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

Ashes 2015: will ageing Australia implode after England defeat?

13 July

England crushed Australia by 169 runs in the first Ashes Test in Cardiff to take an unexpected 1-0 series lead and leave the tourists reeling. It was a result that few people saw coming and there are now fears that the ageing Australian team, tipped to win the series comfortably, could implode in the same way that England did Down Under in 2013.

Australia were "out-batted, out-bowled, out-caught and out-captained in Cardiff", says Barney Ronay of The Guardian. And while coach Darren Lehmann dismissed the result as a "hiccup", Australia left Cardiff with "concerns over the fitness, form and general infirmity of assorted senior players".

The result also changes the whole complexion of the summer. "England will play without fear from here", says Ronay. "Without a little fear in the mix, the series certainly takes on a very different tone."

England made Australia look ordinary in Cardiff, says Michael Atherton in The Times. They were "pedestrian with the ball, vulnerable with the bat, ageing in the field" and Michael Clarke must now be worrying "whether this is a tour too far for an ageing team".

England appear reborn, says Geoffrey Boycott in the Daily Telegraph, who credits New Zealand with inspiring England, just as The Week did last month. "England can go to Lord's with an unchanged team, and Australia have got all the problems," he gloats.

And the Australian press agrees. The Sydney Morning Herald says that the first Test has raised "questions about the team's age and ability to thwart an English side hellbent on revenge".

Age is a key problem, says Greg Baum of the SMH. "Older players and their foibles and frailties didn't lose Australia this match, but they did stand in marked contrast to the youth, verve and intent of England," he says. And heads must roll. "For Australia to make no changes would be to harden the idea of a team in a stasis of their own making," he argues.

Most observers agree that all-rounder Shane Watson and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin are for the chop. Watson, now 34, was out LBW yet again in both innings and failed to take a wicket when he bowled. It would be "insanity" to pick him again, says Baum.

Haddin, who is 37 years old, batted tamely and was let down by his keeping. His error in dropping Joe Root on nought in the first innings with England at 43-3 was the moment that turned the match. Root went on to score 134 and England never looked back.

But those two could be just the tip of the iceberg. Writing even before England sealed their victory, Jarrod Kimber of Cricinfo suggested there were question marks of one form or another over eight of the team at Cardiff.

"Chris Rogers looks slow in the field, [David] Warner and [Steve] Smith are yet to prove themselves in England, [Adam] Voges played a rash young man's shot, Watson might have played his last review, Haddin has played, missed and dropped," he writes. And neither of the bowlers Mitchell Johnson or Mitchell Starc covered themselves in glory as they led the Australian attack, and now Starc appears to be injured.

Chris Baum adds captain Michael Clarke to the list, noting that he "looks as stiff at the crease as a man with a chalky back and twangy hamstrings might".

Ashes 2015: Root saves England  – did Haddin 'drop the Ashes'?

9 July

First Test: England 343/7. It is too soon to accuse Brad Haddin of "dropping The Ashes" but the Australian wicketkeeper's howler just an hour into the first Test at Cardiff gifted Joe Root a vital century and could turn out to be the pivotal moment in the series.

England were tottering on 43-3 when Root, England's last specialist batsman, sauntered out to the crease to face Mitchell Starc. He should have been sauntering back to the pavilion two balls later after edging the Australian bowler behind. But Haddin contrived to drop a relatively straightforward chance, diving theatrically with one hand to his right instead of going with both gloves.

The error proved significant. Root went on to score a magnificent 134 as England dug themselves out of another hole to finish the day on 343-7. Had they found themselves at 43-4 such a score would surely have been beyond them.

"Had Brad Haddin snapped up an outside edge from Root's second ball, the growing optimism that greeted the opening day of the series might have been quickly snuffed out," says Michael Atherton in The Times.

"His second Ashes hundred, brought up with a glorious cover drive off the impressive Josh Hazlewood just after tea, was a marvellous innings."

The importance of Root's contribution cannot be underestimated, says Scyld Berry of the Daily Telegraph. It was his "first great innings" and one of the best for England against Australia.

