England beat Australia 3-2 in the 2015 edition of the Ashes hosted in England, England then won the T20 before losing the ODI series 3-2. I’ve already written 3 blogs on the subject, taking a look at what happened, before looking at Ian Bell and Moeen Ali, two players at the heart of England’s discussions about their sides for the winter tours. Now that the squads have been decided for that tour, the dust has settled on the summer and the winter has begun in earnest (indeed, it’s raining as I type this) so it’s time to wrap it all up nicely and take a look at the players who shaped this summer.
HS = High Score
BBI = Best Bowling Innings
SR = Strike Rate
Batting: 460 runs at 57.50, 2 centuries, 2 fifties, HS: 134
Bowling: 4 wickets at 33.75, 0 5-wicket hauls, BBI: 2/28
Fielding: 8 catches
Joe Root was the 2015 Investec Ashes player of the series, winning the Compton-Miller medal. He scored more runs than any other England player, and it all began on the first morning of the first test match. In fact, you could claim his summer was determined on that first morning. At 43-3 with Lyth, Cook and Bell all back in the hutch, Joe Root was dropped on 0 by Australia wicket keeper Brad Haddin. By the time Australia finally claimed the Sheffield-born England middle order batter, he had scored 134 runs and put England in a much better position. A half-century in the second innings in Cardiff went some way to putting England 1-0 up.
Root turned up when other Englishmen didn’t. The 3 test matches where he scored at least one fifty, England won. His 2 centuries came at Cardiff and Trent Bridge, the first setting the tone for the summer, the second sealing the Ashes. No other Englishmen scored a century, and our second leading run-scorer (Alastair Cook) was over 100 runs behind Root. People still talk about Joe Root as a future this or a future that (he will be a future England captain, he has potential to overtake Cook’s run scoring record etc), well, rather than think about the possibility of a bright future – let’s enjoy what we have now. A young, aggressive batter who shows no respect to any attack and can play well anywhere in the world. Pakistan will be wary of him in the UAE.
Bowling: 21 wickets at 20.90, 1 5-wicket haul, BBI: 8/15
Fielding: 1 catch
Batting: 134 runs at 19.14, 0 fifties, HS: 31
While those stats don’t jump out and demand attention, there is no question that without Broad, England wouldn’t have won this Ashes series. And not just because of that morning in Nottingham! For those who don’t know about it, Broad pitched up at his home ground as the leader of the attack following James Anderson’s injury. On top of that, he started the day on 299 test wickets, and there was every chance that if the 300th took a long time to arrive, England would suffer. It didn’t, as Rogers nicked to slip third ball. He followed that up by dismissing Smith in the same over, before adding Marsh, Voges, Clarke, Starc, Johnson and Lyon and only conceding 15 runs. Australia only managed to score 60, which they were never going to recover from. The Ashes had been won on the first morning of the fourth test all thanks to England’s tall pace man.
While England’s bowlers performed measurably better than their batters did (Anderson, Finn, Broad and Stokes took 4 6-wicket hauls in 4 consecutive innings, a test first), Broad was definitely the pick of the lot. When Australia were batting England into oblivion at Lord’s, Broad was the only one who looked like getting a wicket. He was aggressive, he was fast and he managed to get swing. Broad’s problem has always been consistency, for one innings he can be unstoppable and blow an opposition away, the next he can look like he’ll never get a wicket. Being the leading wicket taker in this series on either side, Broad looks to have found some of that needed consistency. For years we’ve been crying out for a leader when Anderson is unavailable, this summer shows we might just have found one.
Batting: 480 runs at 60.00, 1 century, 3 fifties, HS: 173
Fielding: 1 catch
It would be wrong of me not to talk about Chris Rogers, the Australian batsman who slugged away in county cricket for many years before being given a chance to shine by Australia in the 2013 series. Following this series, he announced his retirement from test cricket. He had a short career, 25 tests (1 in 2008, 24 from 2013-2015) but he has had a very meaningful one. He is very difficult to remove from the crease, occupying it in a way few other modern batters do, as well as scoring a lot of runs. He had a hunger for batting, which has resulted in a first class average just below fifty and a test one above 40. He scored 5 test centuries, of which 4 were against England and 2 in English conditions. His highest test score came in the first day bat-fest of the Lords Test this summer, indeed his only foray above 150 in the test arena. 3 of his five test centuries were scored in winning efforts for the team. In a short test career, he became a crucial cog in the Australian machine.
