Ashes Indicators

Go on. Admit it. You watched the first Test between India and Australia and couldn’t resist a smirk. Whereas England have gone from disarray to destructive under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, and actually managed to win in the subcontinent recently, the Aussies looked clueless in their opener against India. They knew what was coming but still couldn’t put up the slightest resistance – despite winning the toss and having the advantage of batting first.

Strangely enough, however, England’s metamorphosis was largely triggered by our Australian cousins: it was the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the old enemy in the 2021/22 Ashes Series down under that finally prompted some changes. It was one embarrassment on the other side of the world too many. Root stood down as captain (before he was pushed), Stokes stepped up, and Baz, the creator of Bazball, stepped in for the underwhelming Chris Silverwood as coach. And England haven’t looked back since.

But what bearing, if any, will Australia’s impending whitewash in India have come 16th June when The Ashes begins on English soil? Probably not a fat lot if we’re being honest. The conditions this summer will be a lot more favourable for Australia’s batsmen and bowlers. And whatever the outcome in India, the Aussies will arrive in England with a potent seam attack, a very solid spinner, and two world-class batsmen. That’s the basis of a strong side and England will need to play well to beat them.

However, at least this time England will be feeling confident and in form, which is why the bookies currently have us as favourites to regain the Ashes for the first time since 2015, as you’ll see at But before we get too excited, let’s look back at recent meetings between the two sides. After all, recent performances in ‘like for like’ series is probably the best indicator of future results.

Sadly, we have to start with that horrendous 0-4 thrashing mentioned above. Although most of us suspected that it would be a tough tour beforehand, hopes were raised somewhat before the series started when long-time Aussie captain, Tim Paine, was dropped and replaced by Pat Cummins as skipper. Although England supporters have never really feared Paine, it suggested all might not be well in the Australian dressing room. Sadly, however, Silverwood soon threw any psychological advantage away by inexplicably leaving both Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad out of the first Test in Brisbane. Ooops.

After Rory Burns was bowled for a golden duck on the first ball of the match, we all knew this wasn’t going to be our tour, again. And, quite predictably, three further humbling defeats would follow – although we did manage to avoid a series whitewash by nicking a draw in Sydney.  

The 2019 series, which was at home, of course, was a much more even and compelling contest – as Ashes series in England tend to be. It was an incredibly close series that ended with Australia retaining the famous little urn after a 2-2 draw.

England’s star man was obviously Ben Stokes, who played one of the finest innings English cricket has seen when he smashed 135 not out in the third Test at Headingley to keep our series hopes alive. If you haven’t already seen it, I recommend watching Justin Langer’s reaction to Stokes’s innings in The Test, the excellent Amazon Prime documentary. Highly amusing.

Stokes’s total series aggregate of 441, however, was dwarfed by that of Steve Smith, who hit an astonishing 774 runs throughout the five-test series. It’s hard to see England stifling Smith completely this summer – we’ve tried and failed plenty of times before – but one hopes that Joe Root, now freed from the mental burden of captaincy, might be able to keep pace with him.

Going back to the 2017/18 Ashes Series, it was déjà vu all over again (if you know what I mean). Australia were completely dominant and raced to an unassailable 3-0 lead before we stopped the rot, and sidestepped the whitewash, by scoring enough runs at Melbourne on the most lifeless wicket imaginable to earn a draw. The Aussies comfortably made it 4-0 at Syndey where there was a little more in the surface for bowlers.

Top series run scorers for the Aussies on this occasion were Steve Smith, again, with 687 runs, closely followed by Shaun Marsh and David Warner. England’s only bright spots were centuries by Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and Alastair Cook, who made 244 of his 376 series runs in one innings on that benign MCG wicket. Chef was rapidly running out of gas at that stage of his career so thank heavens he was able to dig deep, and dig us out of a hole, one more time.

Of greater relevance to this upcoming summer, however, was the 2015 Ashes series back in England, which we won 3-2. This was the last time that England actually won a series against Australia – although we haven’t actually lost a series at home since 2001, which I like to remind my Australian friends as often as possible.

