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2015 Ashes Review

From the rapture of Cardiff, to the anti-climax at the Oval, the 2015 Ashes series was one of the strangest in recent memory, leaving both Australia and England with far more questions than answers.

It was the home side that regained the little urn, triumphing 3-2 courtesy of a trio of wins notable by their brevity. The tourists on the other hand destroyed England to achieve their two Test wins, ensuring that they dominated the batting averages as matters tumbled to a close.

In terms of days played it set a new low for a five match Ashes series, with only 18 of 25 utilised by two sides seemingly determined to throw caution to the wind from the offset.

 

Ending of Eras

It also closed the book on some notable careers, with Aussie skipper Michael Clarke announcing his retirement along with team-mates Ryan Harris and Chris Rogers.

England stalwart Ian Bell struggled, save for a defiant display at his home ground of Edgbaston, stating that he’ll make a decision of his own during the next week or so.

Ultimately the cricket wasn’t often sparkling, but in passages the likes of new Australia captain Steven Smith, Rogers, Joe Root and Stuart Broad rose above the mediocrity to place their imprint on the series.

England Player Ratings

Numbers
Alastair Cook (Captain): 7/10
Runs: 330, Average: 36.66

Cook led the side with more assurance than previously, displaying both innovation and purposeful intent. His batting was relatively consistent, although he failed to achieve his first century in a home Ashes contest, falling agonisingly close twice with scores of 96 and 85.

Adam Lyth: 2/10
Runs: 115, Average: 12.77

Dire. Looked every inch a player with an inflated County average achieved against gentle seam bowlers on batting friendly tracks. Far from international standard, at almost 28 Lyth should probably be consigned to the overflowing scrapheap of failed English opening batsmen, with Moeen Ali promoted instead.

Ian Bell: 5/10
Runs: 215, Average: 26.87

Warwickshire fans rejoiced when Bell struck a brace of half centuries on a testing surface at home ground Edgbaston, his elevation to number three seemingly spurring a renaissance. Sadly he reverted to previous form thereafter, necessitating some deep contemplation post-series for the only Englishman to have ever won five Ashes series.

Joe Root: 8/10
Runs: 460. Average: 57.50
Wickets: 4, Average: 33.75

England’s go-to Yorkie when chasing the winning line, Root had three exceptional matches in which he struck England’s only pair of hundreds, as well as two half-centuries and an unbeaten 38. With four wickets to boot, the 24 year-old Vice-Captain did show some fallibility in the face of tactical short bowling, but was a class above his country’s other batsmen.

Johnny Bairstow: 6/10
Runs: 118. Average: 29.50

Returned to the fold at Edgbaston following abundant form for Yorkshire. A belligerent 74 helped England to take advantage of skittling Australia out for just 60 at Trent Bridge. That knock aside he fielded soundly without being entirely assured at the crease. Deserves a prolonged run at this level.

Ben Stokes: 7/10
Runs: 201. Average: 25.12
Wickets: 11. Average: 33.45

The heir to Andrew Flintoff’s throne showed glimpses of undoubted potential, as well as providing the enduring image of Ashes cricket in 2015 with a barely believable one-handed catch taken when diving full length in the slips. Batting fizzled out over the course of the summer, with bowling by contrast becoming more consistent. Promising.

Jos Buttler: 5/10
Runs: 122. Average: 15.25
Dismissals: 12

Kept wicket without any issues, yet Buttler’s batting fell off a cliff, with his last ditch knock of 42 beefing a paltry average up towards the relative heights of the mid-teens. Will need to work on his defensive skills if he’s going to succeed in the longer format.

Moeen Ali: 7/10
Runs: 293. Average: 36.62
Wickets: 12. Average: 45.50

The experiment of utilising Moeen’s batting skills in the lower echelons of the line-up worked a treat, as he regularly contributed quickfire runs among the tail. His position as a front-line bowler is less secure though, with his left arm spin not a patch of opposition tweaker Nathan Lyon.

