Posted by: tootingtrumpet | January 9, 2018

Ashes 2017-18: Australia Report Card

We won! We won! We won!

David Warner (441 runs at 63; 1 catch) – The Reverend is no longer the bully with the biggest bat and the ballsiest bullshit (not all the time anyway), but has settled into a second fiddle role behind his captain as the perfect team man. Shepherded his debutant partner at Brisbane turning what might have been a tricky pursuit of 170 into a stroll and then cashed in against a defeated, but not wholly deflated, team at Melbourne, where he played the match situation astutely.

Grade B

Cameron Bancroft (179 runs at 26; 5 catches) – After a promising start, looked vulnerable outside off stump and through the gate as the series progressed. He might keep his place in the immediate future, but a return to form from the classy Matt Renshaw might see his restoration to the opening slot, especially if Bancroft fails to deal with the considerable threat of Rabada, Philander and Morkel looming on the horizon.

Grade C

Usman Khawaja (333 runs at 48; 3 catches) – After an uncertain four Tests characterised by a English like diffidence with bat in hand and uncertainty against spin, he answered those wondering about his role with an eight hour 171 that carried his team from 1-1 to 375-4 at Sydney, anchoring the innings while the strokemakers exploited the platform. Keshav Maharaj might fancy his chances against him – and he’ll have plenty, as Khawaja looks (at long last) to be in for the long haul.

Grade B-

Steven Smith (687 runs at 137; 0 wickets; 10 catches) – The very best in sport, as in all walks of life, bend history to their will and when Steven Smith looked at the scoreboard in Brisbane and saw “England 1st Innings 302. Australia 76-4” he knew what he had to do. His 141 not out in over eight hours was an innings of the very highest class, a series-defining knock, one he will look back on with great pride, up there with 281 and 153 as just numbers – it really was that good. The subsequent weight of runs brought Bradman comparisons and analyses of his esoteric technique (including mine) but perhaps the best indicator of his place in the game right now is to say that any evaluation of the state of any match in which he plays begins with the question of whether he is out or not – because unless the bowlers have dismissed him, Australia are in with a shout, no matter how far behind they are.

Grade A+

Shaun Marsh (445 runs at 74; 2 catches) – The surprise selection, the one that brought forth scorn and some whispers of nepotism – but, boy oh boy, did it pay off. After supporting his skipper with a gritty half century at the Gabba, he replaced him at the crease in Adelaide with his side rocking at 161-4, England’s bowlers enjoying the pink ball. Six hours of batting later, he was called in by his captain’s declaration with 126 to his name in a match in which the next highest score was Joe Root’s 67. An emotional ton in the company of his brother in the fifth Test was merely the icing on the cake, after the senior Marsh had run some very hard yards indeed when the series was, bizarre as it feels to write this, in the balance.

Grade A+

Peter Handscomb (62 runs at 21; 5 catches) – In style rather like England’s forgotten tourist Gary Ballance with his deep-in-the-crease batting technique, and, also rather like Gary Ballance, a stellar start to a Test career has stalled and there’ll be some work to be done to get back in, especially now the two Marshes have built up plenty of credit. The numbers don’t look good, but, if he’s honest with himself, he was lucky to get those.

Grade D

Mitchell Marsh (320 runs at 107; 0 wickets; 1 catch) – To his immense credit, the younger Marsh took his medicine out of the Test team, worked on his technique and mental approach and has returned a new batsman. England’s lead was a handy 155 when he joined his captain at Perth, no doubt nervous with thoughts of failure impacting on the match and his own career, but he played himself in, had a bit of luck and then opened his considerable shoulders to whack the bowling all round the WACA, taking the game away from England the way Andrew Flintoff would at his very best. Chipped in with another ton at Sydney and can look to score a few more with a combination of solid defence, game-intelligence and enormous power. Looked like a fourth seamer with the ball – but if you can bat like that, it’s all you need.

Grade A

Tim Paine (192 runs at 48; 25 catches, 1 stumping) – Another punt from the selectors that paid off handsomely with neat, if not quite flawless performances with the gloves and some handy innings, particularly at Adelaide where he took the pressure off Shaun Marsh with a counter-attacking 57. Perhaps the answer to the Australian wicketkeeping conundrum is the man injured and then ignored for so long.

Grade B+

Mitchell Starc (44 runs at 9; 22 wickets at 24; 3 catches) – Hostile throughout and brave, willing to risk the drive in search of swing that wasn’t often there, but never for the want of trying. His left-arm angles from both over and round the wicket presented a range of problems that no Englishman solved and, like his fellow pacers, kept running in full bore despite the aches and pains.

Grade A

Patrick Cummins (146 runs at 42; 23 wickets at 25, 1 catch) – Hard though it is to believe, these five Tests were his first in his home country six long years on from his pyrotechnic teenage bow in South Africa. That Cummins kept faith in his ability through the injuries and ignored the temptation to cash in with a career as a T20 specialist, reflects well on an impressive man. Like his fellow musketeers, he bent his back from first to last, perhaps overdoing the bouncer occasionally, but if the umpires don’t intervene and it’s working, why should he ease back? He also made useful runs, employing a solid technique and smart shot selection to rub salt in the wounds.

Grade A +

Josh Hazlewood (10 runs at 5; 21 wickets at 26, 1 catch) – The “third” seamer actually opened the bowling and was as fast as anyone, a Ryan Harris like figure gaining in bounce what he lacked in movement in comparison with that late-flowering speedster. A captain’s dream, he ran in all day, kept the maiden-count high and took his share of wickets. At just turned 27, he has quietly crept up to 17th on Australia’s all-time Test wicket-takers list for seamers, with power to add.

Grade A

Nathan Lyon (37 runs at 9; 21 wickets at 29, 3 catches) – Combative with ball in hand and in the field (his brilliant run out of James Vince turned the first Test), the off-spinner outbowled his opposite number by the width of the Great Sandy Desert. His overspun deliveries bounced and turned causing plenty of problems for England’s phalanx of left-handers, and he projected the belief – so important for spinners – that every ball might take a wicket. At the peak of his powers, he is single-handedly reviving finger-spin in a country that has long considered it with disdain.

Grade A

Jackson Bird (4 runs at 4; 0 wickets) – Looked like he was on loan from the English attack, admittedly on an MCG drop-in that offered bowlers nothing. A reminder, as if we needed it, of the importance of the Australian fitness and conditioning set-up that kept the fab four on the field as a quartet for all but one Test.

Grade C

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Responses

  1. Steve Smith: say no more.

    • I’d love to say no more – but I suspect I might in the future!

  2. I think England are in trouble come 2019.


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