“The gruelling 25 days of cricket come to an end; maybe, it was not a clean sweep of 5-0 but a 4-0 does not speak any less of this bunch. One of those rare series victories where each and every player made a vital contribution at some point of time, if not throughout the series”.
The moment to relish
Josh Hazlewood to James Anderson, a short ball to which Anderson pokes and gets a faint outside edge. Tim Paine behind the stumps makes no mistake. He throws the ball in the air in delight, umpire Kumar Dharmasena does not move for a few seconds before he raises his finger and that’s curtains down to an outstanding series of the Ashes. Anderson looks bewildered but he has no reviews left. Its all over, England’s nightmarish Ashes comes to an end, while their skipper is asleep in the dressing room suffering a gastro issue.
Winners are grinners! #Ashes pic.twitter.com/ncMV4iAuXG
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) January 8, 2018
Massive celebrations broke at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), on the field and in the stands, where a whopping crowd of 1,82,349 was present to witness their heroes clinch the promised 4-0 and lift the tiny but valuable Urn. While Barmy Army, that turned up in huge numbers in support of England, did return the favour as they applauded for the winners displaying a great gesture that summed up the good spirits in which the series was played in the last one and a half months.
A foregone conclusion
There was nothing different between the fifth Test and the first four ones. It was a usual story where England batted first, got the starts but time and again failed to put up a huge total. Then came the Australians, batted big, there always was at least one centurion (in case of SCG Test, three), and the New South Wales quartet – Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, took 10 wickets bagged 20 wickets in all the Tests.
Meanwhile, there was one major factor that made a massive difference between England and Australia’s performances, in every single Test. Mind you, in every single Test – Australian Captain Steven Smith – he secured 687 runs, at an incredible average of 137.40 inclusive of three centuries – including a career-best 239 in Perth. During the series, Smith achieved the second-highest Test batting rating according to the ICC, with only the [Sir] Don [Bradman] ahead of him.
Smith has now played 50 Tests since his maiden ton. Here's how that period slots into the most productive 50 Test sequences ever:
Bradman 6977 runs
STEVE SMITH 5437
Tendulkar 5094#Ashes @MazherArshad
— Adam Burnett (@AdamBurnett09) January 8, 2018
Smith, who joined Ricky Ponting as the winner of the Dennis-Miller award that was introduced in the iconic 2005 Ashes series, led the victorious Australian side for a mini lap before they left for the presentation.
“It’s been a great couple of months. We were able to take 80 wickets in four Tests and I saw all the bowlers have taken more than 20 wickets. We haven’t relied on one person. Scoring big in the first innings has helped out. The batters have stood up through difficult periods and just won those key moments which has been crucial in this series. England have played some exceptional cricket and we were just able to get on top by winning the key moments. Belief, playing here at home, knowing our roles and getting the job done,” a proud skipper Smith said in the presentation.
“Knowing the roles and getting the job done” These were his words of vast significance because this Australian Test side, right now, with no injuries and majority of the members in form, has never looked this perfect.
A new beginning for Australia?
In fact, since 2010-11, there has been no other Australian Test side that has seemed so complete as this one. The players not only are well aware of their respective roles but also they have delivered it throughout this series. Nobody else but the quartet picked wickets in the five Tests and Smith showed what ‘leading from the front’ meant in the truest sense. The vice-captain David Warner gave the side the starts but had been failing to convert those starts into a big knock until the Boxing Day Test where he recorded his 21st Test century.
Tim Paine, whose selection had created chaos prior to the series, now has displaced Matthew Wade as Australia’s new incumbent wicketkeeper. With a near-clean work behind the wickets in all the five Tests along with some contribution with the bat too has brought him back to the limited-overs squad too. Paine, who once was close to quitting the game, has testified that believing in one’s self and being positive can do wonders. Also, he has taken the bar of grabbing opportunities to altogether another level.
Meanwhile, the Marsh brothers – Shaun and Mitchell – are not very far away in that aspect from Paine. Even their selection was termed atrocious but at the end of the series, it was the duo of the Marsh’s that took Australia to a 600-plus total in the SCG Test, that gave their in-form bowling attack to wrap up the English innings within four days. On the other hand, Australia’s No. 3 batsman, Usman Khawaja, would have saved his place at the very last moment in the Ashes. After a series of poor shows, Khawaja top scored for his side with 171 off 381 balls and justified the repetitive faith the selectors have shown in him for the crucial No. 3 spot.
Onya fellas! #Ashes pic.twitter.com/7fSQ9C7d3N
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) January 8, 2018
Apart from these guys, Australia have the likes of Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb, Jackson Bird, Glenn Maxwell and James Pattinson are among the many who have been progressing competently upwards in the Test domain. Courtesy of the top-notch Sheffield Shield, where these guys have played regularly in the past couple of months to gain form back because of which they were ignored for the Ashes.That meant, in case of injuries, the backups would be equally talented and skilful, and would not let the competitiveness in the side drop down.
With the 4-0 Ashes win, Australia have moved up to No. 3 in the Test rankings behind India and South Africa. Australia recently won a Test in India and Bangladesh, fighting against their Asia tracks poor forgettable records. With next big tour coming up touring the Rainbow Nation, South Africa, Australia have a huge task ahead. Australia and South Africa have had this tradition of winning in each other’s home for a long time now. The Proteas kept it intact as they defeated Australia Down Under in 2016. Now, its Australia’s turn to return the favour when they tour South Africa in March.
For today, these guys deserve to let all their emotions out. The gruelling 25 days of cricket come to an end; maybe, it was not a clean sweep of 5-0 but a 4-0 does not speak any less of this bunch. One of those rare series victories where each and every player made a vital contribution at some point of time, if not throughout the series. But, they have remembered that the job is not done yet. TheAshes-winnings winning Australian side, that clean swept England 5-0 was termed by many as home bullies but they rubbished all those claims by thrashing South Africa at their backyard a couple of months later. Smith and Co have to replicate that to be proved as a top side in a true sense.