In Review

The Ashes 2015: BT Sport wins TV rights as England celebrate

England are crushed at The Oval but still celebrate Ashes series triumph as another Test fails to go the distance

The Ashes 2015: Barmy Army are 'bullying' Mitchell Johnson

03 August

One of the abiding memories of the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston was the sight, and sound, of the Barmy Army laying into Australian bowler Mitchell Johnson, the pantomime villain of the series, as England closed in on victory.

With what seemed like the entire ground singing the infamous ditty about his bowling – he bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, that Mitchell Johnson etc... – the moustachioed speedster appeared to lose the plot and his run-up, and at one point delivered the ball from a metre behind the stumps.

But have things gone too far? One Australian sports writer, Mike Colman, thinks so and has accused the English fans of unfairly "bullying" Johnson, one of the most feared cricketers on the planet, who single-handedly destroyed England during their last tour Down Under.

Writing in the Australian Daily Telegraph, Colman describes the crowd's treatement of Johnson, "as he tries to perform at his best in England", as a "cruel and unusual punishment".

"It is bullying," he writes. "Anyone who doesn't think so either wasn't at Edgbaston for the third Ashes Test, or is an Englishman.... There is no question that the Barmy Army is out to put Johnson off his game through psychological warfare disguised as 'a bit of fun'."

Colman does at least concede that when England tour Australia the boot is on the other foot. Recalling the events of 2013 one England fan told him: "What Johnson is getting now is nothing to what our players got then. There was no singing down there mate; it was straight out abuse."

Colman's accusation may also be informed by a febrile debate in Australia over the treatment of Aussie Rules player Adam Goodes.

The Sydney Swans star is an indigenous Australian who has become the subject of jeers and boos from opposition fans after objecting to racist abuse from the stands. His case has prompted a media storm over the issues of racism, abuse and "bullying" in sport.

The Goodes controversy began in 2013 when he asked for a 13-year-old girl to be removed from the ground after she called him a "ape", explains The Guardian. Many believed he was being over sensitive and he is now targeted by opposition fans wherever he plays. Goodes, who is proud of his Aboriginal heritage and responded to the jeers by performing a traditional war cry, is on leave and has now threatened to quit the game as a result of the abuse.

The Ashes 2015: how Steven Finn went from zero to hero

31 July

Steven Finn fired England to within sight of a famous Ashes victory in the third Test at Edgbaston, and as he tore through the Australian batting on Thursday evening it looked for a while as though England were on course for victory inside two days.

It was not to be, and in the end eighth wicket pair Peter Nevill and Mitchell Starc held on to take the game into a third day. But Australia's lead is just 23 and with only three second innings wickets in hand England will be confident of wrapping up the win in quick time.

Finn was the star of the show and he seized the moment after England's batsmen were bowled out for 281, giving them a lead of 145.

Australia needed to dig in, but after Stuart Broad dismissed opener Chris Rodgers, Finn went to work on the tourists. First he removed Steven Smith, the world's best batsman, for the second time in the match. Next up he had the Australian captain Michael Clarke caught in the slips and with his very next ball he removed Adam Voges to send Edgbaston wild. Mitchell Marsh survived the hat-trick ball but was bowled a few overs later. Finn ended the day by dismissing Mitchell Johnson.

He "ripped out Australia's middle order in a devastating spell from the Pavilion end after the tea interval", says Mike Selvey in The Guardian. "Finn, roared on by the crowd, was irresistible, bowling with genuine pace – up to 92mph at one stage – accuracy and consistency."

It was the "spell of his life", reminiscent of Curtly Ambrose or Glenn McGrath in their pomp, says Scyld Berry in the Daily Telegraph, as he "unleashed a constant stream of unplayable deliveries".

Finn's success is made even sweeter by the tribulations he has endured over the past two years, which include being sent home from England's tour of Australia because he had become "unselectable" in the eyes of England's coaches.

Jonathan Agnew of the BBC recalls an encounter with the bowler during that tour. "Finn, who had not been picked for any of the Tests, was bowling at cones in the nets for the umpteenth day in a row looking utterly downtrodden. He had lost everything: his pace, his rhythm, his enthusiasm, and it was a horrible sight.

"It has taken time, but Finn's bowling has been dismantled and put together."

Who knows what Finn was thinking as the delirious Edgbaston crowd chanted his name and he led England off the field after his five wicket haul, wonders Michael Atherton in The Times. "He must have pinched himself. The troughs in a cricketer's career make the peaks all the sweeter and more memorable."

But when it comes to English cricket it seems that every silver lining has a cloud and England's day was soured by an injury to leading seamer Jimmy Anderson, who left the field with a side strain.

If it is serious he could be out for the rest of the series. "Anderson's side will now be the subject of national medical bulletins, just as David Beckham's metatarsal was in 2002, so important is the Lancastrian to England's hopes," says Atherton.

The Ashes 2015: Anderson and Finn reduce Australia to rubble

30 July

At this rate the 2015 Ashes will be remembered as the most topsy-turvy series ever, after the pendulum swung back in England's favour in dramatic fashion on the first day of the third Test at Edgbaston.

After routing England at Lord's to avenge defeat in the first Test, Australian skipper Michael Clarke must have been hoping to turn the screw on the hosts when he won the toss and chose to bat despite dark skies over Birmingham.

He may not have expected to end the day with his side on 337-1, as they had done at Lord's, but he would surely have laughed in the face of anyone who dared suggested that England would be closing in on Australia's first innings score at stumps.

But England's bowlers seized the moment as first Steven Finn, on his return to Test cricket after a two-year absence, and then Jimmy Anderson, who took 6-47 in conditions made for swing bowling, ran through the tourists for just 136.

Could Australia's much-vaunted bowling attack do the same to England? The answer, on day one at least, turned out to be no as Ian Bell justified his move up the order to three with a run-a-ball 50 to propel England to within three runs of Australia's total by the close.

With the conditions in their favour England's bowlers gave Australia "a proper, old-fashioned new-ball strafing", says Gideon Haigh in The Times. "More deliveries beat the bat in the first half-hour than on the whole first day of the second Test. But Australia, frankly, batted as poorly as for years."

The early damaged was done by Finn. Playing in his first Test for two years he took the prized scalp of Steve Smith in his first over, and followed that up by yorking Clarke.

Then came the carnage. "Anderson, barged through the door that Finn had opened with his dismissal of Australia's most dangerous player by taking six wickets, five of them in an eight-over spell after lunch that reduced Australia's middle order to rubble," says Michael Atherton also in the Times.

"Anderson showed his versatility, skill and sharp cricketing intelligence," adds Atherton, and expoited seam movement as much as swing to bamboozle the Australians.

"Anderson was irresistible," says Mike Selvey in The Guardian. "When there is movement to be had, it is an education: his mind ticks, he plots and plans and sets up a batsman."

And when it was England's turn to bat, the five-runs-an-over charge led by Bell was "precisely the riposte advocated in the aftermath of the second Test".

 

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