The first instalment of Ashes 2013/14 is now over and the obvious winner was England given that they won the series 3-0. That said, as with any series of sports contests there are winners and losers, either actual or metaphorical, from both sides. Here are my winners and losers from Ashes series part 1:
Ian Bell: The numbers make for excellent reading don’t they: 562 runs at an average of 62.44 and three hundreds. The numbers alone would be impressive but it also must be remembered that often Bell strode to the wicket with his team in trouble and, more often than not, got them out of said trouble. I never thought I would say this about Ian Bell but I don’t think there is a better cover / square driver in the game today save for Hashim Amla at his best. A great series from a batter who has gone from being good to be the precipice of being great.
Ryan Harris: The Australian selectors didn’t think he was up to the rigours of a full test series and thus held him back him from the first test. He played the last 4 tests and was the man of the series for Australia by, it must be said, a fairly long way. Again the numbers make for excellent reading: 24 wickets at an average of 19.58 in a losing team is nothing short of spectacular. More to the point though, every time he had the ball in his hand it looked like things would happen for Australia. One can only hope that Harris will be fit for all 5 tests of the Australian summer because this would have been a very different series for Australia without him.
Stuart Broad: Public enemy number one in cricket in Australia and I reckon he would be pretty happy about that to be honest. He is the blue print for what a bowling all-rounder should look like. An imposing bowler on his day and valuable with the bat. His failure to walk in the first test was lamentable but it should not the main memory of Broad from this series: do not forget his bowling at Chester-le-Street which was some of the best fast bowling I have seen for some time. 22 wickets at 27 and 180 runs at 25 are great returns for a bowling all-rounder.
Steve Smith: I confess that until his century in the last test I still had a bit of a question mark in my mind about Steve Smith and his place batting at number 5 in the Australian batting order. I believed that he had done enough to warrant retaining his place in the batting order but was concerned that batting at number 5 may have been just a little too high for him. His 138 not out at the Oval killed off any lingering thoughts in my brain of that. Probably the only player “on the fringe” to take his opportunity for Australia in this series and he will now go into the Australian summer solid in the knowledge that he will have a clear run at the selection table for some time to come.
Ed Cowan: Selected at number 3 in the first test was out to two ordinary shots in both innings and then jettisoned. He does not appear to be in Darren Lehmann’s plans for Australia moving forward so it would appear that that one test match this series was his one chance to impress the new boss. With Chris Rogers getting the job done with the opportunity he received it look likes Cowan will not be travelling the Sheffield Shield circuit this summer.
Jonathan Trott: At the start of this series was clearly England’s key man with the willow with a record to boot. Australia seemingly have worked out his technical deficiencies and have, successfully, strangled his scoring opportunities so as to render his role in the series minimal. Given his difficulty with the short ball on these, it must be conceded, slow wickets, one can expect that Australia will run a similar game plan on the hard and fast wickets at home. He will have much work to do to regain the aura of the past for this coming home series.
Simon Kerrigan: Brought into the team for the Oval test match as an obvious replacements for the now out of favour Monty Panesar and seemingly on trial for the Australian summer to say that he choked under the spot light would be an understatement. Only given 8 overs by his captain on a spinners wicket is indicative of how well he went in his chance to shine. If not selected for the summer tour, he risks becoming the punch line that Tahir and McGain have already become.
ICC: From umpiring to DRS to bad light issues it has not been the best of tours for the ICC and particularly the elite umpires panel. It is apposite to say that umpires suffer from bad form as much as players do and the umpires in this series have been woefully out of the form at best which, for a series that is one of the jewels in the test cricket crown, has caused a massive black eye for the rulers of the game. This series has also thrown up an obvious problem that the game has: educating the fans on what the rules actually say. The vitriol pointed at the 3rd umpire / DRS official, wrongly as it turns out, is alone indicative of that.
All in all it was an exciting series that was book ended but question behaviour off the field by some of the combatants. It was no 2005 series or even a 1989 series in its excitement or importance for the fans. There are only 86 days to go from today before the first test starts at the Gabba which is a series that promises just as much excitement and, if anything, a more hard-fought series than we have seen this time out.