Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 16, 2019

The Ashes 2019 – Australia Report Card

Tim Paine (180 runs at 20; 20 catches) – Grade C

Didn’t bat particularly well, didn’t keep particularly well, reviewed particularly badly, but he got his team off the floor between Headingley and Old Trafford to become the first Australian captain to take The Ashes home since Stephen Waugh in 2001. So who’s laughing now? How long Australia can afford to trade off his lack of output for his leadership remains to be seen, but fixing something that isn’t broken – or, rather, is not broken enough – is seldom a smart move.

David Warner (95 at 10) – Grade D-

And speaking of things that are partly broken… Stuart Broad had David Warner in his pocket all series long, the pugnacious left-hander mesmerised into chasing the ball that angled in from round the wicket and seamed away – Flintoff to Gilchrist style. After a year out of Test cricket, he seems to have lost the location of his off stump and needs to find it pretty quickly if the likes of Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns are not to take his spot.

Cameron Bancroft (44 at 11) – Grade D

Faced plenty of deliveries, but seemed to look less and less “in” as they ticked by, he was pulled and replaced by a man who looked no more in than he did – but spent fewer deliveries doing so

Marcus Harris (58 at 10) – Grade D-

That man was Harris, who came with a growing reputation, but looked somewhat lost against the Duke ball in English conditions. None of the pitches were particularly capricious, but all England’s grounds require an opener to play for his off stump, leaving plenty and driving few – at least for an hour or so.

Usman Khawaja (122 at 21) – Grade C-

Three scratchy Test matches and he was dropped despite the credit built up over 44 Tests and the fact that it wasn’t exactly Stuart Law waiting in the wings. You can’t help thinking that was all a little premature and that a little more belief from the selectors might have engendered a little more belief in the man himself.

Marnus Labuschagne (353 at 50; 1 wicket at 56) – Grade B+

A concussion substitute after Smith had fallen, stricken, at Lord’s, he immediately looked like a man in form and scoring runs – which is what he was, having plundered plenty for Glamorgan in Division Two of the County Championship. His technique is reassuringly orthodox, punching and driving, cutting and pulling and never getting out of shape trying to hit the ball too hard. A top score of 80 suggests he needs to work on converting good scores into those that shape matches.

Steven Smith (774 at 111) – Grade A+

The kind of scores Steven Smith made pretty much every time he took guard. I made up my mind a couple of years ago as to where he stands in cricket history and since then, he’s only got better. That’s the technical side, with the tics more and more pronounced between deliveries, but the head, hands and feet in harmony as ball meets bat. No batsman in history can ever have got off strike with a nudge into the leg side quite as often as Smith does and surely none has handled the expectations attendant on a comeback with such insouciant brilliance. Jofra Archer’s adrenaline charged helmet rattling spell at Lord’s aside, Smith seemed to be playing against history as much as the opposition, but none of those 774 runs were cheap and without them, even this hotchpotch of an England side would have won the series.

Matthew Wade (333 at 37) – Grade B

Some might say I’m being churlish, but both his centuries, though plenty busy and aggressive, were made in second innings when the shape of the match had been (largely) determined. He batted like the wicketkeeper he once was and was just about as mouthy, which might not be a good idea when Archer is bowling as it merely advances his speedometer.

Travis Head (191 at 27) – Grade C-

Lost his place to Mitchell Marsh at The Oval when Paine fancied the idea of a little more bowling in a back-to-back Test. Started with a solid Test at Edgbaston, but fell away and the change was an obvious one to make. He can come back a better player in 2023.

Mitchell Marsh (41 at 21; 7 at 12) – Grade B+

Always seems to have to prove himself whenever he dons the Baggy Green and he did that this time round with as fine a spell of swing bowling as we saw throughout the series. He didn’t quite nail his batting, which is the more obvious route into the XI, but he looks a fine addition to the squad of pacers.

Patrick Cummins (71 at 10; 29 at 20) – Grade A

Would have been a worthy player of the series were Steven Smith not on another plane altogether. A captain’s dream, he charged in day after day, the hostility never dialled back as much as a single notch. World Number One, he justified that ranking with some jaffas that might even have got Steven Smith out, but it was his stamina that stood out, working hard for every wicket and getting his just deserts across all five Tests.

James Pattinson (69 at 23; 5 at 33) – Grade B-

Quick and reliable, it was a surprise to see him turn out just twice in the series, particularly in the light of his extensive experience in England and his near all-rounder level batting. That said, a captain might wonder what he offers that differs from Cummins (quicker) and Hazlewood (who moves it more). Good to see an old pro back in the saddle after so many injuries.

Peter Siddle (72 at 24; 7 at 42) – Grade C

Was it really him? Given a holding brief, he nevertheless went at three an over, but made a critical contribution in the tone-setting First Test, getting Aus out of the depths of 122-8 to 210-9 in the company of – well, you know who. Siddle had found a way to make a difference.

Nathan Lyon (79 at 20; 20 at 33) – Grade B

A great start looked like it would set up another fine series for the man they call The Goat, but he was strangely anonymous, his rhythm slightly off key, his output below his standards. He’ll point to 20 wickets as a decent return, but this was not the metronome that England feared.

Josh Hazlewood (9 at n/a; 20 at 22) – Grade A-

Sat out the First Test but bowled beautifully from then on, rather like an old-fashioned English seamer, but 5mph quicker and from a 5 inches higher release point. He moved the Duke ball no matter its age and had the splice-slamming heavy ball to keep the batsmen honest. Doesn’t have the snarl of a Cummins or the regular 90mph thunderbolts of Starc, but causes the best batsmen problems whether they’re on 2 or 102.

Mitchell Starc (57 at n/a; 4 at 32) – Grade B

There’s no better indicator of the strength of the Australian pace phalanx than the fact that he played just one Test in which he went for a few, knocked over a few in a sensational spell and biffed a few off tiring bowlers. He may have fallen out of favour with his own selectors, but I’m pretty sure other countries’ would bite his hand off.

 

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Responses

  1. It will always remain a mystery to me why Starc didn’t play at The Oval, especially as they selected Marsh. I have nothing against Siddle, but Starc needs a game or 2 to rev up the engine. I think they were just protecting Pattinson due to his back issues. Nevertheless, with Marsh being there, he could have been used as an impact bowler.


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