Steve Smith scored more runs than Rogers this series, but was far less consistent. As I’ve already mentioned in these blogs, Smith averaged less than 10 in the midlands, whereas Rogers scored at least a half-century in every match except the last. Getting Rogers out cheaply was a real achievement and it’s the highest compliment I can pay him when I say that us Englishmen are glad he’s no longer part of the Aussie set up! Furthermore, he didn’t seem as arrogant as other Australian players, rather choosing to quietly get on with his job. He was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise unbearable Australian set up.
ODI’s: v. New Zealand: 322 runs at 64.40, 3 fifties, 1 century, HS: 113, SR: 124.80
v. Australia: 278 runs at 69.50, 3 fifties, 0 centuries, HS: 92, SR: 96.86
T20: v. New Zealand: 4 runs from 6 balls
v. Australia: 74 runs from 39 balls
Arguably the highlight of the summer has been England’s limited overs form. Andrew Strauss and the England hierarchy decided to keep faith with Eoin Morgan following the disastrous World Cup and he rewarded them with a terrific summer. Along with Paul Farbrace, Morgan picked the side and decided to change it almost completely – dropping the likes of Broad, Anderson, Bell and Ballance and calling up Roy, Plunkett, Rashid and Billings. Playing Hales, promoting himself and Root, Morgan’s England set the scene for the summer by scoring England’s highest ODI score in the first match of the series v New Zealand. A thrilling series followed, in which England went 2-1 down before Morgan’s magnificent century at Trent Bridge and Bairstow’s unbeaten half century at Durham sealed a memorable series win. Morgan’s form throughout the series was a joy to behold, only failing to score more than 50 in the final match. A disappointing T20 match followed, although it didn’t matter as England still won.
Morgan was horrendously out of form for his county, Middlesex, to the point where they dropped him. If there were any worries about his form for England, he answered that with a half century in the T20 victory over Australia and continued where he left off in the ODI’s. He scored 3 half centuries, including a run a ball 92 in England’s chase of 300 at Headingly to level the series. His stats are slightly distorted due to the fact he retired hurt in the final match, and didn’t return to the field. Still, that and the series loss to Australia aside – Morgan’s summer was almost perfect, and it was refreshing to see him back to his best.
It’s hard to say whether this summer will live long in the memory or not. Certainly, this could be the summer where England finally awoke from their slumber in one-day cricket, and be the summer where the public finally embraced the new test side. Having said that, it could also be written off as a summer with too few close matches to be enjoyable. I, for one, certainly am fed up of seeing Australia playing England, and will take more from the one day series win over New Zealand than the Ashes victory. However we remember it, it’s been a good summer for England. Against the two world cup finalists, we’ve lost one series, drawn another and won the rest. Alastair Cook has finally shut all his doubters up, and Eoin Morgan has cemented the one-day captaincy.
It’s been a particularly good summer for Joe Root, Stuart Broad and the aforementioned Eoin Morgan. During the middle of the summer, Root scaled to the top of the test rankings for batting. He has fallen back to three, although it shouldn’t be long before he’s the best again. Stuart Broad took his 300th test wicket this summer, led the attack successfully and looked every bit the bowler we hoped we had a few years ago. Eoin Morgan has proved his worth as a captain, leader of the middle order and controller of men. His one-day side is markedly different from the Test side, playing aggressive cricket with purpose and choosing to live on their feet rather than fail on their knees. Also, it’s only fair to pay credit to Chris Rogers, who throughout his short test career was a permanent thorn in England’s side and Australia won’t replace him easily.