On this occasion, the two rivals traded victories in the first two Tests. England picked up a 169-run victory in Cardiff, but Australia roared back at Lord’s, winning by a whopping 405 runs. England would then take an unassailable lead by winnings Tests 3 and 4, with the Aussies picking up a consolation victory at The Oval. This was obviously too little, too late but it did give the scoreline a more respectable look.

So what’s going to happen this time? Obviously the last series in England – the one that finished 2-2 – is the most helpful indicator. Australia are a similar side now to the one they were then. The key players are almost entirely the same. However, the good news for us is that England are now an entirely different animal.

Four years ago, the ECB had prioritised the World Cup, which we’d won a few weeks earlier, and the Ashes just didn’t seem to be the main priority. What’s more, our Test side felt a bit stale back then. It was inconsistent, prone to batting collapses, and we’d probably put too much pressure on Jofra Archer to reinvigorate the bowling.

This time, however, we have a clear methodology and a lot of momentum. We also have genuine competition for places in both batting and bowling, plus an ascending talent in Harry Brook who could do something similar to Steve Waugh in 1989.

The big question, obviously, is whether Bazball can work against fast bowlers of the quality of Cummins, Hazlewood, Starc, Boland, Green and Lyon. It’s bound to be a step up. But whatever happens, it’s bound to be exciting, too.

James Morgan


  • Great piece James. Can’t wait to watch the upcoming Ashes. It will certainly be an enthralling battle.

  • Apart from irrelevant to the Ashes, I don’t think that the comparison between the England-Pakistan series and the Nagpur test bears much weight. The Nagpur game featured India’s three first-choice red-ball spinners and one of their regular opening bowlers–who are four of the best bowlers in the world in Asia–and was played on a pitch offering spinners generous assistance. The Pakistan games were played on roads, Pakistan don’t have a specialist spinner who is anywhere near world-class (and had one even less at the beginning of the series), their three first-choice seam bowlers at the start of the series played two games between them because of injury with the best (and their one world-class bowler) not playing at all, and the selectors didn’t pick the only other two seamers who have reasonably good test records.

    Poorly as Australia seem to have played…leave aside the Ashes, the real test of how successful New England are will be India next winter.

  • Has to be said the Aussie batting looks really vulnerable, with only 2 players looking to have the technique, resorting to the likes of Handscombe again doesn’t inspire confidence. Stokes must be rubbing his hands. Their spin looks less than threatening. Jadeja and Ashwin are different class. They don’t seem to have a plan, so much for their criticism of Bazball. Surely they’ll be fielding a stronger line up this summer. Certainly their seam attack is up there, so it’s important we make a statement against New Zealand.

    • As an Aussie who devours cricket news every day, I don’t recall any criticism here of Bazball…two reasons, Baz is a huge favorite here, and most fans, like me, are all for bright cricket. The same for Stokes, despite that one bloody test, we applaud how he’s gone about leadership and has done more to revitalise Test cricket than anyone in memory. And I think that while we half expected what we’re seeing now in India, after all that’s what always happens there, we are all looking to a more even contest in England. Two tests each going into the fifth would suit me.

      • Nicely said, Mick. I think that Australia and England are quite similar sides in some ways. The Ashes will be every close. I also doubt, for the record, that England would’ve done much better than Australia in those Indian conditions. We managed to win one Test over there last time but were obliterated in the other games. I think we’d be better equipped now but I still don’t think we could live with India in their own backyard.

      • They Aussies have always been cynical about Baz, saying if we try that with them we’ll be in trouble. It’s a state of mind as much as anything else, without a fear of losing and a preoccupation with winning. A draw isn’t considered a good thing for the game anymore.

  • Nice piece James.

    Aussie cricketers are such whingers…

    1. They state that winning a series in IND would be bigger than the Ashes.

    2. The win the toss, bat…….and collapse…….twice, and get humped.

    3. BUT, knowing that IND would prepare pitches for the best bowlers – Ashwin, Jadu and Patel – so they pick their own spinners: their GOAT Lyon, and a young man called Todd Murphy who has only played 8 FC matches. He does well and takes a fifor on debut at the age of 22yrs, ripping out 4 of IND’s top-5, plus 3 more.

    4. They complain.It really is pathetic.

    I have no idea what the pitches will be like in Indore, Delhi and Ahmedabad, but it looks likely that AUS will get more treatment from the two Ravis and Axar……..just as ENG did in 2021. Recall though, ENG won the first test – but I don’t recall any ENG whinging.

