England have regained the Ashes after beating Australia at Trent Bridge to take the urn with an unassailable 3-1 lead. We name our players of the series so far…
ALASTAIR COOK 6
Cook has blown hot and cold, both as opening batsman and captain. Averaging 31.95 with the bat, his high point came with 96 at Edgbaston, but its been a mixed bag otherwise. Many say he’s back to his best, and there are glimpses, but there’s undoubtedly more to come from one of the finest players to have ever worn the Three Lions. As captain the jury is still out. This Ashes success is being heralded as his greatest achievement, and yes there are signs, like the attacking declaration in the fourth Test, that he is getting ahead of the game and not always sitting back waiting for it to develop. Of course it’s easier to captain a winning team. At Lord’s he was devoid of ideas – England lost. Trevor Bayliss looks like he is having a positive effect and Cook has earned the right to take the team forward.
ADAM LYTH 4
Lyth needs runs to cement his place at the top of the order, but has survived for important passages and will come good in the Test arena if the selectors show patience. A top score of 37 in the series illustrates how Australia have exposed a weakness in the corridor of uncertainty outside his off-stump and he will have to learn quickly if he’s to enjoy a long international career. He has the talent to come good and, unless the selectors want a merry-go-round of opening partners for Cook, he is worth persevering with.
GARY BALLANCE 4
The forgotten man, discarded after the 2nd Test defeat at Lord’s, many would argue he was the fall guy for an out of form Ian Bell. There can’t be many England batsmen down the years who have been dropped after 15 Tests with an average of 47.76. But he was out of form, creeping back too far in his crease and had given the doubters room to call for his head. Don’t forget the importance of that 61 he scored in Cardiff and the first innings partnership with Joe Root which was Test match cricket at its toughest. Without it England would have possibly come away from Cardiff without that 1-0 lead and renewed confidence.
IAN BELL 6
For a time it seemed Ian Bell was at the end of an excellent Test career. The selectors showed their faith, retained him at his home county ground of Edgbaston and he delivered. He showed character, fight and reminded everyone how important he can be if he plays anywhere near his best. Pleasing on the eye, he took up the challenge of moving up the order to number 3 and succeeded. His career could easily nosedive again, he needs runs to continue his renaissance, but as one of the experienced heads in a young side, he’s an important cog in the machine. His 60 in the second innings at Cardiff saved his bacon. The 53 and unbeaten 65 at Edgbaston restored his pride.
JOE ROOT 10
Roooooooooot is top class. Many series previews suggested the key battle of the Ashes series would be between Root and Smith. Root won the contest at Cardiff, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge. Smith came out on top at Lord’s. England are 3-1 up – there’s no coincidence there. The top run scorer in the series, a great technique, tons of concentration and a cheeky smile. What’s not to love?! The final insult to Smith is that Root has displaced him at the top of the ICC World Test Batting rankings. The 24-year-old has the game to stay at the top for some considerable time. There were concerns when Ballance’s dropping meant Root was promoted to number 4 in the order at Trent Bridge – he delivered a classy 130 in response. The simple truth is, wherever he bats, he’s good enough to contribute big scores. His masked Bob Willis impression for the Sky cameras will have further endeared him to the public. His ability has him well on the way to being one of the greatest English batsmen of all time.
JONNY BAIRSTOW 7
Off the back of a wheelbarrow full of runs for Yorkshire and a man of the match performance in the deciding ODI against New Zealand, Bairstow earned his chance and has taken it. He got a brute of a ball from Mitchell Johnson at Edgbaston, but his 74 at Trent Bridge was solid and he will have been disappointed not to have gone on. The bottom line is he’s back and looks the part. He was part of England’s 2013 Ashes celebrations and didn’t kick on. This time he has every chance.
BEN STOKES 8
Ben’s rapidly coming of age and well on the way to becoming a complete Test all-rounder. The 24-year-old will be the engine room of this England side for the next few Ashes series. The catch he took to send Stuart Broad into delighted shock and Adam Voges on his way was as good as you will see. Although he needs more bug scores, the fifty he made in the first Test was important. His 6 for 36 to wrap up the fourth Test proved England have a gem.