Stuart Broad: 8.5/10
Runs: 134. Average: 19.14
Wickets: 21. Average: 20.90

One of Broad’s finest summers as a Test bowler, he was consistently thrilling, peaking with a career-best 8-15 at Trent Bridge. His batting also improved significantly from recent efforts, with a willingness to tough it out against the opposition’s quicks commendable. Passed Fred Trueman’s 307 Test scalps, ending the series with 308 of his own.

Mark Wood: 7/10
Runs: 103. Average: 25.75
Wickets: 10. Average: 39.10

Appeared jaded early on, but became integral to England’s success. His fierce bowling lacks precision at times, but he has the talent and work ethic to become world class. Chipped in with useful runs and fielded superbly; a pleasing all-round contribution.

Jimmy Anderson: 8/10
Runs: 11. Average: 2.75
Wickets: 10. Average: 27.50

His spell of 6-47 at Edgbaston swung the momentum heavily in England’s favour, although he suffered a side strain in the same Test, missing the remaining couple of matches as a result. Looks back to somewhere approaching his best, and a target of 550 wickets at this level can’t be discounted.

Steven Finn: 7/10
Runs: 9. Average: N.A
Wickets: 12. Average: 22.50

After around 18 months in the international wilderness, Finn returned with one of the most potent displays of his entire career. At 26 years-old he looks to have finally found the consistent rhythm to succeed among the elite of world cricket.

Gary Ballance: 4/10
Runs: 98. Average: 24.50

Technical flaws exposed in the first two Test matches, Ballance, who had a fairytale first year in five day cricket, looked out of his depth in the two games he played, with only a scratchy 61 of note to show for his efforts. Will need to improve his sluggish footwork to fulfil undoubted potential.

So, we move on to the limited overs game. Can England continue the impressive form they showed against New Zealand earlier in the summer? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Ashes Watch: Finn-spirational England!

Win, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win… Not the start of a hastily penned poem, but England’s results in their past seven Test matches.

Steven Finn

Following a 405-run stuffing at Lord’s, England’s selectors refrained from any major amendments, instead tweaking the batting line-up by replacing the out-of-sorts Gary Ballance with his very in-form Yorkshire colleague Johnny Bairstow, and promoting Ian Bell and Joe Root one place in the order.

One enforced change meant that the weary Mark Wood was rested, with Steven Finn given the latest opportunity of his frustratingly sporadic international career.

Fantastic Finn

The latter proved to be the catalyst for a three-day victory, with a second innings Test best bowling analysis of 6-79 ensuring that the home side only had to chase 121 to regain the lead in this intriguing, albeit error-strewn, series.

Equally uplifting were the return to form of Ian Bell on his home patch, Moeen’s continued consistency and Jimmy Anderson’s mesmeric first innings spell that resulted in an Ashes best-bowling return of 6-47, although a side strain rules him out of the fourth Test, meaning that England will turn to Stuart Broad to lead the attack.

Other than the injury to Anderson, the continued malaise of Adam Lyth becomes increasingly prevalent with each meek dismissal, and Jos Buttler could use a knock of substance to accompany his pristine glove-work.

England third Test ratings

Alastair Cook (Captain)
34 & 7

Batted with sublime precision until unfortunately lodging a lusty pull-shot straight into the ample bread-basket of a cowering Adam Voges for one of the more peculiar dismissals of his career.

Smartly rotated his attack, using Finn in brief bursts and setting attacking fields that proved too tempting for most of the Australian batsmen. Another failure in the second innings was outweighed by the aura of Cook’s newly found comfort in the lead role.

6/10 (Batting: 4/10, Captaincy: 8/10)

Adam Lyth
10 & 12

Two more failures for a player who is threatening to earn the “passenger” tag if he doesn’t step up at Trent Bridge next week.

A worrying trend of collapsing towards leg-stump continues to undermine a player with the capacity to fill a role that has been an English weakness since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012. Will have to produce soon with Alex Hales waiting patiently in the wings.

2/10

Ian Bell
53 & 65*

Edgbaston Test was widely reported as a last chance saloon for Bell, whose rotten sequence of scores had placed him under the spotlight, with a gaggle of younger players touted as replacements.

