And so it came to pass that less than two months after being mocked and written off, Alastair Cook and his troops regained the Ashes during a Test match that lasted a little over two days, as Australia were undone by world-class swing bowling and poor shot selection.
Stuart Broad took the headlines, deservedly so, for his sensational spell on the first morning. The absence through injury of usual pack-leader Jimmy Anderson necessitated one of his underlings stepping-up, and the Nottinghamshire seamer was happy to oblige.
8 wickets for 15 runs in 9.3 Overs obliterated an Australian line-up seemingly perplexed by cloud cover induced seam movement that saw a procession of dismissals, and a pitiful final total of just 60 all-out.
England were batting before lunch on day one, Joe Root (130) and Johnny Bairstow (74) consolidating a powerful position, and Moeen Ali’s rapid 39 nudging the lead up to a daunting 330 runs.
Australia batted better second time round, assisted by England’s decline in the field, but Ben Stokes backed up an incredible, one-handed first innings pouch with career best figures of 6-36 to see the home side through early on day three, the eventual margin a gargantuan innings and 77 runs.
Stokes was England’s fourth different bowler to take six or more wickets in the past four Test innings, the first occurrence of this in the history of the game. Stuart Broad’s 8-15 was the best single innings Test bowling recorded at Trent Bridge, and he leapt to 308 career dismissals to go past the great Fred Trueman.
In addition, Joe Root climbed to number one in the world rankings, the first time he’s achieved the feat in his career.
All in all it’s been a wonderful summer for English cricket. The Ashes Test series concludes at the Oval, with the match scheduled for a Thursday start.
England player ratings
Alastair Cook (Captain)
43 & DNB
The calls for his demotion have long since faded away. Alastair Cook; a leader reborn, a previously rearguard, meek skipper transformed into a blood lusting tiger.
His score of 43 was well made until he played around a straight, full one from Mitchell Starc. Despite moderate contributions with the willow throughout the Ashes, Cook’s excellence at the helm has re-invigorated the squad.
14 & DNB
The one continual blemish on an otherwise excellent series for England, Lyth currently resembles a badly wounded deer waiting to be put out of his misery.
A couple of eye-catching cover drives were followed by a plodding forward defensive, a tickle of an edge caught behind, and a lonely walk back to the pavilion – a pattern in keeping with Lyth’s Ashes career thus far. Time to cut losses, promote Moeen and bring Rashid in as a front-line spinner.
1 & DNB
The ecstasy of Edgbaston made way for the turbulence of Trent Bridge, with Bell failing to build on the success he enjoyed at his home ground.
Despite the blip, his experience at number three gives England’s line-up a credibility long lacking, and although the talented Gary Ballance shouldn’t be written off, it is Bell who remains the best option in this most vital of positions.
130 & DNB
Took his tally for the series to 442 runs at an average of almost 74 with a defiant 130 that once again set him apart from every other batsman in the match.
The only potential long-term negative was the exacerbation of a long-standing back problem, which noticeably bothered Root in the latter stages of his innings, hopefully it’s something that won’t hinder his continued ascendency, sitting as he does at the summit of the Test batting rankings for the first time.
74 & DNB
Probably secured his selection, at least for the short-term, with an attacking half century amassed in difficult circumstances.
Bairstow and Root’s positive intent is hopefully a sign of things to come from England’s eminently gifted middle order, although the former continues to desperately seek his first Test hundred, having already gained 16 caps.
5 & 6-36
The young all-rounder has already gained a reputation as something of a maverick match-winner, albeit usually with bat in hand. This time it was his divine bowling that dragged England over the line.
An inspired spell doused what had threatened to be a decent Aussie comeback, with Stokes finding levels of consistency previously not evident. His wonder-catch remains the abiding snap-shot of this one-sided contest.
Jos Buttler (Wicket-Keeper)
12 & DNB
Another tidy display behind the timbers, although Buttler’s dearth of runs has seen his average drop from the mid 50’s to the high 30’s during this series.
The fact that his place is not under pressure owes much to the obvious impromptu genius he possesses, as well as the afore mentioned glove-work.
39 & 0-34
His quick-fire knock of 39 shouldn’t deserves more than to be glossed over, dragging as it did any lingering Mitchell Starc generated momentum away from Australia by the manner in which it was scored.
The conditions weren’t conducive to spin bowling, with Moeen’s six overs going at almost a run-a-ball. Could find himself promoted from number eight to opening if Adil Rashid is blooded next week.
28 & 4-82 (1-13/3-69)
Replaced the injured Jimmy Anderson, and had a memorable match. Supported the rampant Broad in the first innings, and bowled with channelled aggression in the second.
His bludgeoning knock of 28, having come in as night-watchman, demoralised an already downbeat opposition bowling attack. Likely to make way if Anderson is declared fit for the Oval, and would be very unfortunate if that’s the case.
24* & 9-47 (8-15/1-32)
His spell on the first morning virtually secured the Ashes, with the overcast conditions perfectly exploited by a bowler who has found his best rhythm once again this summer.
Likewise, Broad’s batting is on the rise, and he made another handy contribution at Trent Bridge. Only ill-fortune stopped him from picking up another “5-fer” second time around, with ball regularly defeating bat without reward.
0* & 1-63 (1-21/0-42)
One of the heroes of Edgbaston, Finn was altogether lower-key here, although one glorious in-swinger castled the dangerous Peter Nevill – the only Australian not dismissed via a catch in their debacle of a first innings.
England’s unexpected abundance of in-form quick bowlers could put Finn under immediate pressure, but he deserves a run in the side having seemingly rediscovered his rhythm after several years of strife.
Following this embarrassing turnover, Australia captain Michael Clarke announced that he will retire after the series, with around half a dozen other Australian players speculated to follow suit.
In the space of less than a couple of months Australia’s cricket world has collapsed, while England have rarely looked in ruder health. The Oval promises an inevitable England victory, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet!
A full review of England’s series will follow the Oval Test.