side (Strauss, Hussain, Vaughan). Leaving aside Botham, who has spent his life trying to get up the collective Australian nose, it is clear that this England team have generally surpassed expectations.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (August 26, 2013, 20:43 GMT)

First of all we should all applaud England's 3-0 Ashes victory, and take note of how well they took being quite literally robbed, as a audience of tens of thousands watched in the ground and about 50 + million on their TV's worldwide, of making it 4 games to nil. Time wasting, whinging - all these Australia tried, but they, in the last breaths of the series, just came off looking worse, and England came off looking triumphantly fantastic. Broad, Anderson and Swann all finish with a 20+ average and 20 + wickets, and England didn't just win the key moments - they won them despite none of their top 6 playing anywhere near their best. I sure there can't be many, if at all, Aussie fans left who wouldn't admit to the fact that England are the better team, but 3 Ashes in a row of this now is just too obvious. England are the deserved Ashes winner of 2013.

Posted by John-Price on (August 26, 2013, 20:40 GMT)

The closest three-nil win of all time.

Posted by Jaffa79 on (August 26, 2013, 20:17 GMT)

England have won the last 3 Ashes series; they won the Champions Trophy game; they won the ODI series 4-0 last year; England beat India 2-1; India beat Australia 4-0. Sometimes statistics lie and sometimes statistics cannot be ignored! Even the most ardent Aussie fans couldn't dispute the dominance of England, could they?

Posted by   on (August 26, 2013, 20:16 GMT)

Very good article. Thanks to Mr George Dobell and EspnCricinfo.

Paradise was regained again at home. Doing in again down under will be the proper rubbing salt in the wound of the old enemy

Posted by Notasgoodastheythink on (August 26, 2013, 19:53 GMT)

Congrats to Eng. However, they're so underwhelming - for all the hype Eng should have demolished Aus. The problem for Eng is if they can't even dominate when Aus is at rock bottom, the only way for Aus is up from here. Aus could easily have won this 3-1, if Haddin had batted another 10 minutes in the 1st test, it hadn't rained in the 3rd, they hadn't lost their heads in the chase in the 4th etc. Eng won the key moments, that's about the difference between the teams. Eng is 5% better than Aus, and that's what counts - but not for long. Consider this: Aus led on the 1st innings in 4 tests out of 5, Aus had 3 of the 6 leading wicket-takers, and 4 of the 6 leading run-scorers, Aus declared 4 times to Eng's 1, scored at a much higher run rate across the series (3.37 to 2.99). Eng never scored 400, Aus scored around 500 twice. Eng averaged just 12 runs more per completed innings, and took only 4 more wickets. Hardly dominance, though it should have been - they won't get a better chance.

Posted by Yevghenny on (August 26, 2013, 19:49 GMT)

thank goodness someone's made an attempt at readressing the ballance. Honestly, you'd think Australia were robbed of a whitewash. England players delivered when their side needed, Australia's players trudged back to the pavilion

Posted by   on (August 26, 2013, 19:01 GMT)

nice article again question England as the better team and always seem to be in control.the aussies still have glaring deficiencies in their batting in particular but I'm still not convinced about the composition of their bowling attack.however both these teams seem to lag some distance behind the current sa team when you compare their batting and bowling strengths.the same team with philander batting at 8 is an incredibly powerful team. but granted like the English and the aussies a number of players will be lost shortly because of age.I reckon the Indians should be very exciting with the young side they have.they really do like an extremely talented side.England should feel really good about their efforts.they were the much better side.but when I look at the current rankings both teams are light years behind south Africa and dare I say,with some justification!

Posted by nobodyimportant on (August 26, 2013, 18:59 GMT)

CanĀ“t prance down high street with ribbons every time you win George.

Posted by   on (August 26, 2013, 18:57 GMT)

The stories from Australia are just sad attempts at trouble making and can and should be ignored. The ECB should make no comment and let the matter die. Hope England are wise enough to ignore these childish mind games

Posted by LeeHallam on (August 26, 2013, 18:45 GMT)

It is true that England will need to replace many of their team over the next four years: Almost certainly Pietersen and Swann, probably Prior, Trott, Anderson and perhaps Bell. It is likely that a couple of those will still be around, but they may also have lost some of the younger players through injury or form as well. England must learn the lesson of the Australian team, and be ruthless. They must not let older players hang on, in the way that Collingwood did (He just did enough each series to hold his place, for a year or two before he retired). And when they go they must be strategic, particularly with the batsmen, in picking younger players. There is no point investing in 30 somethings who will need to retire at the same time as the older players now in the team. That is hard the individuals, but it needs to be done.

Posted by xylo on (August 26, 2013, 17:53 GMT)

Given the team that England had at their disposal, and the quality of opposition that Australia presented, anything less than a 4-0 is underwhelming. It is precisely this urge to win all tests that separates the great captains like Steve Waugh, Stephen Fleming, and Ricky Ponting from the good ones like Alastair Cook, Rahul Dravid, and MS Dhoni.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (August 26, 2013, 17:36 GMT)

Better players, who put their hands up at some point to be counted. Fitting scoreline in the end, and the next series should see Root back down in the middle where he belongs.

Posted by Godwhacker on (August 26, 2013, 17:32 GMT)

Spot on - an excellent piece, especlally in reference to the excessive, dubious moralising that seems to have accompanied the series

Posted by skilebow on (August 26, 2013, 17:26 GMT)

"Certainly James Faulkner, a man without a Test victory to his name, lecturing Flower and co. on tactics at the end of the third day of the final Tests was incongruous. It was like a mouse telling a lion how to roar." Brilliant!

Posted by mm.alibhai on (August 26, 2013, 17:19 GMT)

Congrats to England winning the Ashes again under Cooksey. I'm sure Aussies will bounce back when they return to Aussie land again this year!

Posted by thegreatwhiteduck on (August 26, 2013, 17:11 GMT)

Agreed. Thanks again, George, for reporting with clarity, insight and a sense of proportion. For those of us who endured the bad old days, these are heady times and we should savour them.

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