The untimely death of Andrew 'Roy' Symonds proved that bad things do come in threes. Symonds was one of my favourite players, and although…
From the moment Mitchell Starc scattered Rory Burns’ stumps with the very first ball of the summer at the Gabba, this Ashes series has been one dominated by Australia yet again.
For the second tour in a row, England depart, tails between their legs, having been dealt a 4-0 hiding, with only a solitary wicket in Sydney between them and the ignominy of a third 5-0 whitewash in 15 years.
While the Aussies found match-winners wherever they turned – last batter picked Travis Head was the player of the series, sixth quick in line Scott Boland finished with a bowling average of under 10 and Usman Khawaja peeled off back-to-back centuries after being surplus to requirements for the first three Tests – few Englishmen can head back home with their heads held high.
The lionhearted efforts of Mark Wood with the ball, and an emerging talent with the bat in Zak Crawley, are about the only bright spots of any sort on a dark tour.
Here are The Roar’s player ratings for all 15 Australians and 16 Englishmen to appear in the 2021-22 Ashes.
Scott Boland – 9.5
3 Tests, 18 wickets at 9.55
A shock inclusion for Boxing Day as an ‘MCG specialist’, the Victorian’s stunning start to his Test career is undoubtedly one of Australian cricket’s greatest stories.
Making up for his lack of raw pace with metronomic accuracy and an ability to maximise helpful surfaces to devastating effect, Boland took a ridiculous 6-7 at his home ground, to win the Jonny Mullagh Medal for player of the match at the ‘G. Given his Indigenous heritage, it was as powerfully symbolic as it was thoroughly deserved.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 27, 2021
He went on with the job in Sydney and Hobart to finish with the third-most wickets for the series, narrowly behind Cummins and Starc – not bad after missing the first two Tests!
Remarkably, his average could have even been better had he not seen two catches put down in Hobart. As it stands, though, no bowler in Test history has taken more wickets than his 18 at a lower rate. Incredible.
Only misses out on a 10 because the series was all but over by the time he joined in on the fun.
Travis Head – 9
4 Tests, 357 runs at 59.50
Pipping a bloke who averaged single figures with the ball for player of the series is some accomplishment, and Head’s gong was rich reward for a coming-of-age summer.
Blitzing England for a spectacular, run-a-ball 152 at the Gabba felt at the time like a flashpoint moment for the South Australia, having headed into the Ashes with question marks over his spot. By the time his second ton rolled around in Hobart, he was the one batter in the series to have consistently triumphed over the bowling, averaging a touch under 60 at a Gilchristian strike rate of 86.02.
Had it not been for missing the Sydney Test due after contracting COVID-19 – where his replacement Usman Khawaja notched twin tons of his own – he may well have done enough to score an ultra-rare perfect 10 for the series.
Pat Cummins (c) – 8.5
4 Tests, 21 wickets at 18.04
Harder tasks will come as captain, but the new skipper’s first series in charge can only be deemed an unqualified success.
Aside from the Adelaide Test, where he missed after becoming a COVID close contact, Cummins expertly marshalled his array of quicks, allaying fears he’d over- or under-bowl himself. His leadership was also on full display right to the end of the series, where he joined teammates in putting away the champagne to allow Usman Khawaja to join in on the celebrations.
With the ball, his five-wicket haul on day one in Brisbane, as well as his mesmerising three-wicket burst in the first session of the Boxing Day Test, was as dominant as he got; but that 21 wickets at under 20 is probably par for the course for him encapsulates the incredible career he’s already had.
Mitchell Starc – 8.5
5 Tests, 19 wickets at 25.36; 155 runs at 38.75
An under-pressure Mitchell Starc, fighting for his place in the team, bowling Rory Burns off the first ball of the Ashes is unquestionably this series’ folklore moment.
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) December 8, 2021
After a torrid summer last year against India, the left-armer was back to his brutal best, particularly in the first few Tests. Leading the attack in Adelaide with Cummins and Josh Hazlewood both sidelined, his four wickets in the first innings and six for the match on the flattest pitch of the series ranks as one of his best ever Test performances.
Rose above Ben Stokes in the ICC’s all-rounder rankings with another superb campaign with the bat, out-averaging all but Jonny Bairstow among the English batters with a series of fine cameos.
Cameron Green – 8
5 Tests, 228 runs at 32.57; 13 wickets at 15.76
In fifteen years’ time, we could well be looking back on this series as the moment when a superstar of Australian cricket announced himself.
At just 22 years old, Green’s second Test series was nothing short of outstanding. Menacing every time he was thrown the ball, he tormented a white-hot Joe Root to start the series, before expanding his repertoire to include the rest of England’s batting order.
A fifth bowling option just as damaging as the first four is a luxury Australian cricket hasn’t had since the days of the legendary Keith Miller. Caught everything that came his way in the gully, too.
After a poor start to the series with the bat, twin 70s in Sydney and Hobart – the latter helping rescue Australia from a dire start – saw him finish with a more than creditable average; while it’s possible Australia’s comfortable win would have been a far closer-run thing without his three-wicket burst to begin England’s collapse.
