This morning saw the end of Australia’s long sojourn in England, Scotland and Wales that began on 1 June 2013 at Sophia Gardens against the West Indies. Some 50 days of cricket were in the schedule for the Australians on this tour and, but for a late flourish culminating with a stirring victory in the final game of the series, it has been a series to forget.
With 65 days to go until the first test of the Ashes commences at the Gabba is it now time to jettison the tour that finished today to the memory bank and to focus forward to Australia’s next challenge to rest the urn from the English.
Before I do so however it is an apposite time to consider the performances on the Australians on tour, across all forms, and consider who were the winners and losers for Australia coming out of the last 50 days of cricket.
Chris Rogers: For mine the ascendancy of Chris Rogers to the top of Australia’s batting order and his locking up (in my opinion) of the opening position of the return test series is the story of the tour for Australia. Rogers is the epitome of a professional cricket and at 36 years old has a short shelf in the Australian team but I can not think of a player in Australia more deserving of his chance in the baggy green. His 110 in the 4th test match of the Ashes was met with rapturous acclaim by fans on both side because we know what he has had to do for the opportunity.
Ryan Harris: If the ascendancy of Chris Rogers was the story of the tour then the return of Ryan Harris was a very close run second. A chronic knee injury coupled with serious shoulder surgery and the ominous statistic of having never played 3 test matches in row seemed to conspire to keep Harris out of the test team for the first test. Once he got his chance in the 2nd test he was easily the best bowler for Australia and close to the bowler of the tournament. 24 wickets at 19.58 are compelling numbers but only tell half of the story. Every time Harris ran in he looked like getting a wicket and the England players looked relieved when he left the bowling crease.
Darren Lehmann: Handed the poisoned chalice of coaching an underdog team with underlying player behaviour issues, from the outside at least, Darren Lehmann’s reputation as a manager of men has only been enhanced by this trip. The results did not go the team’s way and he did have a couple of faux pas with the press along the way however the man they call “Boof” will return to Australia happily at the helm of the team in advance of the Australian leg of the Ashes tour.
Aaron Finch: Scoring the highest score by an Australian player in an international T20 with 156 in the first T20 game of the tour was no mean feat and showed the class that Finch’s form has hinted was around the corner at some point. He is a winner from the tour because of Australia’s propensity of selecting for test duty players who excel at the short form of the game despite the frailties in their respective games at the long form of the game.
George Bailey: Was Australia’s most consistent batsman in the Natwest ODI series and never really looked troubled whilst at the crease. Became the fastest Australian batsman to reach 1000 runs in ODI cricket (shared with Greg Chappell) during the course of the series. He is also a winner because an outcome of the Ashes series is that there is a vacancy at the number 6 position of the order which Bailey may well now be in the frame to fill.
Mitchell Johnson: Australia’s best bowler form wise in the Natwest Series (McKay’s hayrick has elevated his figures) with a return of the control and pace not seen for many years. Became the 6th Australian bowler to pass 200 wickets in ODI cricket. The injuries to Australia’s fast bowlers arising out of the test section of the tour see him now in the frame for selection in the 1st test at the Gabba.
Ed Cowan: Went to England the incumbent opening batter for Australia and has returned, seemingly, to play out his days as a Sheffield Shield cricketer for Tasmania. Clearly does not fit in with Darren Lehmann’s plan for the team and, despite being an excellent team man, will now have been passed by some of the other younger contenders for the next opening or upper order spot to become available.
Messrs Pattinson, Bird and Starc: All have returned from England with one injury or another and now look to be in significant doubt for the 1st Ashes test (assuming each was in the frame). The management of Australia’s bowlers is an ongoing issue, given that Patrick Cummins is also injured again, and the poor management of, in particular, Starc must be looked at to ensure these injuries are mitigated against.
Mickey Arthur: Sacked as Australian coach before the first significant game of the series (the Champions Trophy is an insignificance to me) and then made a fool of himself by suing Cricket Australia. An obvious loser from the tour.
David Warner: Originally I thought that Warner would end up a winner for the tour having been brought back from South Africa to play in the last two test matches for Australia. Frankly though it was a tour to forget for Warner the bookends of which were his punch to Joe Root at the start of the tour and his sacking from the ODI team at the end. Previously the face of the ODI team, Warner will need to work hard to come back into favour with the coach.
Many will consider that there are other winners and losers to come out of Australia’s Northern tour. These are the ones that stick out for me though.
The Sheffield Shield season can not commence quickly enough to progress Australia’s preparation for the coming Australian leg of the Ashes tour.