3-1: A record breaking Ashes victory

England completed an historic Ashes series 3-1 win, each of their victories by more than an innings. It is only the third time in Test history that a team have achieved the feat. Along the way they have broken more records than Alistair Cook has scored runs. That might not be factually correct, but it’s not far wrong.

There have been many defining moments in this series, but the most important was Cook’s second innings in Brisbane. Consensus before the series was that if England can leave Brisbane unbeaten, then they could go on and win the series.  A 1-0 lead for Australia would have put England on the back foot, Australia is a tough environment, on and off the pitch, to come back into a series.

Brisbane (match drawn Day 5)

By day three of the series, it looked like same old England, same old Australia.  Captain Andrew Strauss had been dismissed with the third ball of the Test, and England were bowled out for 260, Siddle taking 6-54, including a hat-trick. In reply, Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin had a record breaking partnership of 307, in a total of 481. But then Alistair Cook set his stall out in what was to be a record-breaking innings, and an indication of what was to come.

With an unbeaten 235 in the second innings, Cook took accolades from the greats of the game, including the highest Test score at the Gabba since Sir Don Bradman’s 226 v South Africa in 1931.

Supported by Trott, Cook helped England to a phenomenal 517-1, the first time that England have passed 500 in Ashes Test cricket for the loss of only one wicket.

The opening partnership of 188 between Strauss and Cook was the highest by a visiting team at the Gabba, and the most productive opening partnership in England’s Test history.

Cook and Trott’s partnership of 319 (both unbeaten) was the highest for any wicket in Brisbane, beating the 307 posted by Hussey and Haddin two days before, and the highest partnership for any English wicket in Australia.

Cook spent an incredible 28 hours on the pitch over five days, only off the pitch for the end of England’s first innings on day one.

Given their three innings plus victories since, this Test match might be the least memorable of the series, but without that innings from Alistair Cook, the whole series could have taken a different path. It was the seminal moment in this series.

Adelaide (England win by an innings and 71 runs)

Who can forget Anderson’s first two overs in Adelaide that reduced Australia to 2-3? Katich (0), Ponting (0) and Clarke (2) were the men to go. It all began with Watson running out senior opener Katich for a diamond duck, having not faced a ball. The direct hit from Trott at mid-wicket was exceptional.

With a start like that, the second worst in Australian Test cricket, the home team had very little hope of getting back into the game. Strauss has spoken recently of his plan to strangle the Australian batsmen with consistent bowling, and it was evident in Adelaide.

After dismissing Australia for 245, Pietersen had the type of knock that keeps him in the side during his lean periods. His 227, combined with another Cook century, took the game away from Australia, and laid to rest the ghosts of Adelaide 06 for England.

Perth (Australia win by 267 runs on Day 4)

Mitchell Johnson was the difference between the teams in England’s only defeat of the series. Johnson himself has confessed to the unacceptable discrepancy between his good and bad performances, but the Johnson that showed up to the WACA threatened to end England’s hopes of retaining the Ashes.

His knock of 62 revived Australia from 189-7 to 268 all out and gave him confidence to destroy England with the ball. His 6 for 38, combined with a sudden penchant for sledging with Pietersen, took the game away from England, and levelled the series. More importantly, it gave Australia hope, and showed that England were not invincible.

Melbourne (England win by an innings and 157 runs on Day 4)

With the series level, one comprehensive victory each, it was back to square one for both the teams. Not for long though. Following the brave decision by Strauss to bowl first, Anderson and Tremlett took four wickets apiece to dismiss Australia for just 98 half way through day one. Strauss and Cook then took England to 157-0. It was only the second time in Test history that one team bowled out another, and then took a 10 wicket lead on day one of a Test.

But it was perhaps Bresnan’s spell in the second innings that defined this Test. Having come into the side for Finn, who was rested after expensive figures in Perth, his superb display of control and pressure building resulted in four wickets for 50, and secured the urn for England.

Sydney (England win by an innings and 83 runs on Day 5, sealing the series 3-1)

In an almost exact replica of the Perth Test, Australia batted first and collapsed to 189-8. Once again, it was left to Mitchell Johnson to get the runs. It didn’t bode well for England, as records, and recent memory, suggests that Johnson fires with the ball when he makes some runs.

However, Andrew Strauss came out and scored a determined 60, getting his team off to a speedy start. It set the tone for the innings. Cook scored his second Daddy hundred of the series, becoming the second most productive English batsman in an Ashes series, and passing 1,000 first class runs on this tour.

Bell and Prior went on to score maiden centuries against Australia, and England posted their highest ever total at the SCG.

It was only a matter of time before England took the ten wickets needed for series victory. Anderson took three of them, finishing with the top wicket tally of the series; 24. Although Cook was thoroughly deserving of his Man of the Series award, Anderson was undoubtedly a close second. He was consistently the best bowler for England, and his lack of ‘Michelle’s’ in this series does not do justice to the performance of England’s senior bowler.

Ian Bell too deserves mention when talking off the top performers in this series. It is perhaps only his position down the order at number six that prevented him from scoring more runs than he did. Cook’s records could so easily have been his. It is pleasing for the English, and galling for Australians, that the three top players for England were three of the worst performers last time England toured down under, and were cast aside before this series by the Australians.

The new England team ethic is just that: team, not individual. They will not sit back on their laurels after what is probably the greatest achievement of their careers. They will look to the future, and their ambition to be world number one. And they have never been better placed to achieve it.

 

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