Ashes 2013: England retain The Ashes

As the dust settles after another enthralling Ashes Summer, all eyes will slowly switch attention to the return series down under in less than three months time. But which side will fancy their chances in the 2013/14 Ashes Series?

England used far fewer members of their squad over the five test matches, in complete contrast to Australia who played 17 or their 18 touring party at some stage during the series. The constant chopping and changing of the top order may not have helped Australia’s cause this summer.

On the other hand, England heavily relied on one man’s contributions in order to succeed and successfully defend their Ashes crown.

Batsmen

England: In five tests, England scored five hundreds from only three centurions. Ian Bell scored three of them, becoming only the third Englishman to score three hundreds in a home Ashes Series. Kevin Pietersen showed his worth at Old Trafford and Joe Root delivered his promised talent at the Home of Cricket.

That apart, England’s top order failed to deliver. The hero from the 2010-11 win in Australia and captain Alistair Cook struggled to find the big score. He registered three half-centuries in 10 innings. Despite his 180 at Lord’s, Root still looks slightly inexperienced at International Level as he added just 159 more runs from his remaining innings.

Jonathon Trott, another run-machine last tour, went some way to redeeming his poor series with 59 on the final day in England’s thrilling run-chase, but still missed out considerably. Add to that Jonny Bairstow’s quiet Ashes debut and a disappointing series from the tail-enders, it’s hardly a surprise England’s highest score was 377.

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Only Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen had better series this time around, compared with 2010/11. Cook and Trott won’t be too concerned by their struggles this time around, but will hope to recapture that form which made the England batting line-up so feared two years ago.

Chris Woakes only had a small window to impress so he wont be judged at six, but it means England still have a slight problem with their batting line up going into the tour of Australia this winter.

England’s Batsmen ratings:

Alistair Cook: 6/10 Joe Root: 6/10 Jonathon Trott: 5/10 Kevin Pietersen: 7/10 Ian Bell: 10/10 Jonny Bairstow: 4/10

Australia: Well the Australian bingo selection didn’t work. Despite out-scoring England across the five tests, the batting order was always anyone’s guess before the toss on the opening morning. The top five changed every single game, with few consistent performers.

The top five, lead by Michael Clarke, only showed their true potential in Manchester and The Oval. Both test matches were drawn. Even Clarke struggled with the merry-go-round of constant interchanging of the batting order.

Shane Watson may now have found a home at number three, and Clarke must bat at four. Those two coming in after the opening pair balance the Australian order. Steve Smith impressed with his maiden ton and several good knocks at Old Trafford.

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To be successful on home soil, they’ll need to pick a line-up and stick with it. They relied on three players to make sense of the madness, and one very dependable captain to lead them.

Australia’s Batsmen ratings:

Chris Rodgers: 8/10 David Warner: 5/10 Shane Watson: 7/10 Michael Clarke: 10/10 Steven Smith: 7/10 Khawaja, Hughes, Cowan: 2/10

Bowlers

There wasn’t too much to choose between the two sets of bowlers before the start of the series, with perhaps only the spin department separating them. Graeme Swann had the decisive say in the series, but Australia will feel in their own conditions, they will have a slight advantage.

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England: The main difference, of course, Graeme Swann. Aston Agar made a stunning debut with the bat but never looked like impressing with the ball. Swann mastered the well-prepared spinning wickets, and secured the series for England.

James Anderson had his moments, of course the gripping final morning at Trent Bridge, and led England’s seam department as well as he always does. Stuart Broad ran through the Aussies for the series-winning test at Durham, and perhaps more importantly had a real strangle-hold of Michael Clarke throughout the series.

Tim Bresnan provided great control and worked over Shane Watson on more than one occasion, and will fancy his chances of a tour down under. Chris Tremlett will feel a bit disappointed he didn’t get a go in the final test, as will Steven Finn, but both are likely to be on the plane in November.

For England’s debut bowlers, the less said about their performances, the better.

England’s Bowlers ratings:

Graeme Swann: 9/10 James Anderson: 9/10 Stuart Broad: 8/10 Tim Bresnan: 7/10 Steven Finn: 2/10 Chris Woakes: 2/10 Simon Kerrigan: 1/10

Australia: Before the series Australia ex-coach was quoted as saying Australia have ‘the best bowling attack in the world’. Many would have laughed in his face, but afterwards it wasn’t such a bad shout. ‘Twenty wickets in the series’ was the general theme of a comment section on the article.

Ryan Harris continued his impressive form from the 2009 series, and showed with hard graft and maximum effort; wickets will come as a reward. Peter Siddle also showed good experience of English conditions with 17 wickets, and backed up Harris’ superb effort.

Mitchell Starc had experience at county level in England, but never quite hit his straps in this series. Jackson Bird only had the one test to show his ability, but he was another who struggled to make a real impact in foreign conditions. Shane Watson bowled his usual tight, economical lines and lengths but never threatened England’s batsmen.

Other than that, the rest of the attack struggled to find consistency with the ball. Spin was the main problem, with 19-year-old Ashton Agar unable to compete with Graeme Swann. Nathan Lyon did manage to bowl good lines but failed to take the wickets he deserved. Steve Smith’s occasional leg-break made him a more-than handy option when needing to slip some overs in.

Constantly chopping and the changing the seam bowlers never gave Australia a balanced attack, and perhaps that’s the reason why so much pressure was put on Harris to perform.

In home conditions however, the strength and pace of Australia’s could provide them with the ammunition to win back the urn.

Australia’s Bowlers rating:

Ryan Harris: 10/10 Peter Siddle: 7/10 Mitchell Starc: 6/10 Nathan Lyon: 6/10 James Pattinson: 3/10 Steven Smith: 5/10 Jackson Bird: 2/10 Shane Watson: 3/10 James Faulkner: 6/10 Aston Agar: 1/10

Wicketkeepers

When considering the best wicketkeepers in the world, MS Dhoni springs to mind. Matt Prior is probably regarded as the best test keeper. However, his poor series with the bat now means that Brad Haddin will come close in those terms. Prior will be particularly disappointed with his aggressive nature failing to boost England’s totals past 350.

Haddin claimed a record number of catches for a series with 29 and will hope to retain that form this winter. Prior claimed a record of his own with James Anderson, as the second most successful pairing in test history. 58 times a batsman has been caught by Prior off the bowling of Anderson. Perhaps a small consolation after being second-best this summer.

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Captains and Coaches

Australia can take great credit for their performance this Ashes Series. After a late change of coach, the off-field problems didn’t seem to hamper the team on it. Michael Clarke’s impact as a batsman has been unrivalled in recent years, but his captaincy has grown and grown.

Along with Daren Lehmann, their tactics were aggressive and always looking for a result, whether it be lose or win.

England on the other hand, will be well-worth all the criticism they receive over the coming days for dismal over-rates and run-rates, negative field settings and lack of sportsmanship.

In his first Ashes Series as captain, Alistair Cook will have a challenge on his hands along with Team Director Andy Flower to rebrand England, to produce a more appealing and attractive style of cricket.

Michael Clarke will be very proud of his side’s efforts throughout the five tests, and will feel so hard done by the 3-0 score line. A heavy defeat nevertheless for the Aussies, but in their own backyard, they will fancy sending England home empty-handed.

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