What a paradox – Australia losing The Oval Test and celebrating as they had earlier retained the Ashes.
Barring another Ben Stokes miracle at Old Trafford, the Aussies should retain the urn later tonight.
And apart from the afternoon at Headingley when Stokes donned his superman cape, the Australians have been the far superior team so far. The two seem evenly matched on paper, so why is this?
There are two answers.
The obvious one is Steve Smith. Smith has had his own cape on, amassing a set of numbers that make you fact check multiple times. Many would argue that he has been the single difference between the two sides.
However, there is a second reason if you look closely at the English summer.
England’s World Cup triumph will rank as high as any accomplishment achieved by the English team. Some put it right up there with the their 2005 Ashes victory or their retention of the urn in Australia in 2010/11.
And their World Cup win wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for Aussie cricket.
There are a number of English players who are riding the coat tails of the World Cup victory. Jos Buttler and Jason Roy come immediately to mind. Both players had outstanding tournaments, averaging 35 and 63 respectively, and were big reasons behind not only Australia’s semi-final loss but England’s overall successes in the event.
Maybe there isn’t the depth or pressure from county level to push these players out, but with Roy only averaging 12 and Buttler a measly 14, the persistence from the English selectors based on the World Cup may have put one hand on the urn for Australia.
If you dig a little deeper, some of England’s other stars have been extremely disappointing.
Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root have both been well below par in the first four Tests. Bairstow was averaging 48 in the World Cup and is now down to 25 in the Ashes, while Root has dropped from 62 in the ODI tournament to 30 in the Test arena this series – 18 below his career average.
Luckily they have had Ben Stokes to paper over the cracks with bat and ball, but should the selectors have been more ruthless to their World Cup-winning quartet?
It’s highly unlikely they would ever drop their captain or keeper, but Roy and Buttler should consider themselves extremely lucky to still be Test players.
The question must be asked: do the English have a World cup hangover?
Or are their World Cup stars simply not up to Test cricket?