GREEN GETS A THIRD ????
This man cannot be stopped ????
???? Watch #Ashes Fifth Test – Day 3 on @Foxtel CH 501 or stream on @kayosports: https://t.co/fCVgFe57dr
???? Blog: https://t.co/WTCEYIbHx9
???? Match Centre: https://t.co/DYVfiDYlst pic.twitter.com/4qaduBRpym
— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) January 16, 2022
Having called for him to be
dropped RESTED for the final Test, I must say the egg on my face tasted great.
Usman Khawaja – 8
2 Tests, 255 runs at 85
Scott Boland’s heroics aside, the sight of Usman Khawaja marking his return to the Test team following a two and a half-year exile with twin centuries at the SCG was as heartwarming as it got this summer.
????️ "YES, YES, YES!"
In his first Test innings for nearly two and a half years…
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 6, 2022
Having seen Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head leapfrog him in the middle order, Khawaja took full advantage of the slice of luck Head’s COVID case offered him, putting him well and truly in the frame to add more caps to his name in upcoming tours of the subcontinent.
Found the going tougher in Tasmania opening the batting, but has had success overseas at the top of the order before, and should be front of the queue to partner David Warner against Pakistan in a few weeks’ time.
Nathan Lyon – 7
5 Tests, 16 wickets at 23.56
Remember when it seemed like the GOAT’s 400th Test wicket would never come?
Having dealt with the milestone monkey on his back all of last summer, and across the first three days at the Gabba, Lyon’s breakthrough presented a turnaround in his fortunes. Back to his subtle but crafty best for the remainder of the series (save for in Hobart, when he wasn’t granted a bowl!) the class gap between him and rival spinner Jack Leach was stark.
The only mark against him is failing to spin Australia to victory on an unhelpful fifth-day surface in Sydney.
Marnus Labuschagne – 7
5 Tests, 335 runs at 41.87
Despite the star number three’s batting average dropping below 60 for the first time since the pandemic began, he still ends the summer atop the ICC batting rankings – and rightly so.
His incredible luck with dropped catches has started to be noticed, in particular getting a series of lives during his Adelaide century. But you’ve got to make the most of your luck, and Labuschagne made England pay more often than not.
Only Head finished the series with more runs on either side; in a summer dominated by the bowlers, his class shone through.
David Warner – 6
5 Tests, 273 runs at 34.12
The opener’s disastrous pair in the final Test of the summer lingers freshest in the memory, but Warner deserves plenty of credit for two vital knocks with the series up for grabs.
Twin 90s in the first innings in Brisbane and Adelaide set Australia a platform for first Head, then Labuschagne to take toll with centuries. Had Warner not succumbed to the ‘nervous nineties’ for just the second and third times in his Test career, we’d be talking about his performances very differently.
Showcased a different side to his game with greater patience than ever before, notably ignoring the slowest start of his Test career in Adelaide against some of England’s best bowling of the summer to carefully compile a crucial knock.
Aside from one ugly dropped catch in Hobart, was as sharp as ever in the slips cordon.
Steve Smith – 5.5
5 Tests, 244 runs at 30.50; 1 wicket at 10
As long as the team keeps winning, nothing needs to change, but Smith’s form is starting to become a concern.
For the first time since 2010-11, he went without a century in an Ashes series, with England employing short-ball tactics to curb the influence of their tormentor in chief.
Wow! Steve Smith holes out!
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 16, 2022
Deserves credit for still finding a way to make an impact, though, captaining the side in Adelaide for the first time since ‘Sandpapergate’ and doing a fine job; while he briefly threatened to be the match-winner with the ball in Sydney when he took his first Test wicket in five years in the dying overs.
Alex Carey – 5
5 Tests, 183 runs at 20.33; 23 catches
Replacing Tim Paine as Test wicketkeeper in acrimonious circumstances to start the summer, Carey gets a pass mark for his efforts in his debut series, but no more.
Batted beautifully in Adelaide to score a handy 50 and rode his luck for 49 in Hobart that took the game away from England, but in between seemed to struggle with the balance between defence and attack, often getting bogged down before thrashing out and losing his wicket.
After a record-breaking first Test at the Gabba, his keeping slowly became sloppier, shelling a number of chances in Sydney in particular, but finished on a high with a fantastic catch in the final night session of the last match.
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 16, 2022
Marcus Harris – 4
4 Tests, 179 runs at 29.83
As the only member of Australia’s top six not assured of their place in the line-up, Harris simply had to be forced out for the fifth Test as Australia shifted the returned Khawaja up the order to open.
Bizarrely, despite a poor run to start the series in particular, Harris still has claims on being the series’ second-best opener. His match-high 76 on a bowler-friendly MCG wicket was overshadowed by Boland’s 6-7 a day later, but he looked the only batter truly comfortable on that surface.
