Alastair Cook (72 and 0) – 100 Tests ago, a fresh-faced Alastair Cook made 60 and 104* in Nagpur – the dream debut for the choirboy with the dreamy looks. What the Gods give, they can so capriciously withdraw – a thought that may have crossed his mind as he trudged back with his first Golden Duck (indeed, Diamond Duck) in those 100 Tests and The Ashes surely gone, a nightmare to balance the dream. Though Ryan Harris had produced a perfect delivery first up second time round, Cook’s slow reactions at first slip in grassing a regulation chance the previous afternoon spoke of a man with too much on his mind – and so it proved. The England captain will be 29 on Christmas Day and must hope that his 30th year will start rather better than his 29th has finished. Alas, that belief is about as plausible as a belief in Santa Claus right now.
Michael Carberry (43 and 31) – He keeps doing a decent job and keeps failing to go on to a good job by getting out when the hard work is done. The Hampshire man has spent the entire Tour in good nick, but has only one half-century in the Tests to show for it. Unlike some of his colleagues, at least he has always looked like a Test cricketer and probably deserves to hold on to his place after the inquest to come.
Joe Root (4 and 19, 0-4 and 0-24) – Twice out to thinnish edges and twice confirmed out on review, he may have a claim to some bad luck, but DRS is there for howlers and neither of Marais Erasmus’ decisions fell into that category. The Yorkie worked very hard in the second innings, but the contrast with the freedom shown by the Australian batsmen was marked. The 22 year-old will have learned a lot about cricket, indeed about life, on this brutally disappointing tour.
Kevin Pietersen (19 and 45) – Oh Kevin! Out-thought again by Siddle, he had spent an hour and a half playing the match situation only to play the man with an hubristic strong arm pull to mid-on where Mitchell Johnson’s athleticism was enough to take the catch. It was the tenth time in Tests that Siddle has sent KP packing – both the bowler’s and batsman’s most frequent dismissal in their careers. Does KP still see a fast-medium trier ripe for smashing after all those years? England’s most feared batsman got bat on ball in the second dig, but it’s in the first innings that great players make their mark – KP’s first dig scores of 18, 4 and 19 speak for themselves.
Ian Bell (15 and 60) – Another batsman who worked hard and was then dismissed by brilliant Australian cricket – Ryan Harris nailing him LBW on review by Michael Clarke. England’s best batsman of the year got his head down for some second innings runs with the tyro Ben Stokes, but the task was too great for Bell Summer 2013, never mind Bell Winter 2013-14.
Ben Stokes (18 and 120, 1-63 and 2-82) – While all around him was crumbling, Stokes bustled in, hit the crease hard (almost too hard on occasion, the front foot all but over the line continually) and looked – amazingly – like he was enjoying it. Such an attitude speaks of a man with the right stuff and, with England’s management looking to rescue what it can from the debacle before some inevitable re-building in the summer, the Durham all-rounder may be just what’s needed at 6 or 7. A Test century, albeit in bittersweet circumstances, will not have harmed that case.
Matt Prior (8 and 26, 3ct) – England’s vice-captain looked shot on both sides of the stumps in a disastrous match. After years of consistently good performances interspersed with some of dazzling brilliance, it may be time for a break from Test cricket, something that has done no harm to his opposite number, four years his senior and in the form of his life.
Tim Bresnan (21 and 12, 1-81 and 2-53) – Back in the side after injury, he chugged in to take his share of the wickets and scored a few runs, but his contribution needs the big guns firing to be fully appreciated. That’s the difference between “innocuous” and “supportive”, a tightrope Bresnan seems destined always to walk.
Stuart Broad (5 and 2*, 3-100) – He looked England’s most likely wicket-taker for the fifth innings in a row, before hobbling off after being sorted out by Mitchell Johnson’s Ball of the Series, a wickedly snaking yorker that smashed into his right foot just before it was destined to do the same to the middle stump. One of England’s few players to have done himself justice may not be fit for Melbourne and Sydney and might be advised to go home and get himself ready for next summer and summer 2015, when his role in the attempt to wrest back The Urn will surely be absolutely critical.
Graeme Swann (19 and 4, 2-71 and 1-92) – He may be England’s irrepressible spinner with 255 Test wickets and late order biffer with 57 half-centuries in professional cricket, but Australia have treated him like any old Pommie finger-spinner and batting bunny. If Swanny can’t block an end and isn’t taking wickets, England’s whole game plan sent awry and, though an overly aggressive Warner (twice) and Clarke fell to him, Australia’s approach has effectively hit Swann out of the attack – of all England’s bowlers, he has the highest average and highest economy rate. One sees the hand of Darren Lehmann at work and one can only admire the chutzpah.
