December 29, 2010 Leave a comment
In the small hours of this morning, England retained the Ashes after securing a dominant victory in Melbourne by an innings and 71 runs, to take an insurmountable 2-1 advantage in the five-match series. It is the first time they have successfully retained the urn since the tour of 1986/87, which also marked the occasion of their last series victory Down Under.
The tourists will now travel to Sydney for the final Test starting January 3rd keen to clinch an overall series win as the beleaguered Ricky Ponting contemplates the inevitable end of his run as captain of an Australian team which now appears to have a long and difficult rebuilding job ahead of them.
Here is a quick overview of the first four Tests, and a look at some of the key numbers which explain England’s victory.
First Test, Brisbane (November 25th-29th)
England 1st innings: 260 (Bell 76, Cook 67, Siddle 6/54)
Australia 1st innings: 481 (Hussey 195, Haddin 136, Katich 50, Finn 6/125)
England 2nd innings: 517/1 dec (Cook 235*, Trott 135*, Strauss 110)
Australia 2nd innings: 107/1 (Ponting 51*)
England started the series on the back foot, as Peter Siddle‘s six-wicket haul reduced them to a sub-par 260, and then Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin put on 307 for the sixth wicket in Australia’s first innings. But on an increasingly placid pitch, the tourists responded in style, with their top three all scoring centuries and Alastair Cook registering a career-high 235 not out, the highest individual score in the series. An ultimately comfortable draw felt more like a win.
5 – Peter Siddle celebrated his 26th birthday by recording a hat-trick on the opening day of the first Ashes Test in Brisbane. He is the fifth Australian to register a hat-trick against England.
29 – Hussey’s 195 was the first time he had passed 100 in the first innings of a Test match in his last 29 attempts.
2 – England’s openers both hit centuries in a Test innings for just the second time since 1990.
235 – Cook’s massive innings surpassed the great Don Bradman for the highest Test score ever at the Gabba.
329 – Cook and Jonathan Trott‘s unbeaten second-wicket stand, a record England stand on Australia soil, surpassed Hussey and Haddin’s record-breaking stand of 307 from two days earlier. Trott finished unbeaten on 135.
2 – It is only the second time that England’s top three batsmen have scored centuries in the same innings.
2 – Total number of wickets to fall in the final two days of play.
Second Test, Adelaide (December 3rd-7th)
Australia 1st innings: 245 (Hussey 93, Haddin 56, Watson 51, Anderson 4/51)
England 1st innings: 620/5 dec (Pietersen 227, Cook 148, Trott 78, Bell 68*)
Australia 2nd innings: 304 (Clarke 80, Watson 57, Hussey 52, Swann 5/91)
England won by an innings and 71 runs
On a good pitch, Jimmy Anderson spearheaded an attack which bowled out Australia cheaply before the top order continued where they had left off in Brisbane, with Kevin Pietersen bullying the Aussie attack during his double ton and Cook adding another century. Despite a century stand by Hussey and Michael Clarke, Graeme Swann whipped through the tail, finishing with a five-for as England completed an innings victory on the final day shortly before the heavens opened.
2 – Number of runs scored by Australia at the fall of their third first innings wicket in Adelaide, as the Aussies struggled to 245 all out.
15 – 25-year old Alastair Cook‘s first innings 148 was his 15th Test century. Only Sachin Tendulkar (19) has ever scored more before the age of 26. (Don Bradman also had 15 hundreds at the same age.)
17 – Kevin Pietersen‘s first innings of 227 was his highest Test score, and ended a barren run of 17 Tests without a hundred. It was also the highest ever score by an Englishman at Adelaide.
4 – After losing captain Andrew Strauss with the score on three, England posted four consecutive century partnerships in their first innings.
29 – Pietersen claimed his fifth Test wicket – and his first for 29 months (Dale Steyn, 10th July 2008) – by dismissing Michael Clarke with the final ball of day four.
100 – This was England‘s 100th Test win over Australia. They have lost 132 and drawn 91.
Third Test, Perth (December 16th-19th)
Australia 1st innings: 268 (Johnson 62, Hussey 61, Haddin 53, Anderson 3/61, Tremlett 3/63)
England 1st innings: 187 (Bell 53, Strauss 52, Johnson 6/38)
Australia 2nd innings: 309 (Hussey 116, Watson 95, Tremlett 5/87)
England 2nd innings:123 (Trott 31, Harris 6/47)
Australia won by 267 runs
Australia surprisingly levelled the series at 1-1 as England twice failed to cope with a WACA pitch which offered plenty of movement for the quick bowlers. The recalled Mitchell Johnson and all-rounder Ryan Harris each registered six-fors to rip the heart out of the tourists’ batting. The only bright spark for England was Chris Tremlett, in for the injured Stuart Broad, who finished with a return of of 8/150.
9 – Australia stumbled to 28/3 in their first innings. It was only the ninth time in Test history that a side has been reduced to under 30-3 in their first innings in consecutive matches.
6 – Michael Hussey recorded his sixth straight score of over fifty in Ashes matches, the only man ever to do so.
109 – England collapsed from 78/0 to 187 all out in the first innings. The 109 runs separating the first from the last wicket represented their worst such sequence ever at Perth …
100 – … Until they went from 23/0 to 123 all out in their second innings, losing ten wickets for just 100.
6 – This was Australia’s sixth consecutive win over England at the WACA.
