Since my previous post about the Ashes, Australia bounced back to win the third test in Perth and then it was all one-way traffic as England dominated the final two tests, winning by an innings in each, to secure their first away Ashes series win since the 1986-7 season. Overall Australia were outplayed in all departments. They did not have nearly the same bowling penetration thanks to the English mastery of swinging the ball, and the Aussies were mostly unable to grind out long innings with the bat, unlike the English.
The only time the Australians were on top was in Perth and there it was largely thanks to Mitchell Johnson, brought back into the side. Firstly he top-scored in the Australian first innings as they recovered from 4/36 to reach 268. At the time that did not seem like a competitive total, and things seemed worse for the home side as England cruised to 0/78 in reply. Then a remarkable spell of late-swinging bowling reduced England to 5/98 and they never recovered. They proceeded to make 187 with Johnson ending with 6, then Australia pressed home the advantage with a second innings of 309 (Hussey 116, Watson 95). Five quick wickets by Australia late on day 3 (I was there!) snuffed out any chance England had, and they made only 123 in their second dig (Harris taking 6 wickets). Australia passed 300 in a test innings for the 27th and last consecutive test (second all-time, see here for a full list).
Then onto the Boxing Day test in Melbourne, and a first day crowd of 84,345 saw one of the most one-sided days in test cricket history (I was there!). Australia were bundled out for 98 and then England were 0/157 at stumps! It was the biggest ever lead a team has enjoyed after 1 day of test cricket without losing a wicket. The crowds for the next two days were also amazing (67,149 & 68,727) as England made it to 513 (Trott 168*) and Australia could only manage 258 in their second innings (Bresnan coming in for Steve Finn took 4 wickets). In achieving a 2-1 series lead the Ashes were safely retained by England.
The final test in Sydney saw Michael Clarke in charge for the first time in test cricket after Ricky Ponting’s broken finger ruled him out (he had captained 73 consecutive tests dating back to 2004). Australia batted first and for a change had a good start and were 1/105 at one point, but none of their batsmen could go on to make a big score, and they were all out for 280 (4/66 for Anderson). England then proceeded to put on a brilliant batting display to register their record fourth score of 500+, ending up with 644 (Cook 189, Prior 118, Bell 115). With a lead of 364, Australia had no chance and would only make 281 in their second innings, again nobody making a big score. It was as comprehensive a way to finish a series as a team could hope for.
Here are some statistical tidbits.
- Remarkably, this was the 20th consecutive Ashes series which had a definite result (i.e. not a drawn series). The last time an Ashes series was drawn was way back in 1972.
- Alastair Cook was man of the series with 766 runs in 7 innings @ 127.67, with 3 centuries and 2 50s. It was the second highest aggregate in a series by an Englishman against Australia (behind Wally Hammond’s 905 in 1928-9). The last time somebody scored more in a series was 1993/4 when Brian Lara scored 798 runs against England (including a then world record score of 375). Cook’s ICC cricket rating went up from 628 points and a ranking of 30th to 803 and a ranking of 5th.
- England had 5 batsmen averaging over 50 (Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Prior), while only Hussey did so for Australia (see here). Trott also shot up the batting rankings from 16th to 4th.
- England’s pace trio of Anderson, Tremlett and Bresnan were the best bowlers of the series with Anderson’s haul of 24 wickets (@26.04) the second best ever by an Englishman in Australia (Frank Tyson had 28 wickets in the 1954/5 series).
- In Sydney Ian Bell scored his first century against Australia after 30 innings and 11 50+ scores.
- It was the first time in test cricket a team had century partnerships for the 6th, 7th and 8th wickets in the same innings. England “recovered” from 5/226 to 644.
- It was the first time that a home side had three innings defeats in a series since South Africa did in 1936.
Meanwhile, the top two ranked teams South Africa and India played a most enthralling series, ending up level at 1-1. The third test saw some astonishing batting by stalwarts Sachin Tendulkar and in particular Jacques Kallis who surely had his best ever test with the bat following up on his first double century in the first test. In the first innings he negotiated difficult conditions coming in at 2/34 and then held the tail together for 161 out of an innings total of 362. India were at a similar 2/28 when Tendulkar came in, and saw off two devastating spells by Dale Steyn (5/75) to reach 146 out of a team total of 364. Then Kallis, battling a side injury and a team position of 4/64 and later 6/130, scored a series saving 109 not out in the second innings to take South Africa to the safe total of 341. India had to score 340 on the final day to win, but arguably could only have done so if Sehwag had a field day, which would have been unlikely against this quality of bowling. The remaining batsmen negotiated the day safely to secure a draw.
