Ashes to dashes as England and Australia fail Test exam
London: One of the charms of Test cricket is that a match scheduled to last five days allows for the possibility of a fightback, even if a team falls behind early on.
It was a charm, however, completely lacking from the 2015 Ashes, which ended with England winning the five-match series 3-2 despite Australia’s innings and 46-run win in the concluding Test at The Oval on Sunday.
This Ashes equalled in length the shortest five-Test series of modern times of 18 days that took place when England played the West Indies in 2000.
The fifth day wasn’t needed in any of the matches, with the nearest thing to a ‘close’ contest, England’s 169-run win in the series opener in Cardiff.
Prior to the series both sides spoke about their intention to play aggressive cricket.
It became such an ingrained mantra, it was almost as if the thought of playing out a maiden filled some batsmen with a sense of dread.
Australia rectified their approach at The Oval, where their opening boundary did not arrive until the 15th over of the match and they still piled up 481, but by then it was too late to save the Ashes.
“Full credit to England — they won the key moments in this series, they outplayed us,” said Australia coach Darren Lehmann.
“We had four of the five top wicket-takers and three of the four top run-scorers, but we didn’t win the key moments,” the former Australia batsman added.
“It was an unbelievable series.”
Arguably the most “unbelievable” aspect of all was Australia’s collapse to 60 all out in just 111 balls on the opening morning of the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, with England paceman Stuart Broad taking eight for 15.
The green-tinged pitch at Trent Bridge re-opened the debate about just how much home advantage is acceptable.
While the English climate produces surfaces that are generally more conducive to swing and seam bowling than many places elsewhere in the world, there was a feeling following Australia’s 405-run win in the second Test on a docile pitch at Lord’s of groundsmen being instructed to prepare wickets that aided horizontal movement.