JOS BUTTLER 4
Jos will be disappointed that he has not contributed with the bat. A series high of 27 in Cardiff is not good enough for a player of his quality. His keeping is improving all the time, but with Bairstow back in the side as a batsman for now, he knows he needs to make runs to keep his Test place.
MOEEN ALI 5
Moeen is a conundrum. His trademark beard makes him a crowd favourite, his batting at number 8 in the order is crucial and wonderful to watch, but his bowling isn’t good enough to be regarded for frontline duties in Test cricket. Two flowing half centuries and other valuable contributions have contributed a lot to England’s tail, but he is picked primarily as an off-spinner and has taken the majority of his 9 wickets in the series by virtue of Australia’s naivety. They tried to knock him out of the attack, handed catches left right and centre, before realising they could play him properly, wait for the bad balls and still tick along at a decent lick. Since Cardiff, where he took match figures of 5 for 130, Moeen has taken 4 for 314 and never looked like contributing more. With Adil Rashid hot on his heels it will be under pressure, but with England’s next Test tour in the UAE against Pakistan there may be room for both Rashid and Moeen in the same side.
STUART BROAD 10
The man the Australian’s would have least liked to have inflicted the killer blow, did exactly that with one of the most memorable spells of bowling in Ashes history. Where were you when Broad took 8 for 15 and Australia were bowled out for 60 on 6 August 2015? But it’s not just that spell that makes Broad’s series special. From his first spell at Cardiff he’s been right on the money. If the Australian press want to find a reason for Michael Clarke’s retirement, Broad could easily be it. He’s had the Indian sign over the Australian captain and, for vast chunks of this series, Australia. His 21 wickets in the series beats all comers and have been well deserved. His 309 career wickets now see him above Fred Trueman as England’s fourth most successful bowler of all time.
MARK WOOD 7
The Durham fast bowler, and his imaginary horse, were made for Test cricket. He’s played his debut series against New Zealand and sailed through the cauldron of an Ashes battle with a smile on his face and relishes every second. If there is a criticism – he was off the pace at Lord’s, but he was not alone in being disappointed there. For the rest of the series he’s been a breath of fresh air and a real threat. The 25-year-old has taken 9 wickets and has shown he can be handy with the bat too.
JIMMY ANDERSON 8
What’s left to be said about Jimmy. He’s England’s greatest bowler of the modern era and in typical English conditions is a tough to play as anyone in the world. He has mastered his art, has the ball on a string and his absence at Trent Bridge was a major worry in the build up. Happily for England they have strength in depth. At Lord’s, Jimmy was as off his game as anyone in the side. At Edgbaston his 6 for 47 proved what a machine he is. A mixed series in many ways, marred by the side injury that saw him miss the party at Nottingham, his 413 Test wickets have set the benchmark.
STEVEN FINN 8
Finn’s story is one of a good guy who looked like he’s lost it, who worked his socks off and got it all back. That the story has a happy ending is down to Finn’s hard work and refusal to give up on his dream. That dream became a reality at Edgbaston when, recalled in place of Wood, he tore the Aussies apart with 6 for 79. At 26-years-old the best is yet to come. His beaming smile throughout the third and fourth Test told you how happy he is to be back part of it all again.
END OF FOURTH TEST REPORT
England have proved the doubters wrong. That’s probably most of us as few predicted England would win the Ashes. In Joe Root and Stuart Broad they have the two stand out players of the series. In Finn, Stokes, Bairstow and Wood they have three players that should only get better.
There are some concerns. Moeen Ali is not a Test quality spinner. Adam Lyth needs time to flourish. Is Ian Bell delaying the inevitable? Is Captain Cook the right hand on the wheel? Can Gary Ballance come back?
They are questions for another day. They all deserve the reception they will get at The Oval when the fifth Test starts on 20 August.
As the editor of Cricket Badger he is intent on building the website to give quality coverage of the domestic game around the world.
James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author and a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications.
He's unsurprisingly a complete cricket badger!