Night Shift Logic: That Was It?

Posted on August 6, 2013


A mere 14 days after the beginning of another highly anticipated series, England have retained the Ashes after the third test at Old Trafford ended in a soggy draw. Australia had the better of this third match, sure, but even if they had eked out a win here you’d be a brave man to bet against England still coming out on top in the series. The difference in quality between the two sides was clear from the second day of the series. The first test was a mighty close affair, but reality was skewed by a once in a lifetime innings by debutante Ashton Agar. The second test, as embarrassing as it was, almost felt like normal service resumed, as England positively mauled the Aussies. As the third test spluttered into its fifth day there were signs of renewed confidence from Australia, and their batting finally seemed to be working. Still, it’s hard to think of a more underwhelming Ashes series in recent memory. Even the 5-0 drubbing in 2007 had moments of sheer drama in the first couple of games.

The sad thing is that England have been far from their best the whole time. They’ve outscored the Aussies, but a look at the stats is telling. Ian Bell may have two hundreds to his name, but neither took him past 110. Joe Root’s average of 48 is skewed by his wonderful 180 in the Lords test. After that, Englands batting has been decidedly average, best exemplified by Stuart Broads position as their third best average so far. Even the bowling, so often the teams strong point, hasn’t fired on all cylinders. Once again, the vast majority of wickets have been taken by Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann. Indeed, Swann has taken more than the rest of the side (minus Anderson) combined.

The difference is that Australia have been incredibly poor. Look at their statistics. Michael Clarke tops their averages by a long way, but none of the next three positions are taken by front line batsmen (Pattinson, Agar, Haddin). Shane Watson, one of their most senior players, has a highest score of 46 after six innings. David Warner, supposedly back to instill some bully-esque confidence at Old Trafford, was quickly exposed as the average player he is. The rest of the side, Chris Rogers, have been shunted up and down the line up with no plan anywhere to be seen. The bowling has been better, especially since the inclusion of the impressive Ryan Harris, but holes are still screaming at you from point blank range. There is no international level spinning option for Australia right now, and I’m starting to doubt whether the shadow of Warne has anything to do with it at all. The seamers have been honest, occasionally very good, but nothing more.

These are very sad times for Australian cricket, and by that same token very sad times for fans of Ashes test series. We’ll have a long wait before the excitement of 2005 or 2009 is revisited,