    As I said, AUS are dreadful losers – worse even than NZ rugby fans.

    As for the Ashes, I think that the AUS bowling attack could well be better than 2019 – but the batting has started to look shakey…….actually, I think AUS might have serious problems…….

    ……..especially if ENG can keep Anderson, Archer, Broad, Curran, Mahmoud, Potts, Robinson, Stokes, Stone, Wood all fit to rotate.


    1. Khawaja, 36yrs old – previously he could hardly buy a run in ENG (av. 19.6), but he now looks a more calm, mature and content batsman. The second half of his career has been better than the first. Then again, say ‘damp spring’ and ‘Duke’s ball’ in a sentence with his name in it, and it might induce nightmares.

    2. Warner, also 36 – has never really hit it big in ENG, quite a few solid fifties, but complete failure in 2019 (when he was Broad’s bunny), and an average of 26 in 25 innings in ENG. True, he hit 200 against SA not so long ago – but he had had a lean time of it since his 335 against PAK in November. Here’s a stat for you, 19 of Warner’s 25 hundreds have been made in AUS, with none in ENG. He hasn’t hit a ton outside AUS since two in BAN in 2017. If he endures more failure in IND – after 1 & 10 in Nagpur – then he may not be selected for the Ashes tour.

    3. Labuschagne, will turn 29 on tour, a highly respectable record in ENG, against a splendid opening half of his career. AUS will need him to be the 21C Border – something that he is perfectly capable of measuring up to.

    4. Smith, will turn 34 on tour. Let’s face it a man who average 61 after nearly 100 Tests is very special – a real great of his era, unlike that imposter Voges! Smith has 30 Test hundreds, but unlike his openers, he has scored half of them all over the world. Expect at least two Ashes hundreds.

    5. Head, 28, the supposedly solid no.5 with a Test average of 45……..57 at home, but only 21 away. He bowls a bit too, but Keith Miller he ain’t…..yet. The AUS gurus know his weaknesses, which is why he was dropped for Nagpur having averaged a tremendous 87 in 3 tests against SA at home. This caused no small controversy. Are AUS divided? Great series against SA. Perhaps a good series for him to be dropped for. Head will be 27 if/when he tours UK. He does not convince away from the Aussie tracks.

    6. Head’s ‘replacement’ in Nagpur, was Middlesborough-born Matt Renshaw. He has done little or nothing since his promising 184 vs PAK in 2017 – and made a first innings 0 and 2 in Nagpur. Has he been suckered, lined up to fail, to protect Head’s selection for the Ashes?

    7. Phil Handscomb, will be 32 soon. The Keeper-batsman has played nearly 20 tests but does not convince that he’s anywhere near being a Bairstow, Dhoni or Gilchrist.

    8. Which brings us to Alex Carey, 31, a great athlete and a ‘veteran’ of 60-odd FC games, 16 of which have been Tests. His stats are irrelevant really, the fact is that he has played next to no cricket at the highest level. Yes, he has played in ENG for Sussex, but only T20. His athletic ability may allow his keeping to flourish – but against Anderson, Broad or Robinson at Headingley on a grey day??

    9. Cameron Green, turns 24 on tour. A very, handy all-rounder with a lot of potential. Got well stuck into ENG in 2021-22; but is he really a new Shane Watson? Certainly not with the bat.

    As for the bowlers……..yes on paper, their attack looks powerful – but note their ages this summer: the skipper Cummins 30, Behrendorff 33, Boland 34, Hazlewood 32, Lyon 35, Neser 33, Richardson 26, Starc 33…….plus a few others.

    The facts are, this AUS team is waging badly. Yes, there are glimpses of future glory, but perhaps only the most thorough purveyors of Aussie cricket can see it. For me, the AUS cupboard looks a few injuries short of being regarded weak.

    In reply, yes, Anderson and Broad are truly venerable, and Archer and Wood are injury-prone – but I believe that a sensible rotation policy can see us trough to a handsome victory…….

    ……..unless Labuschagne and Smith morph into Waugh and Ponting.