Fourth Test, Melbourne (December 26-30)
Australia 1st innings: 98 (Clarke 20, Tremlett 4/26, Anderson 4/44)
England 1st innings: 513 (Trott 168*, Prior 85, Cook 82, Strauss 69, Pietersen 51, Siddle 6/75)
Australia 2nd innings: 258 (Haddin 55*, Watson 54, Bresnan 4/50)
England won by an innings and 157 runs
England bounced straight back from their capitulation in Perth with their most dominant performance of the series. Tremlett and Anderson skittled the Aussies for just 98 – all ten wickets falling to catches behind square – before the batsmen put England into an unassailable position. Each of the top four passed 50, with Jonathan Trott adding 168 not out to his unbeaten century in Brisbane. Australia were set 415 just to make England bat again. As wickets fell with metronomic regularity, they never looked close to reaching that milestone, let alone saving the match, as England completed victory with over five sessions to spare.
98 – Australia recorded their lowest ever score against England at the MCG as they were skittled out for 98 by England on the opening day.
10 – All ten of Australia’s first innings wickets fells to catches behind the wicket, with England keeper Matt Prior claiming six of them.
10 – Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook recorded their tenth century stand as an opening pair – only Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe have exceeded that number for England.
158 – The unbeaten stand of 158 between Prior and Jonathan Trott was England’s largest sixth-wicket stand at Melbourne, surpassing the previous best of 140 set in 1929.
1 – This is the first time ever that Australia have lost by an innings twice in the same series outside of England.
12 – There hasn’t been a draw between England and Australia at the MCG in their last 12 meetings there. Australia have won seven to England’s five.
It would be fair to say that England’s successful defence of the Ashes owes much to having a settled side confident of its own abilities – particularly when compared to Ricky Ponting’s team, which has been struggling to rebuild for the past couple of years and has constantly chopped and changed throughout this series. However, a deeper analysis of the statistics sheds further light on the sources of England’s victory.
Firstly, England’s top six has both a familiar and settled look to it, with strength in depth. Despite batting only six times as a team – compared to Australia’s eight – England can boast five of the top eight run-scorers in the series to date. Four – Cook, Trott, Pietersen and Ian Bell - have averaged above 50 (Cook and Trott’s averages are both in excess of 110). Only Paul Collingwood (70 runs at 14.00) can be considered to have had a poor series with the bat, and even he has chipped in with seven catches, more than anyone other than England wicketkeeper Prior.
Cook is the series’ leading run-scorer with 575 (at an average of 115.40), and while his success on this tour owes much to this young man’s talent – having just turned 26 before Christmas, he already has 15 Test centuries to his name – it also says much about the ineffectiveness of an Australian attack who had specifically targeted a perceived weakness outside his off-stump.
By comparison, only three of Australia’s batsmen have passed 200 runs (versus five for England). They certainly missed the injured Simon Katich after the second Test but both Michael Clarke (148 runs at 21.14) and captain Ricky Ponting (113 at 16.14) misfired throughout, registering just a single fifty each.
These averages are reflected in both individual and team performances. Australian batsmen have actually passed fifty more times (17) than their English counterparts (16), but have converted just three of those into hundreds – only one of which occurred after the first innings of the first Test. England, on the other, had six centuries spread among four batsmen, including double tons for Cook and Pietersen.
Moreover, England have put together twice as many hundred partnerships (eight versus four) so far in the series, applying pressure to the opposing bowlers on a more consistent basis. This is doubly impressive when you consider that England have only batted six times so far (versus eight for Australia), losing just 46 wickets compared with 70 for the hosts.
Overall, England have averaged over 48 runs for every wicket they have lost – despite their twin collapses in the third Test – nearly 19 per wicket more than the Aussies.
Particularly important in this respect have been the solid starts afforded to them by the opening pair of Strauss and Cook, who put on 50 or more for the first wicket three times out of six, including stands of 188 to help save the game in Brisbane and then 159 in Melbourne to provide the platform for the Ashes-clinching victory.
By comparison, Australia’s opening pairs of Watson/Katich and Watson/Hughes passed 50 only three times in eight attempts, with a best start of 84. An average first-wicket partnership of 34 – less than half Strauss and Cook’s benchmark of 75 – tells its own story.
England’s dominance and strength in depth have also been evident in the bowling figures. The tourists can boast four of the top five wicket-takers as of the end of the fourth Test. Australia’s bowlers have tended to take wickets in bursts – Peter Siddle has twice taken six wickets in an innings, and Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris have also contributed six-fors – and rarely had more than one or at most two firing at the same time.
England’s bowlers have functioned better as a unit, taking wickets more consistently and sharing the workload more evenly. The depth in England’s squad has also been impressive. Tremlett played the last two Tests in place of Broad, gave Australia’s batsmen no end of trouble, and took 13 wickets. And when Steven Finn was dropped for this Test, his replacement Tim Bresnan ended with a match total of 6/75.
England can now carry the sweet taste of victory all the way to Sydney next week, while the Australian selectors find themselves in the same position which England have occupied for most of the past 25 years – defeated and at times humiliated, and in need of fresh blood to rejuvenate an ailing team. Even a series-tying victory in the final Test, however, would do little more than paper over the cracks.
England, on the other hand, will march on and dream of open-top bus parades. And deservedly so, for despite their wobbles they have been by far the better team in this series. The Ashes are coming home.