The Big Review (Part 2)
Now it’s time for part 2 of my review of the 2013 Ashes series. Today it’s the turn of the Australians and I think it’s fair to say that their ratings don’t match the 3-0 scoreline.
Australia – 6/10
- At times this Australian side looked something like the team that dominated the cricketing world throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s. Unlike England, the team from Down Under posted two scores of 400+ (527/7 declared at Old Trafford and 492/9 declared at The Oval) but both times rain meant they didn’t have a chance to convert these into victories. They didn’t really deserve to lose 3-0 but will need to look at their batting – there were so many top and middle-order collapses and in the first Test they relied far too much on the last wicket partnership. If they can find a batting line-up that works and keep all their bowlers fit then this side could hit back hard in the next few years.
Chris Rogers (Runs – 367; Average – 40.77; HS – 110; 50s – 2; 100s – 1) – 8/10
- Recalled to the team at the age of 35 after just 1 Test, the county stalwart was by far the most consistent batsman in the team. After a nervous first couple of Tests, including a horrific dismissal off a Graeme Swann full toss at Lord’s, he really opened up at Old Trafford. His 84 runs came largely before lunch on the first day and he didn’t look back. His 110 at Durham, his first Test hundred, was a touch lucky (he was dropped on 49) but included some wonderful stroke play. Expect more runs from him in the return series.
Shane Watson (Runs – 418; Average – 41.8; HS – 176; 50s – 1; 100s -1; Wickets – 2; Average – 89.5) – 7/10
- He may have ended up as the leading run-scorer for his side but things weren’t going particularly well for Watson with the bat up until the fourth Test. His 68 in the first innings after dropping down the order to number 6 helped Australia recover from yet another top-order collapse, but it was his century at The Oval that really showed what he can do with the bat. He didn’t really play a false shot during his mammoth 176 and proved that he can convert those fifties into big hundreds. He also bowled fantastically during the series – he didn’t pick up many wickets but put the squeeze on England by bowling maiden after maiden (including 11 in 15 overs at Trent Bridge), allowing the bowlers at the other end to pick up the wickets.
Ed Cowan (Runs – 14; Average – 7; HS – 14) – 2/10
- An unfortunate victim of the Australian selection rollercoaster, Cowan did himself no favours by getting himself out with what can only be described as a waft at Trent Bridge. What’s more, it was his first ball of the series and left skipper Michael Clarke to face a hat-trick ball from James Anderson! His second innings wasn’t much better and he was rightfully dropped – there was just no sense of endurance or resistance in the short time he batted. Hopefully he can recover from this and once again don the ‘Baggy Green.
Michael Clarke (Runs – 381; Average – 47.62; HS – 187; 50s – 1; 100s – 1) – 7/10
- Some may say that this is a bit of a low rating for Clarke given the amount of runs he scored and the average he got but I don’t think it is. Too many times Clarke was part of an Aussie collapse, with only his 51 at Lord’s showing the kind of resistance needed against a fired up English attack. His 187 at Old Trafford, though, was majestic and showed just how good Clarke really is. It’s also fair to say that he undoubtedly received the two best balls of the series from Anderson and Stuart Broad that didn’t help his cause. His captaincy, however, was absolutely fantastic. He utilised his bowlers well, set imaginative and attacking fielding positions and even tried to create a result in the final game. It was the complete opposite to most current captains and was really great to see – let’s just hope he doesn’t out-do England any time soon!
Phil Hughes (Runs – 83; Average – 27.6; HS – 81*; 50s – 1) – 5/10
- His solid innings of 81* in the first innings of the first Test was largely overshadowed by Ashton Agar’s brilliance but seemed to suggest the left hander was bang in form and ready to score lots of runs. It wasn’t to be, though, as England yet again exposed the flaws in his technique, restricting him to just 2 runs in his next three innings. Needs to find some consistency with the bat if he wants to stop getting dropped from the side.
Steve Smith (Runs – 345; Average – 38.33; HS – 138*; 50s – 2; 100s – 1; Wickets – 4; Average – 28.5) – 8/10
- His unquestionable talent finally translated itself into both runs and wickets during this pivotal series. If Smith hadn’t performed he would’ve been dropped and may not have returned to the Test scene for some time – this was his final chance. To his credit, though, Smith performed brilliantly throughout the series. His batting in particular shone, culminating in his maiden Test century at The Oval. Also showed vast improvements in his bowling capabilities by picking up 4 crucial wickets, 3 of which came late on the first at Lord’s and ruined what had been a very good day for England up to that point. Let’s just hope he can continue in this way.
Brad Haddin (Runs – 206; Average – 22.88; HS – 71; Catches – 29) – 5/10
- Like his opposite number Matt Prior, this was a poor series with the bat for Haddin. His 71 at Trent Bridge almost won the Aussies the game in the most unlikely of fashions but, except for an innings of 65* which included a lot of slogging, Haddin wasn’t close to showing the kind of form he has done previously against England. His ‘keeping, on the other hand, was superb – he set the world record for the most number of catches in a series and, apart from one sitter that he missed at The Oval, was world class behind the stumps.
