The Ashes report card

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THE WINNERS and the losers in yet another triumphant Australian home soil campaign. KEN PIESSE rates the teams:

REPORT CARD AUSTRALIA

DAVID WARNER (Five Tests) …… Rating 7

Clearly among the best three batsmen of the summer, his near feat of twin 100s in the prestigious MCG Christmas Test was a high point. Highest score 103, next best 87 not out.

CAM BANCROFT (Five Tests) …… Rating 4

Other than a lovely cameo on debut to ensure Australia’s 10-wicket win in the opening Test in Brisbane, he failed to make 30 in seven other innings. Will need to improve in South Africa otherwise will be returned to the back-blocks. Highest score 82 not out, next best 27 not out.

USMAN KHAWAJA (Five Tests) …… Rating 6.5

Overcame a hesitant beginning in Brisbane to finish with typical flourish in Sydney, his 171 pivotal in Australia’s innings victory. Faces the Tests of his life in South Africa where the ball will seam and swing. Highest score 171, next best 53.

STEVE SMITH (Five Tests) …… Rating 10

Man of the series and winner of the Compton-Miller Medal with almost 700 runs at an average approaching 140. Was truly Bradman-like with a unique technique which England could never conquer. Best batting: 239. It was one of three 100s in one of the golden summers of all.

Steve Smith was Australia's best player for the ashes. Pic: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Steve Smith was Australia’s best player for the ashes. Pic: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

SHAUN MARSH (Five Tests) …… Rating 7.5

From controversially winning the final specialist batting position in Brisbane, he played with poise, purpose and grit throughout, his two centuries in the Tests a career highlight. Highest score 156, next best 126 not out. Averaged 70-plus.

MITCHELL MARSH (Three Tests) …… Rating 6.5

A surprise selection for a home-Test in Perth, especially given his limited bowling preparation after off-season surgery, Marsh was a revelation with the bat, scoring two 100s, the memories of his mid-pitch celebration with brother Shaun in Sydney an indelible picture of a golden summer. Sparingly-used at the crease, he failed to take a wicket in 32 overs.

Highest score 181, next best 101. Averaged 106-plus.

PETER HANDSCOMB (Two Tests) …… Rating 3

Derided for his unusual technique which made him an lbw target, he was demoted in mid-series and was 12th man in the last three Tests. Will be better for the experience — and, in my view, will one day captain his country. Highest score 36, next best 14.

TIM PAINE (Five Tests) …… Rating 6.5

A surprise selection for Brisbane, he thoroughly justified his call-up from outside Tasmania’s Number One side, keeping capably and batting with flair and consistency. And to think he was seriously contemplating taking an admin job in Melbourne in the off-season. Highest score 57, next best 49 not out. Dismissals: 25 catches and one stumping.

PAT CUMMINS (Five Tests) …… Rating 8

Man of the match in the final Test with eight wickets, he aggregated 23 for the series, a remarkable effort for a young man with such an injury-plagued past. Was fast and threatening from the opening Test and proved to be one of the most destructive Number Three bowlers in Ashes annals. Also batted capably. Best bowling: 4-39 on the final afternoon.

NATHAN LYON (Five Tests) …… Rating 8

Remarkable series where he continued to apply peak pressure at one end, allowing the fast bowlers to rotate from the other. Averaged 50 overs per match, spinning, teasing and tormenting from the Gabba onwards. Best bowling: 4-60. Next best: 3-54.

MITCHELL STARC (Four Tests) …… Rating 8

Australia’s pivotal strike bowler with 22 wickets in four Tests. Missed Melbourne with minor injury and it probably cost the Aussies their chance of a 5-0 whitewash. Best bowling: 5-88. Next best: 4-91.

JOSH HAZLEWOOD (Five Tests) …… Rating 7.5

One of the four frontline bowlers to take more than 20 wickets. Produced some unplayable deliveries and was responsible for some of the fastest spells of the summer.  Is ever-improving… a key man for South Africa in the autumn. Best bowling: 5-48. Next best 3-46.

