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http://www.cricket.com.au/Global Items/news/2013/8/30/how-a-3-0-result-believes-a-competitive-ashes-series

How a 3-0 result belies a competitive Ashes series

UPDATED 30 August, 2013 3:06PM AEDT | by Simon McInerney, fan writer for The Roar 5

Assessing a vast array of statistics in the aftermath of the fifth and final Ashes Test of this Australian winter, it seems unfathomable that England were just one reading of the mysterious light-meter away from a record-equaling 4-0 series win.

The barest of records will forever show ‘2013: England 3, Australia 0, Drawn 2′, and as an Australian, one feels obliged to praise a golden generation of English players, who are exceptional at winning and even better at not losing.

Saving Tests when behind in a match is something Australia hasn’t been able to do well for a number of years now.

This recent series defeat didn’t come with the humiliation and chaos which surrounded the side during the 4-0 loss away in India earlier this year, nor the string of innings defeats and long, fruitless days in the field inflicted by the likes of Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott in 2010/11.

Strangely, it can be argued that there are more positives than negatives to take home from this series. Remarkably the Aussies, using Sheffield Shield parlance, took first innings points four times out of five – a sign that the side isn’t entirely bereft of talent, potential or hope.

Though admittedly a subjective gauge, Australia won roughly 11 out of the 22 days of play. Australia’s problem was that their bad sessions and days were really bad. 

Less subjective and equally striking is the fact that England batted ten times and failed to reach 400 once. It is a credit to Australia’s bowling unit.

That is largely due to the aforementioned pair of Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, who struggled to convert their starts and both averaged below 30. 

The maligned Shane Watson and journeyman Chris Rogers each compiled more runs than any of England’s much-vaunted top three.

Only once did an English player surpass 113 – Joe Root at Lord’s – a feat reached eight separate times in their 3-1 win last time around. 

The difference between the teams was the elegant and impenetrable Ian Bell, who notched three “small” hundreds in generally low-scoring games.

Several Australians can hold their head high on the long flight home. Ryan Harris – whose fragile body finally held together for four Tests in a row – claimed the most wickets for the team, with 24 at an average of 19.58. 

He bowled with pace, passion, accuracy and variation. Ever dangerous after coming into the team for the second Test, it is a wonder he was left out in the first place.

Wicket keeper Brad Haddin, not long ago deemed ‘past it’ by selectors and fans, was solid behind the stumps and broke the record for dismissals in an Ashes series. Some of his knocks with the bat were also handy, notably the near-rescue in Nottingham .

Steve Smith, not even in the original squad and not long ago mocked by some fans as a “professional fieldsman”, played a few valuable innings and deserved to bring up a maiden Test ton at The Oval. 

His bowling, though still erratic, was useful on one or two occasions and his fielding was ever energetic. The standard of Australia ‘s fielding in general was very high, with Chris Rogers also outstanding in that area.

After re-joining the eleven in Manchester, Nathan Lyon showed that he is undeniably the number one spinner at present. Though no superstar, he bowls with control and usually holds up an end. His battles with Kevin Pietersen made for some especially entertaining viewing.

Michael Clarke captained with innovation and a positive intent. He declared four times; Alastair Cook, on the other hand, once. 

Aggression such as that shown on the final day of the series, when Clarke risked losing the game trying to win it (and provided a memorable spectacle for fans at the same time), augurs well for the series at home, where surfaces will better suit Australia and his team will spend game time on the front foot.

Shane Warne – who considers Clarke to be his best friend, it must be noted – even claimed that he outperformed opposite number Cook. 

On face value it’s an odd comment to make about someone who has lost 3-0, but the statement isn’t without merit.

Clarke’s bowling changes generally paid off and some of the fields he set against the likes of Trott worked. Luck also played a role. 

The three times England had the advantage of winning the toss, the weather stayed dry; the two times Australia did, the matches were affected by rain.

Australia ‘s achilles heal is still what it was before the series began – brittle batting. Collapses in the first Test ultimately cost a 1-0 lead and Lord’s was effectively lost in a session, with a collapse from 0/42 to all out 128.

Cruising towards a target of 299 in Durham, Australia fell from 1/120 at tea on day four to all out at stumps, with no one able to offer resistance after David Warner’s dismissal.

In spite of all that, Australia’s top five for Brisbane – just 87 days away – appears to be settled. Left-handed openers Warner and Rogers have shown promise atop the order and complement each other well.

Michael Clarke, needless to say, is a certainty to bat in the middle order. Shane Watson belted 176 at The Oval and was ably supported by Steve Smith (138), shoring up another two spots for the time being.

England, now unbeaten in thirteen Tests, is a tight unit who has the Australians’ measure when it comes to traits like cunning-ness, stonewall batting and consistency. Their collective experience proved invaluable. Conversely, Australia was mainly naïve and inconsistent – periods of good cricket were mixed with occasional sloppiness, poor DRS reviews and the odd brain-fade.

This series wasn’t chock-full of high quality cricket, but the action was riveting and a closer contest than 3-0 suggests. 

On statistical evidence and with some promising performances behind it, Australia appears to stand every chance of reclaiming the urn in the return series at home.

Fan article originally published on The Roar's sports opinion website and kindly reproduced here thanks to The Roar. Submit your own cricket fan article for potential publication on cricket.com.au.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
 

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 2:46PM AEDT

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