    • Winning in India is indeed bigger than the Ashes, if only cos, sadly, too many Ashes results are known too far in advance, while winning in India coincides with Haleys Comet

  • Is there really nothing we can do to optimise the pitches for our bowlers and/or the detriment of Aussies attack? And can we persuade Rashid to come back?

  • ‘…it was the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the old enemy in the 2021/22 Ashes Series down under that finally prompted some changes. It was one embarrassment on the other side of the world too many. Root stood down as captain (before he was pushed)…’

    Not sure that I agree with that, James. Although Silverwood was dumped, Root continued as captain and the changes were the misguided dropping of Anderson and Broad for the WI tour. Surely it was the woeful performance on that tour that precipitated Root’s resignation and the metamorphosis that followed.

    • I would say it was a combination of the two–although it’s true that Root didn’t resign after the Ashes.

      Why was the leaving out of Broad misguided? He doesn’t have an especially wonderful record in the WI, has a mediocre to dreadful record in a lot of countries abroad (which was what leaving both of them out was said to be about), didn’t bowl well in the one Ashes test he played when the series was live, and England’s failure to be more competitive abroad seems to have had something to do with both the senior bowlers bowling lengths which were too defensive. The picking of Woakes seems a lot more misguided than the omission of Broad.

  • Home advantage is always important in Test cricket which is why England should start favourites for The Ashes. They are also in better form than the Aussies but as England have found to their cost in the past a wounded Aussie team can be a dangerous beast.

  • Yes we have the bowlers but how many will be fit? Stone, Archer, Wood and at least till recently, Robinson are walking injuries. Potts is injury prone, Anderson is pushing 41 and one injur y could be curtains, Broad is 36. Yes all good bowlers but there’s a huge “if” here. And the Aussies don’t have many injury worries. Warner, Labushagne, Smith, Head, Kwaja are a heck of a good top 5.
    England in ” better form”? Mmmm…I would have like to have seen them trying to play bazball in India.

  • The Aussie batting looks pretty vulnerable with only 2 batsmen looking like they have the technique to survive long against a moving ball. Bringing Handscombe back doesn’t bode well. Despite their criticism of Bazball as a 1 trick pony they look rudderless themselves at the moment. Jadega and Ashwin looked a different class from Lyon and co and with seam playing only a relatively small role this series could become a nightmare for them unless they decide on a more positive approach.
    One thing you can be sure of is they’ll be a different prospect this summer as they believe they have the beating of us, home and away. It’s up to us now to make a statement against New Zealand so we have the momentum advantage going into the Ashes.
    It has become a farce, largely because of greed, that the away side now gets virtually no time to acclimatise to foreign conditions as one series blends into the next. It doesn’t make for great contests.

    • By and large agree with the last para though Australia shunned the chance to spend a couple of weeks in India before the first test. But then it got comical. Have a hit on a park ground in Sydney with a “scarified” pitch, whatever that means, and then go to India and rope in a local to be a net bowler cos his action is identical to Ashwins. As someone once said, wouldn’t the world be a better place if Elvis was truly still alive and all the impersonators dead. But you wonder how seriously C A took this Indian tour, maybe cos it never goes well, and the real priority is the Ashes mid year.

      • The real priority in this scenario is surely the BBL isn’t it, Mick?

        I take your point generally, although I still find McDonald’s justification quite compelling–that there was so little chance of getting a useful practice game out of the BCCI that there was no point trying. I think it’s more an indictment of how the Big Three have totally devalued the practice game onm tour–both the visitors by playing 19-a-side and not caring about playing full days (I watched some of the Leicester tour game last summer and players played for both sides and there were net bowlers used) and the hosts (I seem to remember a tour in England where the visitors played three county games and the only first-choice county bowler they faced was a 34-year-old Tony Palladino).

    • And Bazball isn’t a one-trick pony, Marc?!

      But that’s not what the Australian “criticism” of it was anyway–and it was hardly criticism, just raising a couple of pertinent questions in response to an interviewer’s question, and being mildly sardonic about it–mainly, would it work against better bowling attacks on less true pitches. Those are still rather questions: they’ve been partially answered , although England made an almighty hash of one of the SA games, but not completely answered.

      Meanwhile, we’ll see how poor Australia’s batting has been in India this time next year, when we have something to compare it to!


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