Ever since Brendon McCullum, England’s very own Frankenstein, invented a creature, dubbed, Bazball, people have been anxious to see its encounter with the indisputable monsters of red-ball cricket, Australia. In this wait, the fans of the game got divided into two groups. The first group wanted the creature to help England avenge the miserable defeat they endured down under in 2021. The other, however, desired to see Australia retain the ashes urn as well as hammer the creature, of whom they have been unintimidated since day one.
Was it the Greatest-Ever Ashes Series?
Both groups’ wishes were answered as what transpired during the series in England will remain beyond comprehension for some time to come. They say a game can only have one of two results, either you win or you lose. This Ashes edition negates all such maxims and defies even sanity itself. Even a polyglot would have problems putting the results in words.
Let me use my naive confidence to put how things concluded for both nemeses. Ashes ended with Australia taking the trophy, and England winning the final match. All this while the series ended in a stalemate.
Interestingly, this three-pronged scenario remained travelling with both teams since the start of the Ashes. Although Australia started with dominance early on as they won the first two Test matches, England’s brilliance never, even for a second, let them stay out of the hunt.
However, while leaving the Oval after clinching the last game, the English men had one regret; letting the urn return with their archfoe again. Despite level-pegging with Australia in each game, the men with three lions on their jerseys were not enough to stop this voyage.
Australia retain the Ashes, series end in a draw – but who is the better team?
Amid all this unfathomable situation and the myriads of unanswered questions, one question is as to which team, of both rivals, was better than the other. The tournament results failed to answer this question as both teams seem even-steven according to them. However, a few other stats allowed us to see the minute differences between both teams.
To no one’s astonishment, the English players were miles ahead of the Aussies as far as the run rate was concerned. The hosts struck at just a tick below 75 while the visitors were happy with sailing peacefully at a strike rate of 51 in all 5 longest-format matches. Similarly, the Bazballers averaged 34.35 with the bat, 4.41 more than Australia’s 29.94.
With the ball, the Ben Stokes-led men were equally clinical. Unlike the England batters, the bowlers joined the party late but when they did, they made sure to do what’s done once in a century. The following two charts depict how the host bowlers pulled themselves together after they went 2-0 down in the series.
In the first two Test matches, the England bowlers struggled more to take wickets as compared to their rivals, hence the woeful 2-wickets-defeat they had to endure at Edgbaston. The Aussies took a wicket every 48 balls in the first two Tests but a similar feat was being achieved by Stokes’ men after every 64 balls.
How did Australia retain the Ashes then?
If all started going well for the Bazballers post-Lords’ Test, why did the urn have to return down under? The answer to this is simple. Not everything did a backflip. Some things remained as haunting as before. On top of all, the weather. Especially, the clouds’ wicked play in Manchester, which actually made Australia retain the Ashes trophy, grasped the chances of winning back the urn away from Ben Stokes’ men.
Next to the weather, it was the hole in Jonny Bairstow’s gloves. In the first 3 Test matches, the English wicket-keeper was clearly not in his ideal form. To make it worse, his Australian counterpart was working wonders behind the timbers. Bairstow missed as many as 8 chances behind the wicket during the first three Tests.
|Alex Carey (Australia)||21||5||26|
|Jonny Bairstow (England)||23||1||24|
While keeping the wickets, Carey was responsible for 26 dismissals in 5 Test matches, including 5 stumpings. These 26 dismissals account for 30% of the total wickets Australia took. In comparison, Bairstow played his part in 25% of the total dismissals by the host team.
Besides both these reasons, there is no turning away from the fact that Australia let a golden opportunity of winning an away Ashes series from their hands. After what happened in the first two Test matches, the poms managing to level with the baggy greens is as good as winning itself. Conquering Ashes in England is what the Kangaroos have been failing to do since 2001. Although Australia leads (if all Ashes series were to be considered) and the urn has been in their cabinet since 2018, retaining the trophy because of draws is not what suits the stature of this rivalry.
Graphics by Kais Karamally & Sibta Rabi