An English Ashes Review!
Article written by Jacob Frain
After the dust has settled on one of the most exiting Ashes series to date, here’s five things we learned this summer.
While Josh Tongue impressed in the second Test at Lord's, offering additional pace to England's usual bowling battery, they still lacked a genuine game-changer with the ball.
Enter Mark Wood, whose express 90mph-plus rockets drew grasps from the Headingley crowd and finally gave Australia's batsmen something to fear.
The third delivery of Wood's second over on the opening day of the second test was clocked at 96.5mph, the fastest recorded ball Headingley had ever seen.
The ball that left Usman Khawaja's leg stump splattered a couple of minutes later measured 94.6mph -and that spell averaged a remarkable 92.9mph.
His five wickets in Australia's first innings helped tip the psychological balance of the contest and there is no way he'll be dropped now for England’s trip to India assuming his body holds up to the physical demands.
Zak Crawley....Here TO STAY
Few had Zak Crawley down as England’s leading run-scorer prior to the series but that’s exactly where he finished. After a run of encouraging starts without a statement score, Crawley produced a sensational 189 at Old Trafford as England ran Australia ragged.
Only relentless rain over days four and five prevented it from being a match-winning performance.
Crawley arguably followed his hundred up with an even more authoritative knock in the second innings at the Kia Oval.
His end-of-series tally of 480 is more than Cook and Strauss ever managed in a home Ashes series.
ENGLAND LOVES A RUN CHASE
Since McCullum and Stokes came in, England have successfully chased down a score of 250 or more five times.
To put this into context, in their entire Test history beforehand, England had done it just 12 times.
Given they knocked off 378 to beat India last summer, a chase of 251 in the third test was never likely to hold any fears. Despite a few wobbles, you sensed England were always going to do it.
BAZ-BALL HAS TAKEN THE COUNTRY BY STORM
In a world where T20 cricket is what most people want to see, the viewing figures for the 2023 Ashes series show that test cricket is well and truly alive. With almost every day of the series being a sell-out, the excitement levels that England showed was off the levels.
Going into the series, Stuart Broad said that the aim was to play an entertaining style of cricket, which was on display from the very first ball as Crawley dispatched Pat Cummins to the boundary.
Whilst at home, Baz-ball gripped the entire nation. The average attendance for the men’s series was at 23,734, while the total audience was 545,000, an eight per cent rise on 2019, with the average viewership being nine hours and 51 minutes. Sky’s average viewership of the men’s series increased by nearly 50 per cent on 2019.
England- SPIN DILEMMA?
After Jack Leach’s 11th-hour injury, England turned to retired Moeen Ali as their lead spinner with 18-year-old Rehan Ahmed as his understudy, but how did England get into a situation where Leach’s injury left them calling up a white-ball specialist without red-ball overs under his belt, who officially retired from Test cricket in 2021, and then, as cover for him, a young kid who has only played 10 Championship games? There should be a thick, nicely maturing layer of experienced county spinners waiting in line between Moeen, 36, and Ahmed, 18. Where have they gone?
If Leach’s injury is going to put him in doubt for England’s tour of India next year, England will need to find someone who can hold down one end for 20 to 30 overs of a day. Could Adil Rashid make a return to the longer form game, saying I’ve not closed the door on Test cricket. I’ve not retired, or anything like that. It’s something that’s still there. It’s everyone’s dream to play Test cricket and I’m no different.” Or perhaps Will Jacks return to the squad after making his test debut in Pakistan last year.
One thing for certain is in a continent that will be guaranteed to produce a Bunsen, Stokes, McCullum, and the rest of the selectors have a big decision to make.