When Australia headed to England for The Ashes there wasn’t much excitement this time round. Australia had lost the previous two Ashes series and they weren’t rated very highly for the latest series as well. Still, any Ashes loss is hugely disappointing for both the teams taking part in the historic series. Australia would obviously have been distraught at going down 3-0, but they would have be relievedthat they at least ended up squaring the T20 series before going on to claim the rain curtailed one-day series 2-1.
The Ashes, the most important phase of the tour, was going to be the litmus test for the Aussies, but most of them flunked badly. When the openers flourish, the respective side automatically does well. In Australia’s case though, while Chris Rogers kept improving with every game, and came up with some wonderful knocks, including a maiden hundred, he did not find a stable partner throughout the series, and this hurt Australia in a major way. Shane Watson had a torrid time at the top of the order, constantly getting himself into a tangle. And, when David Warner was back in the mix, he too failed to deliver.
England’s top three had an equally miserable series as their Aussie counterparts, perhaps even worse. However, while England found a consistent performer in Ian Bell even as the likes of Kevin Pietersen chipped in with crucial contributions, much did not come from the Australian middle-order batsmen. Skipper Michael Clarke had just than one special knock to show and while Steven Smith did his reputation no harm with some dogged knocks, Australia’s overall batting effort was way below par. They needed more out of their lower order as well. Apart from Ashton Agar and Brad Haddin in the opening Test, they did not have much to show.
Australia’s bowling in the Tests was well led by Ryan Harris, who grabbed plenty of scalps with his wicket-taking deliveries. But apart from Peter Siddle, who was workmanlike as always, the visitors failed to trouble the English middle order. Mitchell Starc is still learning the tricks of Test cricket, and it was too much to expect James Faulkner to fire right away. Watson only reiterated how his constant injury woes have crippled his bowling. Above all, Australia missed a quality spinner like Graeme Swann. Nathan Lyon is a hard trier, but cannot run through opponents.
The shorter format finally saw the Aussies getting into their groove. Aaron Finch grabbed his T20 opportunity with a record-shattering innings in the first match. Again, Australia would have been disappointed to not have clinched the series as they went down in the second T20. They however recovered very well to claim the one-dayers. Unlike in the Tests, Clarke was at his very best throughout the ODIs, which were reduced to three matches due to constant rains. Watson also came up with a magnificent knock in the deciding ODI. It can be argued that England did not put up their best squad for the ODIs, but Aussies would just be pleased to return home with something to cherish.
--By A Cricket Analyst