"Root turned the tide on the first day of this series – a tide that had swamped England like a tsunami the last time these countries had met in 2013-4 and Australia had won 5-0 – and kept them in the series."

It was a far cry from the last Ashes series, agrees Tom Fordyce of the BBC. England now find themselves in a "position from which they can attack again with vigour. And that never happened last time, not once in three long nightmarish months."

Three late wickets took the sheen off England's recovery and after a tight day "Australia may well be the more satisfied of the two teams", says Mike Selvey of The Guardian, while England will be no more than "content".

But they can at least reflect on how it could all have been so very different.

Ashes 2015: Cook tells England 'free spirits' to attack Australia

8 July

England cricket captain Alistair Cook plans to harness his side's attacking potential and go the jugular when The Ashes starts in Cardiff today.

The opener, who has faced criticism in the past for being a conservative skipper, admits he will be easier to go on the offensive against Australia because of the players he now has at his disposal.

With attacking, fast-scoring players like Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler now firmly established in the team, England are well equipped to take the game to the tourists.

England's dynamic, proactive brand of cricket during the recent Test and one-day series against New Zealand was a revelation. The question is, can they take it forward against the Australians and their fearsome pace attack led by Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc?

One thing is for sure, new coach Trevor Bayliss takes over a team that looks transformed since the horrors of the World Cup at the start of the year.

Ahead of the first Test Cook said: "As the leader of a group you do have to change your style of leadership to the players you've got in the changing room and what gets the best out of them.

"When I first started we had a really methodical team, people who liked really banging out areas time and time again and batters who were relentlessly grinding down the opposition. The guys we have now are a little bit more free-spirited than that. It's about being able to let them feel comfortable playing their way."

It is a theme picked up by Mike Selvey in The Guardian. He writes: "The next month or so will show just how far the vibrant new England have come: whether the cultural transformation infused in the team (and through it, the cricket-following public) during the first part of the summer is a permanent marking or whether it will be washed away under a pace-bowling onslaught.

"The Test series against New Zealand, and the white-ball matches that followed, were a revelation, the counterpunching partnership at Lord's between Joe Root and Ben Stokes, where the side were in dire trouble at 30 for four, something that may be looked on in time as a watershed.”

Former skipper Michael Vaughan agrees this is an exciting time for English cricket in his Daily Telegraph column where he examines five ways to beat the Australians.

He writes: "The combination of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Joe Root can be the difference between the two sides if they get it right. It is an exciting time for English cricket.

"Root, Buttler, Stokes and Mark Wood can be our next superstars. I really do think that if they fire and drive this team forward then this could be a special series for England and the start of great era in all three formats of the game. Stokes, Root and Buttler will drive the mentality, training and ethics. Once you get that in a group you can go a long way.”

Recommended

The Ashes: a tough task for England down under
Ben Stokes: England’s missing talisman
In Focus

The Ashes: a tough task for England down under

Ashes series set for go ahead as Root commits to tour
England captain Joe Root and Australia skipper Tim Paine hold the urn ahead of the Ashes
The latest on . . .

Ashes series set for go ahead as Root commits to tour

The thrills of The Hundred finale
Southern Brave men’s team and Oval Invincibles women’s team celebrate at Lord’s
In Focus

The thrills of The Hundred finale

India’s thrilling win at Lord’s: ‘an extraordinary see-saw’ of a Test
India’s Rishabh Pant and Virat Kohli celebrate the wicket of James Anderson
Why we’re talking about . . .

India’s thrilling win at Lord’s: ‘an extraordinary see-saw’ of a Test

Popular articles

The tally of Covid-19 vaccine deaths examined
Boy receiving Covid vaccine
Getting to grips with . . .

The tally of Covid-19 vaccine deaths examined

Why some PCR results are negative after a positive lateral flow test
Pupils at a school in Halifax line up for lateral flow tests
Why we’re talking about . . .

Why some PCR results are negative after a positive lateral flow test

Insulate Britain: what do they want?
Insulate Britain protesters
Profile

Insulate Britain: what do they want?

The Week Footer Banner