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The Ashes - so what went wrong?

Firstly, congratulations to England for winning back the Ashes. I still struggle to fathom how they did it, with most statistical measures pointing towards Australia, but at the end of the day, the book says 2-1 to England, and the rest is immaterial.

The Aussies:

Katich - averaged 42, scored one century, performed well at short leg with a couple of dismissals in the final Test which only a specialist could conjure. Far better this tour than last time and is the steady opener we need.

Hughes - such a talented kid, got found out early and got replaced by an allrounder who suddenly found a role. He'll be back soon enough after remedial work on his technique. He is too good to be lost to the team for long, but couldn't quite handle the pressure cooker of the Ashes so early in his career.

Watson - most bagged his selection but you can't bag his performance. Three 50s in five innings, average of 48, although it was disappointing he didn't convert any of those into a score higher than 62. The only Aussie batsman to play three Tests and not score a ton.

Ponting - nothing wrong with his batting, a ton, two fifties, and averaged 48 with no not outs. Poor reading of the pitch at The Oval. Unlucky in his final innings to be caught out by a fabulous direct hit from Flintoff when a big score was in the offing. Australia's highest ever runscorer who will forever be known as the captain who lost the Ashes twice. He has been a decent captain without being great - but how much of that is due to the cattle he has had? Few captains would have been able to deal with the changing of the guard any better. Kudos for his graciousness in defeat at the end, much more mature than in previous years and finally won the English fans over.

Clarke - two hundreds, two fifties, our most consistent batsman of the series. Didn't get much of a chance with the ball, but wasn't needed to. Out via a fluke deflection in his final dig when he could have fought off the inevitable for at least a bit longer. Much better on this tour than the last. The heir-apparent for Ponting's job, but will he be any good at it? The main reason people are wary of him as captain is more due to his looks than his skills.

Hussey - should have been dropped early in the series and has probably now saved his bacon for at least a few more Tests. It was a long time between centuries for him, and almost all of his runs in the series came too late. He was sadly lacking when the game was there to be won in the first dig. Kudos for his resilience on the last day, but too little too late and the strategy of not bringnig another batsman on the tour saved his tail. Perhaps if Hughes hadn't struggled as much, he'd have got the shove...

North - strong performance on his first tour, and could have been the one to salvage Australia's woeful first innings at the Oval if not for a woeful decision from Rauf. Two hundreds, averaged over fifty, top effort and he is locked into the team for tho foreseeable future.

Haddin - averaged 46, got a ton, tidy behind the stumps, can't ask for much more.

Manou - got the shock of his life when suddenly had to don his whites and play at Edgbaston when Haddin got injured in the warm-up. Likely to be a one Test wonder unless Haddin gets injured again.

Johnson - a disappointing series from the no.1 strike bowler. It wasn't until Edgbaston that he started showing anything and then Headingley before he really clicked. Got 20 wickets without playing well for most of the series, and gave away stacks of runs which didn't help. Too much bullshit trying to look pretty and fuss about his WAG. Piss her off and play cricket, that's what you get paid for. One innings of 63 masked a poor series with the bat (two ducks), and this is a player ear-marked for all-rounder status.

Siddle - 20 wickets for the series, one great innings at Headingley where everyone was on song, otherwise just battled hard for his scalps. Strike rate of a wicket every eight overs, the best of all our bowlers, which highlights the fact that none of them were dangerous enough. Destined to be a Merv Hughes-like figure, good honest trier but rarely going to be a matchwinner.

Hauritz - stiff not to get back in the team for the final Test when the wicket was never ever going to be a greentop for the pacemen. The most economical of bowlers, a vital statistic when Johnson was getting spanked. A good team needs a spinner for balance. In the absence of any better candidate, he should be in the team.

Clark - after all the calls for him to play, he delivered in one innings (3/18) where I could have swung the ball and taken wickets. After that, he took a laborious 1/158. Needed to deliver when the series was on the line and didn't. He is not the future of this team.

Hilfenhaus - great performance, taking 22 wickets on his first tour, especially when he was no sure thing to play in Cardiff. Not as dangerous as Terry Alderman back in the 80s, but did a very good job. Tight line, best average.

The English:

Strauss - player of the series and too good as a captain as well. Until the team's final innings, he was the only English centurion and scored three fifties as well. Got the bowling changes right, the field settings and the tactics. When England were on top, he really went for the jugular and that got the two victories. More than 200 runs clear of any of his teammates.

Cook - a poor series. Take out his own score of 95 and he made 127 from eight innings, similar figures to Bopara. Best performance of the series was getting in the way of a shot from Clarke on the final day, allowing Strauss to pick up the rebound and run him out.

Bopara - flat-track bully. Very good against weak teams, and looked like a rabbit in the headlights from the opening over in Cardiff when Siddle got him in the throat. Not Test standard.

Pietersen - almost cost England the Test in Cardiff with that ridiculous sweep shot, not that he'd ever admit it. Decent average of 38 from four innings but then missed the rest of the series with injury.

Bell - slightly better than Bopara (looks the part against weak attacks, suspect against better teams) and lucky that Pietersen was injured otherwise he'd have been playing for Warwickshire all summer. Take the two fifties out of his five innings and there is very little to show for his series.

Collingwood - Mr Dull took England close to saving the First Test and then played only bit parts thereafter. Three fifties in his 250 runs for the series, meaning his other efforts were lame. 27.77 average for a series is not good enough for a key batsman.

Trott - averaged 80 on debut with an important century and unlucky in the first innings to be run out via a freakish bit of fielding. Looks to have a future as yet another South African in the England team....

Prior - two fifties but only averaged 32. When batting at no.6, you must do better. That's 14 less than Haddin whom he must be marked against. Big improvement in his glovework.

Flintoff - 5/92 at Lords, then took 3/325 for the rest of the series. Entertained with the bat, but too flamboyant for a key innings. Did make important runs with Prior on more than one occasion, waking the crowd up after they all fell asleep with Collingwood at the crease. Farewell Freddie, Test cricket is losing one of its genuine characters and gentlemen, remembering the sportsmanship of Edgbaston 05.

Broad - only 23 and on the way to becoming a very good all-rounder. I don't rate him that highly yet, it's probably that baby-face thing. Batting & bowling stats both close to 30, two fifties, two five-fers, can't ask for a lot more.

Swann - averaged 35 with the bat, thanks to entertaining innings at Headingley and The Oval. Bowls a bit too, a little expensive averaging 40 runs per wicket, but got some important ones. Could push for an allrounder tag the way he's been batting.

Anderson - finally got a duck to end his streak. Averaged 45 with the ball, apart from one five-fer he was anonymous all series.

Harmison - don't really rate this bloke but did fire up a bit at The Oval and trouble the batsmen. Bowled better than his figures suggest. Still a mummy's boy who doesn't like touring...

Onions - second-best average of all the England bowlers, yet dropped for the final Test. Did enough to suggest he'll be in the England side for a while yet. His opening over of day two at Edgbaston almost won them that match.

Panesar - his bowling is way off at the moment, but his batting in the closing stages of the Cardiff Test virtually saved the series for England.

When England won a rare session, they really nailed it. Rather than taking 5/60 in a session, they tore right through and left Australia reeling. That's what won them the series.....


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