The 2013 Ashes series is now over and it is official. Yet again England have won and retained the urn for the third consecutive series in a row after a controversial draw in the fifth and final Test at The Oval.
The draw was irrelevant to the outcome of the series as England won the series 3-0, holding Australia winless in an Ashes series for the first time in 36 years.
While England deserved the win the series, the scoreline of 3-0 is nowhere near a true reflection of Australia’s performance.
If you analyse and go through each of the five Tests, there is not much that is separating these two teams.
After an absolute humiliating performance at Lord’s, Australia proved through the next three Tests that they are capable of matching England’s level and even dominating them at times.
There were signs of Australia’s best cricket towards the last three Tests and most importantly, Australia’s batting line-up finally looks settled.
Usually when you’re beaten 3-0 in a series, there isn’t many positives to come out of that series, but for Australia and Michael Clarke, there are more than ever.
It is Australia’s performances over the last three Tests, where they were only denied victory by rain in Manchester, enjoyed dominant spells in defeat at Durham and then forced the pace at The Oval, that will change Australia’s attitude from hoping they can beat England, to believing they can beat England.
Two weeks ago, I wrote an article on reasons why Australia can regain the urn and so without further a do, once again here are four reasons as to why Australia can and will regain the Ashes.
1. Australia’s batting finally looks settled
Australia’s batting line-up has been reshuffled, with players moving up and down the order while others being dropped.
Phil Hughes was dropped for the fifth time of his career after Lord’s, Khawaja was dropped once again after Manchester and Shane Watson has batted almost every position from 1-5 throughout the series.
Australia’s batting after four Tests looked weak, uncertain and fragile. However, after the fifth test, Australia’s batting looks a little bit more settled.
Australia may have finally found their no. 3 batsman. Shane Watson, moved back up the order to number three and scored the first Australian hundred at number three since Shaun Marsh in 2011.
He also scored his first Test ton in almost three years.
Once he broke through, he went on with it and posted his first 150 in Test cricket, ending up with 176.
Steve Smith has finally capitalised on some good starts this series, to post his maiden Test hundred.
Australia’s batting line-up finally looks settled with the opening partnership being Rogers and Warner, Watson at three, Clarke at four, Smith at five.
The number six spot is still vacant and come the first Test at the Gabba, it may well be filled by either Hughes, Khawaja, or even Faulkner.
2. Australia’s bowling attack
It has been Australia’s main and obvious strength over the last two years.
Australia’s bowling line-up and depth has never been better, at least not recently.
His fitness has been his achilles heel throughout his international career, but Ryan Harris again showed just how world-class of a bowler he is.
Australia’s man of the series and bowling hero took 24 @ 19.6, in a series where he missed the first match.
Despite going wicketless for the match and only taking two wickets in the last six innings, Peter Siddle’s 17 wickets @ 31, including 8/135 in the first Test is nothing to scoff at.
The stats aren’t great but Siddle has troubled most of the England top order batsmen all series and was unlucky not to take any wickets in the final Test. Along with Ryan Harris, he is the leader of Australia’s attack.
Australia’s bowling depth has never been stronger and despite the injuries that have hit them, you can’t deny the raw talent they have. The likes of Pattinson, Starc, Bird, Cummins and Johnson will all be fit come the return Ashes series and be ready for any call-up
In addition, Nathan Lyon bowled probably one of his better spells in his short career in the first innings of the final Test. He was clearly troubling the likes of Trott and Pietersen on a pitch which wasn’t offering him a great deal.
Lyon should never have been dropped for the first two Tests and he should be Australia’s no.1 spinner. He didn’t get the wickets he deserved this Test but surely will rise in the return series.
3. There is weakness in England’s batting
There were obvious flaws in Australia’s batting throughout the series but England’s batting was nowhere near perfect.
Other than Ian Bell, no other English batsmen batting with conviction. The man who averaged 127, scored two centuries and a double hundred in the last Ashes series in Alastair Cook, only managed 277 @ 27.7 and was clearly troubled by the Aussie bowlers.
Though Trott looked in good shape in the first two Tests, his footwork started to go nowhere and he managed a meagre 293 @ 29.3.
Had not for a magnificent 180 at Lord’s, where he was dropped on eight, Joe Root would’ve only had 159 runs for the series.
Kevin Pietersen was nowhere near his best throughout the series despite ending up with 388 runs @3 8 and Matt Prior up until the second innings of the final Test, was having a horror series finishing with an appalling 133 runs @ 19.
It’s also worth noting that five times in the series, England lost their first three wickets for under 100 runs.
Although Australia suffered much worse collapses through their middle order, England’s top order has well underperformed this series and will be severely tested by the likes of Siddle, Harris, Starc, Pattinson, Bird and maybe even Johnson come the return series.
4. Michael Clarke’s captaincy
There is no doubt that Clarke tactically has been the better captain all series.
Throughout the series, Clarke was much more aggressive and positive with his field placings, and his declarations both in Manchester and London showed his intent to move the game forward and hopefully produce a result in the end.
As a natural risk-taker himself, Clarke has shown over the last 18 months he is willing to do anything to move the game forward and give Australia to best chance of winning the match.
His positive attitude and aggressive tactics makes him arguably the best captain going around in international cricket by far. Clarke’s captaincy, judgements and decisions will be crucial to Australia regaining the Ashes.
The major difference between both the teams were that England were able to grab their opportunities when they were offered while Australia let their chances slip through their hands.
At the start of this series, no one gave a chance for Australia and no one thought they would be able to challenge England. Despite the scoreline, many would’ve have been proven wrong and some may even be silenced.
In two and a half months’ time, England will return to Australian soil to defend the urn for the fourth consecutive series.
However, they’re confidence won’t be as sky high as it was after Lord’s and Australia will take a lot from their performances in Manchester, Durham and London.
If Australia play their best cricket, they are every chance of knocking off England and regaining the urn.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 30 August, 2013 3:10PM AEST