Jimmy Anderson (2 and 2, 2-60 and 0-105) – The Englishman with the most international wickets in history was treated with respect in the first innings, but disdain in the second, as George Bailey took an unlikely record as joint scorer of most runs in a Test over, smashing England’s attack leader for 28 off six balls. Jimmy must be wondering what he needs to do to get the Kookaburra ball off-line because, without lateral movement on hard wickets against batsmen brimming with confidence, England’s finest just doesn’t have enough arrows in his quiver.
David Warner (60 and 112) – If his first dig set up Australia’s effort, his second buried England’s chances in a blaze of pulls, cuts and drives that annihilated his opponents’ bowling plans and fielding discipline. On a true surface, the pugnacious opener gives bowlers no hiding place, no length that can bottle him up – they must simply wait for the storm to pass. Although why England were so reluctant to bounce him, even if the deliveries turned into 130 clicks per hour lollipops in the heat of the afternoon, baffled this observer.
Chris Rogers (11 and 54) – Not quite at the races, he still managed a few beautiful drives through the offside in compiling another gritty half-century. As is the case with Peter Siddle, one can’t but feel happy for a good pro who has made the most of his talent and will have an Ashes win to take to his grave.
Shane Watson (18 and 103, 1-48 and 1-39) – Less parsimonious with the ball than of late, but he still snared England’s Numbers 2 and 3, so he will settle for that. His less than stellar series with the bat looked set to continue, until given licence to attack at the start of Day Four whereupon he launched into Graeme Swann with two fours and a six from the first over of the morning. His fourth Test century duly arrived, Australia’s seventh of the series – England have one. Provoked a few laughs with a comedy dismissal, but the last laugh was his.
Michael Clarke (24 and 23) – The Australian skipper pleased his team by winning the toss and, in return, was given an armchair ride by his batsmen and bowlers to the sweetest victory in his 100 Tests. That he played two poor shots for two nothing scores will be remembered by precisely nobody.
Steve Smith (111 and 15) – With just 61 runs from his four innings of the series so far and a scoreboard reading 143-5, Steve Smith must have felt a little pressure midway through the second session of Day One. He got his head down and then started to smack the ball through the inexplicably unguarded midwicket region, usually along the ground, to reach his century by the close and shift the all important momentum to the home side. Almost a caricature of an Aussie cricketer – the ticker possessed almost exactly in inverse proportion to the technique.
George Bailey (7 and 39*) – He must be wondering what all the fuss is about re Test cricket. Three Tests into his career, he has an Ashes win and a part share in a record – with one Brian Charles Lara. Phillip Hughes must be wondering about Test cricket too.
Brad Haddin (55 and 5, 8ct) – If he makes four ducks and drops ten catches from here, he’s still the main reason why Australia have won back The Ashes. No praise is too high, after a fourth consecutive fifty and a third consecutive first innings knock that transformed the balance of the match. His keeping was excellent too.
Mitchell Johnson (39 and 0*, 2-62 and 4-78) – Batted well, bowled well and found the perfect ball to dismiss and crock his opposite number, Stuart Broad. If showing some signs of fatigue after his extraordinary efforts in Brisbane and Adelaide, he was still a frightening prospect, as recognised by the buzz that went round the crowd whenever he took the ball. It used to be jeers, you know.
Peter Siddle (21, 3-36 and 1-67) – A three time Ashes loser, the Victorian Vegan never lost heart and reaps a richly deserved reward. He kept getting the ball exactly where he intended, seeing off KP with a winning combination of ultra-smart bowling and manic celebration. He has delivered the third seamer’s job description perfectly for the third Test in a row – a magnificent effort.
Ryan Harris (12, 3-48 and 1-73) – Speaking of magnificent efforts… A third Test in a row for the veteran quick, who may only have 19 Test caps, but plays with the craft of a man with 81 more. He didn’t get carried away with the fabled WACA bounce, hitting both openers’ stumps and pinning Ian Bell LBW. We knew before the series started that Harris was a very good bowler – now he has a case for being considered a great one.
Nathan Lyon (17, 1-39 and 3-70) – Spinners don’t have much to do at Perth – they use the ocean breeze to drift the ball and block an end, but the high jinx from the high bounce is usually the preserve of the quicks. Lyon’s figures don’t impress much, but he dismissed a set Cook in the first dig and a set KP and England’s sole century-maker of the series in the second. Once more, he showed the unmistakable sign of a resourceful cricketer in this most resourceful of cricket teams – he found a way to contribute.
You can tweet me at @garynaylor999