The urn will remain with the Aussies. An intense five-match contest ended with shared honours. It was an evenly fought series, as the 2-2 scoreline suggests. No team dominated, and each one exploited the chinks in the other’s armour.
Australia’s top order, traditionally its strength, cut a sorry figure. David Warner, in particular, had a woeful series. The pair in the fourth test exemplified his plight. In both the innings, he was taken out by Stuart Broad — who else! Broad had the wood on him throughout the series, dismissing him cheaply in seven out of his 10 innings.
Broad was not alone in tormenting the Aussies. Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes also troubled the Aussie top order. With 22 scalps in four matches, Archer was, as Michael Hussey said, the ‘find of the series’ for the Englishmen. Only Steven Smith was able to thwart the English seamers. He, as Archer remarked in a post-match chat, never seemed like getting out.
Smith single-handedly defied the English bowlers. They seemed to have no answers for his twitch and fidget. Without looking pretty at the crease, Smith was mighty effective. With 774 runs in the series, he was the best batsman on view by a long way. It was only Marnus Labuschagne and to a certain extent, Mathew Wade, who helped him with vital partnerships. There was no one in the England line-up to match Smith’s fantastic performance.
Barring Rory Burns at the top, and Ben Stokes in the middle, the English batsmen were inconsistent throughout. Burns may not have put up big scores regularly, but he did see off the new ball competently. He seems to have sealed the opening spot for the time being.
Stokes, however, batted magnificently, especially in the nail-biting third test. Who can forget his epic 135*and the match-winning 76-run last-wicket partnership with Jack Leach? That knock should have inspired other English batsmen, but they just couldn’t come to the party.
Jason Roy struggled to come to terms with the red ball. Joe Denly and Joe Root were patchy, at best. Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow being nowhere close to their white-ball form compounded the issue. The Aussie bowlers’ sustained pressure found the batsmen wanting.
Pat Cummins was Australia’s star bowler. Despite not picking up a five-wicket haul, he ended up as the highest wicket-taker in the series with 29 wickets. Cummins was incisive and picked up a wicket almost every time he came on to bowl. Josh Hazlewood kept up the pressure at the other end. Fast bowlers do hunt in pairs, don’t they? Nathan Lyon supported the fast bowlers with his off-spin, giving no respite to the English batsmen.