JACKSON BIRD (One Test) …… Rating 2

Unfortunate to bowl on the flattest wicket of the summer in Melbourne, his figures of 0-108 indicative of the hapless task all the bowlers faced over Christmas. Was his only Test. Should maintain his place in the 15-man touring squad to South Africa.

REPORT CARD ENGLAND

ALASTAIR COOK (played all five Tests) …… Rating 6

Despite his epic double century on the most placid wicket of the summer in Melbourne, it proved to be one tour too many. Highest score 244 not out; next best score: 39.

Alastair Cook at the MCG

MARK STONEHAM (Five Tests) …… Rating 5

Full of promise early before being smashed on his helmet in mid-series and losing the appetite for battle. Highest score 56; one of only two half centuries all summer.

JAMES VINCE (Five Tests) …… Rating 5.5

His easy-on-the-eye cover drive aside, Vince under-achieved at Number Three, keeping the Australian slips-fielders on their toes throughout. Highest score 83; next best score: 55.

JOE ROOT (Five Tests) …… Rating 7

Five half-centuries in a team so thrashed was commendable, as was his grit to bat on the final morning in Sydney despite being as white as the sands at nearby Bondi. The loss of his vice-captain before the series start was significant. Simply had to shoulder too much responsibility. Highest score 83.

DAWID MALAN (Five Tests) …… Rating 6.5

One of the few successes of the tour, his aggregate of almost 200 runs for the match in Perth a highlight, in a team thrashed by an innings. Highest score 140. Three other half-centuries.

JOHNNY BAIRSTOW (Five Tests) …… Rating 6.5

Benefited from a mid-series elevation into the top-order, his ton in Perth and double-century stand with Malan a feature. Gave his all with the bat and as the team’s full-time wicketkeeper. We didn’t expect any less. Highest score 119; next best 42.

MOEEN ALI (Five Tests) …… Rating 4

Fortunate to survive all summer. Dismissed by Nathan Lyon seven times for the series, his desperate cameo in Melbourne indicative of his plummeting confidence. His finger spin was cannon fodder. Highest score 40. Best bowling 2-74.

STUART BROAD (Five Tests) …… Rating 5

Booed from Brisbane onwards, he never stopped trying throughout, England’s ineptitude with the bat in the final sessions in Sydney robbing him of the chance of another bowl at the Aussies and the opportunity to claim his 400th Test wicket. His pace gradually declined and his batting was chancy. Highest score 56. Best bowling 4-51.

JIMMY ANDERSON (Five Tests) …… Rating 6

England’s highest wicket-taker yet again, with 17, but they cost a heap. Was in his element late one night in the day-night Test in Adelaide when he made the ball swing prodigiously at pace both ways. Bowled tightly throughout but was not suited to the Kookaburra ball and rarely won the pivotal battles. Best bowling:  5-43, his only “five-for” for the summer.

JAKE BALL (One Test) …… Rating 2

Played in Brisbane, taking 1-115 for the match. Never seen again.

CRAIG OVERTON (Two Tests) …… Rating 4

Took six wickets in two mid-series Tests before succumbing to a rib injury. Not the worst. Best bowling: 3-105

MASON CRANE (One Test) …… Rating 3

A permanent reserve until Sydney, he was very nervous and so hesitant that he often pulled out of his delivery stride to the hoots of the record SCG crowds. Will be better for the experience. His figures in his one and only Test innings: 1-193!

CHRIS WOAKES (Four Tests) …… Rating 4.5

Lacked the sheer speed of his Australian counterparts, even the Aussie tailenders being comfortable against his diet of gently curling deliveries. Batted capably. Missed the final Test with injury. Best bowling: 4-26. Best batting: 36.

TOM CURRAN (Two Tests) …… Rating 3

A reinforcement for the injured Steve Finn, he played the big Melbourne-Sydney double and showed great spirit throughout. Helped to force the final Test well into mid-afternoon on Day 5 in Sydney with his plucky defence. Best bowling: 1-65. Best batting: 39.

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Author: Ken Piesse

KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. He has written, edited and published more than 70 sports books. Signed copies of his latest cricket book Heroes of the Hour, cricket’s quintessential moments from Bradman and Lillee to Warne and Steve Smith, is available from www.cricketbooks.com.au

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