If you sat down without knowing the outcome, viewed the stats for most runs and most wickets in the series and were posed the question “Who won this series?” then the answer would have to be Australia by a country mile.
England skipper Andrew Strauss topped the Most Runs category with 474 at an average of 52.66. World class by any standard and he was deservedly Man of the Series. His elevation to the top job has been thoroughly vindicated. But until Trott’s wonderful ton in the second innings at the Oval, Strauss was the only Englishman with a century to his name across the five Tests. Contrast this with the Aussies. When Mike Hussey finally got his act together his was the eighth contribution of hundred or more from the tourists, and when you factor in that both Clarke and North came within 10 runs of a third ton each, and that seven out of the top eight run getters came from Australia, then you would assume it had been one sided.
Then there are the bowling stats. Mitchell Johnson was roundly castigated early in the series but still took 20 wickets, two more than Stuart Broad who topped the table for the hosts. Siddle and Hilfenhaus both bettered any England bowler so how was it that England managed to get their hands on the Urn?
I would contend that three passages of play went England’s way at crucial times in the series which meant the Aussies were always going to be playing catch up cricket.
Firstly the improbable hour long stand by Panesar and Anderson at Cardiff. Having complied a monumental lead, watch the hosts chase leather for a six sessions and Strauss appear clueless, Ponting’s bowlers seem to freeze in that last evening session. If Brett Lee had been fit then he would have knocked over our tail in no time, but a flat pitch, soft ball and no variation from the visitors allowed England to cling on.
The second passage came in the next Test. The plaudits went to Flintoff at Lords and his spell on the last morning to wrap up the tail was simply what a fast bowler ought to do, so although it made for great copy, the real root of our first victory over the Old Enemy at HQ since 1934 were laid on the first day when England climbed into the Aussie attack and although 221-1 became a rather limp 425, England’s openers had totally dominated the attack with Strauss going on to score 162 psychologically vital runs. Australia always target the Skipper and Strauss had vanquished his opposing Captain when Ponting went early in the reply leaving the Tourists at 10-2.
Following the Captain’s example the bowlers got stuck in and in the end it proved to be a crushing win for us.
Momentum was continued by Anderson and Onions at Edgbaston, although Clarke’s wonderful century on the final day of this rain ruined draw create a tilt towards Australia which they took advantage of by humiliating the hosts by an innings and 80 at Headingley.
A slog fest from Broad and Swann as the ship went down exposed the lack of a killer instinct in the Aussie attack, and everyone was dumbfounded when the Tourists attack remained unchanged for the Oval.
England posted a par score having won the toss. Then came the third and final decisive session for England as Broad blew a top drawer and full of runs Australian top order clean away claiming 5-37. The Tourists had gone mentally and Trott took full toll. The rest is history.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the win. But it somehow seems a bit weird when you consider that Cook, Bell, Collingwood, Bopara and Harmison were virtual passengers for most of the series.
The selectors must be ruthless. Out goes Harmison for good. Cook and Colly need time off a la Strauss 18 months ago. Cook along with county colleague Bopara need to play in the Championship for the next month. Denly needs to go to South Africa and Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid with back to back century/ five wicket hauls in the same game should go into the side to see if he can hack it at Test level. Rob Key deserves a recall.
The real test of how good England are will come on the 2010/11 tour Down Under.