The Ashes 2015: eight reasons England won back the urn
From the visit of New Zealand to Ben Stokes's stunning catch, the key moments of the summer
England reclaimed The Ashes in emphatic fashion on Saturday as they polished off Australia's bedraggled batsmen in under an hour to seal victory and a 3-1 series win by an innings and 78 runs at Trent Bridge.
Few people gave England a hope at the start of the summer, but they have overwhelmed Australia in a series that has so far only seen ten full days of play.
How did they do it?
New Zealand come calling:
After a horrific World Cup campaign and a less than inspiring Test series against the West Indies in the spring, few people fancied England's chances in The Ashes. English cricket was in disarray as coach Peter Moores was sacked and the Kevin Pietersen bandwagon careered out of control. But, bizarrely, when the action began against New Zealand England suddenly looked the part.
"Cricket fans should raise a glass to Brendon McCullum and his vibrant New Zealand touring side, for it is the Kiwis who have helped breathe new life into a moribund England team," wrote The Week in June. "The fearless brand of cricket pedalled by the Kiwis has rubbed off on the English... Cricket in England needed a jolt and New Zealand have provided it."
Bayliss takes the team to Spain:
The appointment of an Australian to lead the England team in The Ashes raised eyebrows, and the unfancied Trevor Bayliss took over with just two weeks before the series began. He also inherited a team that had been performing wonders under interim coach Paul Farbrace. How would his arrival affect the group? Positively, it transpires.
Bayliss's first action was to take the squad to Spain for a training camp. "It may have been written off as a 'holiday' by the opposition, but England have repeatedly stressed the importance of the excursion – both as a bonding exercise and, crucially, a catching camp," says The Independent.
The exiled Kevin Pietersen agrees. "[Peter] Moores might have done wonders with the development of some of the youngsters... But the atmosphere Farbrace and subsequently Trevor Bayliss have created has enabled those same young players to take the next step in their development," he writes in the Daily Telegraph.
Ryan Harris quits:
The veteran seamer was forced to retire on the eve of the series with longstanding knee problems. According to David Lloyd in the Daily Mail the announcement blew "Australia's plans wide open". It meant that the selectors had little choice but to pick Mitchell Johnson alongside Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.
The triumvirate looks fearsome on paper, but the three Australian quicks are best employed in short sharp spells and none is a master of bowling with an English Duke ball in English conditions. Harris would have provided more control and experience once the ball had lost its shine.
Haddin drops Root:
Onto the actual cricket, and with England tottering on 43-3 on day one of the series, Joe Root edged his second ball to the keeper Haddin, who shelled a relatively easy chance. The English batsman went on to score 134 and England posted a total of 430 and went on to win the match by 165 runs.
"If he'd caught it, England might have been out for 120, lost the first Test, Root might not have found the confidence for his summer of heroics, Haddin might not have been left out of the side… On such margins," writes Alan Tyers of the Telegraph.
Australia drop Haddin:
Haddin missed the second Test after flying home because of a family emergency and reserve keeper Peter Nevill was handed a debut at Lord's. Australia dominated from the start of the match and won by a mammoth 405 runs after England collapsed horribly in their second innings.
Nevill performed solidly, but the return of Haddin left the selectors in a quandary. The decision to stick with Nevill effectively ended Haddin's Test career and coach Darren Lehmann said it was the toughest call he had ever made. Former players including Ricky Ponting were furious. Writing in The Australian Ponting called Haddin the "heart and soul" of the team and claimed he was being punished for putting his family first.
The decision opened fault lines within the Australian camp and also removed a gutsy character, feared by England, from the team.
Clarke bats at Edgbaston:
Alastair Cook afterwards admitted that he too would have batted first at Edgbaston, but Clarke's decision backfired horribly as the clouds came in and Jimmy Anderson, wicketless at Lord's, made the ball sing in Birmingham. He took six wickets as the Aussies were fired out for 136 and England ended the first day just three runs behind.
The home side pressed home their advantage and went on to win the Test by eight wickets inside three days to take a 2-1 series lead.
Ben Stokes catches Voges:
Test teams often get in trouble, but few are bowled out for 60. Nine times out of ten the momentum of a collapse is arrested. And with Australia on 21-4 captain Clarke and veteran Adam Voges knew that as the last of the specialist batsmen they had to steady the ship and rebuild.
But when Voges nicked another wicked delivery from Stuart Broad, Ben Stokes produced a simply stunning catch at fifth slip to expose Australia's underbelly. The all-rounder somehow took the ball once it had passed him and clung on. The look of astonishment on Broad's face said it all.
It was the polar opposite of Haddin's drop of Root. The moment added more wind to England's sails and left Australia deflated and 21-5 became 60 all out, and there is no recovering from that.
The lure of the IPL:
England's victories in the last two Tests have been down to diabolical Australian batting. They may be coached by Lehmann, a former stalwart of the English county scene, but it is clear that most of the Australian batsman cannot play a moving ball and few have any intention of learning.
The lack of technique is easily explained says Scyld Berry of the Telegraph. "Young Australian batsmen... look to where the money is. But it is not in a £80,000 season-long county contract. It is in the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash. They can earn far more by hitting a white ball than mastering the red."