Thank you, Australia. Thank you, England. This is what we needed.
Those are Nasser Hussain’s words, spoken at the resumption of England’s dramatic 49-run win at the Oval, and concluding a dramatic 45 days of Test cricket.
It’s been the story of two teams, 9,442 miles apart, with contrasting styles, battling it out for the largest, and yet smallest, prize in red ball cricket.
Both sides will have their grievances, they may rue that bit of misfortune, a stumping, a decision, or a declaration here or there, but in Test cricket’s biggest showcase, this series more than delivered.
Australia retain the urn but the 2-2 series was drawn, the same score from four years prior, preserving England’s unbeaten home record in an Ashes series that stretches back to 2001.
They’ll get their next opportunity on home soil in two years, but when the dust settles or when they embark on their 24-hour plus flight home, they may rue those missed chances. It won’t be until 2027 when they return, with a 26-year wait and counting, that they can make amends.
But the visitors shouldn’t be disheartened. They should remain proud of their efforts.
Heading in as World Test Champions, they struck the first and second blow – the less said about the Edgbaston chase the better – and took authority on a series that was ebbing and flowing throughout the ten days played.
England struck back, Headingley once more, but rain, a prominent sight in the latter stages, thwarted a dominant home performance at Old Trafford. The hosts were halted, talk of 3-2 subdued, but it was never going to end on a whimper.
Step forward to The Oval, another match of thrilling entertainment, another five days to cherish and a venue where the storylines kept coming.
England had all the smiles, Australia still had the urn and Stuart Broad had his perfect ending.
Moeen Ali also said goodbye, for a second time, but in a more quieter way than the 604 career Test wicket-taker. Mo’s fourth-innings average of 23.17 (63 wickets) is only 0.03 higher than Shane Warne’s by the way (@ZaltzCricket).
Chris Woakes shunned in the first two Tests, became England’s rock with the ball. Taking 19 wickets at 18.1, Woakes became the first England bowler with 15+ wickets with an average of under 20 in an Ashes series since Richard Ellison in 1985.
‘The Wizard’ also became the third England bowler to take 6+ wickets in three consecutive Tests in a home Ashes, after Alex Bedser in 1953 (four in a row) and Jim Laker in 1956 (Both @ZaltzCricket).
It should therefore come as no surprise to see Woakes pick up England’s player of the series and player of the match for the final Test.
England meanwhile will reflect ahead of another exciting year.
The Three Lions backed up their early talk with the bat, averaging 34.35 per wicket (almost five more than their opponents) at a strike rate of 74 (Telegraph Sport).
Ben Stokes’ troops also inflicted pain on Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, delivering the most expensive series of their careers (each conceded runs at 4.27 an over or more). They scored runs at 4.7 an over, quicker than even last summer. (Telegraph Sport)
In the next days, weeks, and months, they may bemoan the weather or wish they had changed the bails more often, but there will be no regrets.
The Captain proclaimed: “We didn’t shy away from the momentous event the Ashes is. We talked the talk and we’ve also walked the walk out there.
“Over the last six or seven weeks, we have managed to drag a whole new audience towards Test cricket – I hope we have inspired a new generation.”
We’re sure you have. See you at Edgbaston for the West Indies tour next year.
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