Mitchell Starc (Runs – 104; Average – 26; HS – 66*; 50s – 1; Wickets – 11; Average – 32.45) – 6/10
- Definitely the unluckiest man in the team, Starc was dropped on two occasions despite having done nothing wrong. He was a touch inconsistent with the ball but when he got it right he was almost unplayable and ended up with respectable bowling figures for the series. He also proved he’s no mug with the bat, spanking the ball to all parts of the ground at Old Trafford, yet it was his run out of Ian Bell with the last action of the series that showed just what a quality player he is. If he can become a regular in the team it won’t be long before Starc is regularly terrorising opposition batsmen all over the world.
James Pattinson (Runs – 72; Average – 36; HS – 35; Wickets – 7; Average – 43.85) – 4/10
- Pattinson came over to England being hailed as the next Australian fast bowling great, capable of speeds over 90mph and giving batsmen a few bruises. So it came as a big shock to us all when he tried to bowl line and length, showing no aggression at all! He was also down on speed before being ruled out of the final three games with a stress fracture of the back, which I think was the reason he didn’t bowl anywhere near his best. Pattinson could easily become one of the greatest of all time but the big question is can he stay fit? Like Starc, Pattinson also showed great promise with the bat and his partnership with Haddin almost won Australia the first Test.
Peter Siddle (Wickets – 17; Average – 31.58; 5wh – 1) – 7/10
- Peter Siddle is just great. He brings no fuss, no moaning, no controversial press conferences, just a will to succeed and a great heart. You know with him that he will give his all, no matter the circumstances. It’s also good to see that he has largely got rid of the faux pax aggression he brought to these shores in 2009 as it made him look silly and detracted from his superb bowling. His 5-fer in the first innings of the series made a lot of English fans worried but he never really found it easy to take wickets after that, despite being extremely consistent with both line and length.
Ashton Agar (Runs – 130; Average – 32.5; HS – 98; 50s – 1; Wickets – 2; Average – 124) – 4/10
- His selection for the first Test was almost as surprising as the inclusion of Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan in the final game. However, he silenced his critics with an unbelievable 98, setting a new record for the highest score by a number 11 in Test history. Unfortunately, he won’t be remembered for his bowling (his main trait), as it was less than impressive. Although consistent, he struggled to beat the edges of English bats and only picked up two wickets. It could have been more had Broad walked, but we’ll never know. Whether he plays again for Australia isn’t clear, but what is certain is that the name Ashton Agar will be forever remembered due that innings.
Usman Khawaja (Runs – 114; Average – 19; HS – 54; 50s – 1) – 3/10
- After showing huge promise at the end of the 2010/11 series, Khawaja’s obvious skill has never been fully realised. This was the case again this series – his 54 at Lord’s showed what a class act he can be but for the rest of the time he looked almost awestruck as he struggled to get the ball off the square. Hopefully he can bounce back from this series but the way he batted suggests he may not have the mental strength to do this. I just hope I’m proved wrong.
Ryan Harris (Wickets – 24; Average – 19.58; 5wh – 2) – 9/10
- For Harris, this was the series that really proved what a quality bowler he is. The fact he was the second leading wicket-taker behind Swann (26) despite playing one game less shows just how good he is. What makes his achievements even more impressive is the fact that this was the first time he had played four Tests in a row! His figures of 5-72 in his first innings at Lord’s showed Australia just what they’d been missing in the first game and his Test-best figures of 7-117 at Durham epitomised just how important he is to them. Without a shadow of a doubt he is their Man of the Series.
David Warner (Runs – 138; Average – 23; HS – 71; 50s – 1; Punches attempted – 1; Punches connected – Unsure) – 5/10
- Made headlines for all the wrong reasons before the series started after taking a swipe at Joe Root in a nightclub and subsequently missed the first two games. After his recall he showed just what a dashing batsman he is, highlighted in his 71 at Durham, but was far too inconsistent (notice a pattern here?). If he can just get his head down and concentrate on delivering runs week in, week out there is no doubt Warner could stay at the top of the order for a while to come, but that is a big if!
Nathan Lyon (Wickets – 9; Average – 33.66) – 6/10
- Unfairly dropped for the first two matches after claiming career best figures in Sri Lanka in his last Test, Lyon bowled well on his recall, although he lacked the potency of Swann. Was unlucky not to get more wickets at Old Trafford as his flight and guile caused problems for lots of English batsmen but was still impressive. Picked up 7 of his wickets during the fourth Test on a pitch that wasn’t really suited to spin bowlers, including Kevin Pietersen after cleverly deciding to bowl round the wicket to him. However during the final innings at The Oval KP smacked him around, showing that Lyon still lacks a certain something that will earn his bowling the respect he craves from the top batsmen.
Jackson Bird (Wickets – 2; Average – 62.5) – 3/10
- Only played at Durham as the selectors felt he would suit the pitch, Bird started off well with two early wickets. However, he then proceeded to get carted around in the second innings and did little to impress. To compound his misery, he was then ruled out for the rest of the English summer with a lower back injury to become the next Australian fast-bowling crock.
James Faulkner (Runs – 45; Average – 22.5; HS – 23; Wickets – 6; Average – 16.33) – 7/10
- Unlike Woakes and Kerrigan, Faulkner had a pretty successful debut at The Oval. Showed some great attacking intent with the bat and was aggressive with the ball, deservedly picking up 4-51 in England’s first innings. Whether or not he will retain his place for the start of the next series is unsure, but he has done himself no harm with this performance and shows signs of developing into the next Freddie Flintoff.