The third and fourth days provided some of the most intense competition seen in recent times. You can see some video clips here:
Steyn’s dismissal of Pujara (day 3) was fast bowling at its best!
More statistical tidbits:
- Kallis and Tendulkar are both in purple patches in their career, despite both being aged over 35. As mentioned in this recent Cricinfo article by S Rajesh, Kallis has averaged 62.44 since January 1999 – 12 years! He has had no fewer than 4 purple patches, though one of them was a small one with 5 centuries in 4 tests. It is rare for any batsman to have even one such purple patch.
Jacques Kallis – best purple patches with the bat
|Time frame||Tests||Innings||not out||runs||Average||100s||50s|
|29 Mar 01 – end 02||18||31||10||1637||77.95||4||10|
|24 Oct 03 – 6 Jan 06||26||46||10||2892||80.33||12||12|
|1 Oct 07 – 20 Nov 07||4||7||2||767||153.40||5||1|
|19 Mar 09 – 6 Jan 11||15||26||5||1772||84.38||10||3|
Tendulkar has arguably had three purple patches including the current one. Here I am simply looking at the players’ cumulative averages and looking for a noticeably large increase in career average from a local minimum to a local maximum (including additional tests if they include centuries).
Sachin Tendulkar – best purple patches with the bat
|Time frame||Tests||Innings||not out||runs||Average||100s||50s|
|start 93 to 8 Jul 96||21||29||5||1826||76.08||6||10|
|17 Apr 97 to 23 Apr 02||41||70||7||4335||68.81||18||14|
|6 Nov 08 to 6 Jan 11||24||40||6||2540||74.71||12||8|
- Sehwag’s 11 off 40 balls in the second innings of the third test was by his slowest innings of double digits. In fact only on one other occasion has he scored double digits with a strike rate below 50 runs per hundred balls (13 off 29 balls in Nov 2001 in Port Elizabeth) – see his innings sorted by strike rate here.
- Steyn had his most prolific series with 21 wickets in the 3 tests, confirming his place as the world premier bowler of our time. He has taken 206 wickets in his last 37 tests at an average of 21.24 and strike rate of 37.9 balls/wicket.
- Kallis has 22 man of the match awards in test cricket, more than any other player.
- Tendulkar has now had four years in a row in which his first test innings of the calendar year is a century.
Finally, I produced a graph showing the cumulative run totals of the top test run-scorers. Kallis has for the first time overtaken Tendulkar in terms of career runs by a certain age. I have also included Alastair Cook in the graph to show that he is second to Tendulkar in runs at such a young age.
We see how similar Kallis, Tendulkar and Ponting are at age 35, also how close Lara and Dravid are late in their careers due to a late surge by the former.
Here are some of their records for similar run totals to Kallis, and we see Lara achieved his runs a little quicker (in number of tests and innings) than the other three. The century count for Kallis, Ponting and Tendulkar is remarkably similar. Tendulkar was at a local minimum in his average at this point and proceeded to enjoy the 12-century purple patch noted above.
Cumulative Totals of Top 5 Test Run scorers after roughly 11950 runs
|Player||Age at start of test when reaching ~11950 test runs||Tests||Innings||not out||Runs||Average||100s||50s|
|Lara||37 years, 209 days||131||232||6||11953||52.89||34||48|
|Kallis||35 years, 78 days||145||246||38||11947||57.44||40||54|
|Tendulkar||35 years, 176 days||151||246||25||11939||54.02||39||49|
|Ponting||35 years, 206 days||145||245||27||11954||54.83||39||51|
|Dravid||37 years, 313 days||147||253||29||11943||53.32||31||59|
Kallis has a clearly higher average than the rest at the same stage and has a break from test cricket before his next surge at the records. And to think that he has 270 test wickets as well!