One of the most unusual Ashes series on record has been run and won, with England reclaiming the urn via a boilover 3-2 result. While the scoreline suggests an ultra-tight series, all five Tests were landslides in a campaign dominated by the bowlers – particularly England’s.
After the hosts’ rousing 169-run win in the opener at Cardiff, Australia struck back with an earth-shattering 405-run triumph at Lord’s. But England rebounded as spectacularly as the tourists crumbled, sealing the series with an eight-wicket success at Edgbaston and an incredible innings victory at Trent Bridge (including Australia’s pitiful first-innings total of 60) that prompted Michael Clarke to announce his retirement.
Clarke and Chris Rogers went out as winners, however, as Australia inflicted an innings defeat of their own in the dead-rubber fifth encounter at The Oval.
For the first time ever in a five-match Test series, the fifth day was not required in any of the Ashes clashes; in fact, it has occurred just once in a four-Test series (England v Pakistan, 2010).
The shock series loss has sounded the death knell for the Test careers of several Australian stalwarts – and at least one underperforming Englishman – while a number of players from both sides enhanced their reputations.
Here’s the best and the worst individual performers of an Ashes campaign like no other.
Stuart Broad: The pace spearhead didn’t fire throughout, but he topped the wicket tally with 21 at 20.90, while his stunning haul of 8/15 at Trent Bridge shattered all manner of records. Chipped in with a few handy knocks at No.9, making 134 runs at 19.14.
Joe Root: The 24-year-old was England’s rock in a generally underperforming batting order, leading the way with 460 runs at 57.50 – third behind only Australian pair Smith and Rogers. Man-of-the-match in Cardiff with 134 and 60, Root played a key role at Trent Bridge with 130, and posted 63 and 38 not out at Edgbaston. The only Englishman to post a century in the series.
Steve Finn: Recalled for his first Test appearance since the 2013 Ashes on home soil, Finn enjoyed a dream comeback with match figures of 8/117 at Edgbaston – including 6/79 in Australia’s second dig. Finn claimed Smith and Clarke in both innings, and was duly named man-of-the-match. Notched just one wicket in the fourth Test and three at The Oval, but should settle in for another lengthy stay in England’s line-up.
James Anderson: Lasted only two and a half Tests but the veteran made his presence felt, taking 10 wickets at 27.50. His brilliant 6/47 in the first innings at Edgbaston swung the series dramatically in England’s favour, but Anderson was a spectator thereafter courtesy of a side strain.
Moeen Ali: Shading fellow all-rounder Ben Stokes on the strength of consistency, Ali impressed throughout with 12 wickets and 293 runs at 36.62 coming in at No.8. Notched two half-centuries and failed to reach 30 in just two of eight innings, and while his breakthroughs with the ball came at 45.50 apiece, they were usually big ones.
Honourable mentions: Ben Stokes, Mark Wood.
Steve Smith: The captain-in-waiting was the highest scorer in the series with 508 at 56.44 – despite a run of four single-figure scores that saw him relinquish the official world No.1 batsman mantle to Root. Man-of-the-match in both of Australia’s victories, Smith posted 215 and 58 at Lord’s and 143 at The Oval.
Chris Rogers: The 37-year-old left Test cricket on a high despite the series loss, scoring 480 runs at 60.00. Began with 95 in Cardiff, starred with 173 and 49 not out at Lord’s, and added two more half-centuries before the series was out. Arguably the most consistent player in either side.
Mitchell Starc: Somewhat erratic with the ball, but led Australia’s wicket tally with 18 at 30.50 – including seven during the first Test and 6/111 in England’s first innings at Trent Bridge. Handy contributor with the bat, making 157 runs (fifth for Australia and 10th overall) at 22.42, headlined by a blazing 58 off 52 balls at The Oval.
David Warner: Not his best series, but averaged 46.44 in scoring 418 runs and posted a half-century in every Test. Absence of bad publicity for on-field behaviour was a big bonus for the soon-to-be Australian vice-captain.
Honourable mentions: Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
Adam Lyth: The opener posted a pathetic 115 runs at 12.77, including a high-score of just 37 as he and Cook failed to muster a first-wicket stand higher than 32. The 30-year-old is not long for the Test arena.
Adam Lyth is the first player in Test history to make 5 consecutive scores between 10 & 20 whilst opening the batting pic.twitter.com/HBBLKLd9c6
— Test Match Special (@bbctms) August 22, 2015
Jos Buttler: Solid behind the stumps throughout and took 12 catches, but Buttler’s contribution with the bat was poor. Scored 122 runs at 15.25, an average that would have been even more meagre had it not been for his belated 42 in England’s drubbing at The Oval.
Ian Bell: Stepped up big time at Edgbaston after being promoted to No.3, scoring 53 and 65 not out, but otherwise struggled. Managed just one other half-century, while scoring 1 three times and failing to get past 13 on another three occasions as he finished with 215 runs at 26.87.
Honourable mentions: Jonny Bairstow, Alistair Cook.
Michael Clarke: Scored 132 runs at 16.50 with a high-score of just 38 – an unbefitting finish for one of the greatest batsmen of his generation.
Shaun Marsh: Along with Shane Watson and Brad Haddin, Marsh’s Test career is likely over after being recalled at the expense of younger brother Mitchell and scoring 2 and 0 in the Trent Bridge disaster.
Mitchell Marsh: Handed a golden opportunity to cement the all-rounder role after Watson’s axing, but averaged just 12.00 in five innings at the crucial No.6 spot. Better with the ball, taking eight wickets at 18.62.
Honourable mentions: Mitchell Johnson, Adam Voges.