Ian Bell

Thankfully the veteran excelled during cap number 113, providing the glue in both innings, to eventually see England over the line on day three in front of his home crowd. Looked instantly at ease occupying the tricky slot at number three.

8/10

Joe Root
63 & 38*/ 0-7

Another whose promotion was a success, Root is England’s go-to player these days, and the Vice-Captain once again stepped up on a tricky surface with two more valuable contributions.

Plays with the freedom of an unburdened soul who relishes the heat of battle, as he continues to torment bowlers from all over the globe with his aesthetically alluring displays – none of whom have yet found a reliable solution.

8/10

Johnny Bairstow
5 & DNB

25 year-old’s recall arrived courtesy of majestic county form, where he’s been averaging more than 100 for Yorkshire this season, and can’t really be judged on this brief appearance.

A rip-snorter of a Mitchell Johnson bouncer did for the raven-haired middle order man, who had to be in good form just to nick it! Likely to be retained for the foreseeable future.

2/10

Ben Stokes
0 & DNB/ 1-28

Like Bairstow, Stokes received a brutal Johnson half-tracker that almost took his head off, so it’s difficult to be critical of that dismissal (it wasn’t like, say, jumping over the ball and being run-out!)

Ben Stokes

Only bowled 11 overs due to the excellence of the rest of England’s seam attack, but was on point and tidy throughout a prolonged spell that covered for Anderson’s absence on the third day.

4/10 (Batting: 1/10, Bowling: 7/10)

Jos Buttler (wicket-keeper)
9 & DNB

Took a couple of spectacular pouches behind the timbers, as his ‘keeping continues to excel in tricky circumstances.

That is fortunate in light of yet more uncertainty at the crease. A scratchy 38-ball knock of 9 can be partially justified by overcast conditions and a spicy track, but the cold hard facts are that Buttler has yet to contribute more than 27 in his five Ashes innings.

5/10 (Batting: 2/10, Wicket-Keeping: 8/10)

Moeen Ali
58 & 1-64

Time and again Moeen has frustrated his Aussie counterparts with quick-fire runs among the lower order, with some saying that his improvement against the short ball validates him as the best option to open alongside Cook.

His half-century propelled England’s lead from a reasonable 54 to a daunting 145, and he took the vital wicket of Mitchell Starc, who had threatened to make a match of it with a tail-end 50 of his own.

7/10 (Batting: 8/10, Bowling: 6/10)

Stuart Broad
31 & DNB /2-44 & 1-61

It’s a joy to see Broad batting well again, those handy contributions down the order had been sorely missed since breaking his nose in the summer of 2014, when India’s Varun Aaron squeezed a short ball betwixt helmet and grill.

As well as a responsibly compiled 31, Broad was the lesser of the trio of bowlers who tormented Australia in their first innings, and chipped in with another wicket second time round, although he’ll probably need to bowl even better in the absence of Anderson next week.

7/10 (Batting: 7/10, Bowling: 7/10)

*Steven Finn*
0* & DNB/ 2-38 & 6-79

What a recall! Finn could barely have wished for a more productive return to the Test fold. From the embryonic deliveries of an imposing first day burst, it was clear that the 6 foot 7 inch fast-bowler barely resembled the crest-fallen trundler who was sent home early from the 2013-14 series “down under”.

Then One-Day coach Ashley Giles had described him as “unselectable”, after this display he may be indispensable. At 26 years old the hope is that he has finally come of age, six years after he initially burst onto the international scene.

9/10

Jimmy Anderson
3 & DNB/ 6-47 & 1-15

Back to his very best, Anderson had the ball swinging both ways at close to 90mph, perplexing all of the Australian batsmen who became unsure whether to play or leave, resulting in the demise of half a dozen by the second morning.

Jimmy Anderson

The crowd relished this skilful exhibition from the king of swing, who also celebrated his 33rd birthday on day two of the match. The only downside was a side-strain that rules him out of the reckoning for Trent Bridge, although it’s hoped that he’ll recover in time for the climax at the Oval.

9/10

That’s more like it! England and Australia resume hostilities at Trent Bridge next week, but will we actually witness a match that makes it into the fifth day? As usual Kureen will be keeping an eye on the action!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.