Also out-performed Warner in Sydney, twice doing his job and seeing off the new ball; but the lack of a big score made his position vulnerable. Should still be in the mix for tours of the subcontinent, but his sub-30 Test average makes it valid to question whether he’s up to the level.
Not rated (only one Test): Josh Hazlewood (3 wickets at 24.66); Michael Neser (2 wickets at 30.50; 38 runs at 19); Jhye Richardson (5 wickets at 24)
Mark Wood – 8
4 Tests, 17 wickets at 26.64
One of, if not the only, Englishman to return home with his reputation enhanced.
While it didn’t always show in the stats, Wood’s raw pace and bounce was ideally suited to Australian conditions, and he more than anyone else gave the Australian batters grief.
Dismissed Marnus Labuschagne three times in a row mid-series as his speed troubled the usually unflappable number three, while Steve Smith also had his struggles dealing with Wood’s aggression.
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 15, 2022
A six-wicket haul in the final innings in Hobart saw his bowling average finally reflect his effort, and gave England a chaseable target to hunt. In theory.
James Anderson – 7.5
3 Tests, 8 wickets at 23.37
The ageless quick remains a crucial cog in England’s bowling line-up no matter the country, and for the second series in a row fought gallantly in Australian climes that offer none of the conditions he excels in back home.
Went at a series-low 1.79 runs per over as Australia’s top order simply couldn’t get him away; while he combined that miserliness with deadly skill in Melbourne with a four-wicket haul to restrict the Aussies to below 300.
One can only think his average would have only improved had he been picked for Tests in Brisbane and Hobart, on pitches that would have suited his bowling to a tee.
Jonny Bairstow – 7
2 Tests, 194 runs at 48.50
Only played twice, but leaves as the only Englishman to have added a century to his name.
Bairstow’s gutsy, counterattacking ton in Sydney was the best batting from the tourists all summer long. With England on the verge of capitulation, he blasted boundaries, withstood a fierce blow to the hand from Pat Cummins that eventually ruled him out of the fifth Test, and brought up an emotional century that would eventually prove a match-saver.
Still dealing with his injury, his 41 on the final day to help England bat out the draw was sheer bloody-mindedness. If they do elect to replace Joe Root as captain, they could do worse than Bairstow.
Stuart Broad – 6.5
3 Tests, 13 wickets at 26.30
In surely Broad’s last tour down under, the 35-year old can leave with head held high.
Was never as unplayable as he has been at times in Ashes series over in England, but when the visitors deigned to pick him, he reaped the rewards for bowling a fuller length in the final two Tests of the series.
A five-wicket haul in Sydney might just see England keep him around for yet more overseas tours, while his removal of long-time bunny David Warner to complete his pair in Hobart was about the closest they got to a symbolic victory for the series.
Ollie Robinson – 6.5
4 Tests, 11 wickets at 25.54
Touted as the biggest threat to Australia among England’s bowlers going into the series, Robinson never reached those heights, but was still a more than handy contributor on his first Ashes tour.
Relying on seam movement rather than pace, he took out Warner and Green in successive deliveries in Brisbane, the only time all Test England looked a chance against Australia’s batting. Struggling with a back spasm, his second innings in Hobart was his one wicketless effort.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 9, 2021
However, he struggled to back up early spells and saw severe drops in pace the longer days went on, and was criticised for lacking fitness. Will need to improve on that score if he wishes to leave his mark overseas, where innings tend to be longer and conditions more taxing.
Joe Root (c) – 5.5
5 Tests, 322 runs at 32.20; 5 wickets at 46.80
Coming into the Ashes as the number one batter in the world, a big series from Root was just about the only feasible way England could challenge Australia this summer. It didn’t pan out that way, but the pressure of those expectations told the longer it went on.
A pair of 80s in Brisbane and Adelaide, partnering Dawid Malan, briefly gave England a foothold in both Tests, only for the rest of the team to let him down. Unfortunately for him, he remains without an Ashes century down under, a stat that is likely to become symbolic should he fail to correct that next time.
Lambasted for his captaincy, particularly his handling of Jack Leach, by everyone from English pundits to Australian legend Ricky Ponting, Root finished the series just about frazzled.
Even he could see the funny side when he was castled by Scott Boland on the final evening with the most unplayable ball of the series.
That almost went underground!
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) January 16, 2022
Zak Crawley – 5.5
3 Tests, 166 runs at 27.66
The stats don’t show it, but after a tour from hell, England may just have unearthed a player of promise.
Despite a middling early-30s average in county cricket, Crawley took to Australian conditions like few others on this tour. Always looking to play attacking shots, a freewheeling 77 on the final day in Sydney, when he could have been forgiven for shutting up shop and batting for a draw, left the Aussie attack struggling to work out where to bowl to him.
At just 23 years old, Crawley is the future of English batting, and simply must be invested in, even if his early offerings remain slim.
Dawid Malan – 5
5 Tests, 244 runs at 24.40; 2 wickets at 30.50
Across the first two Tests, England’s batting was divided into two parts: when Malan and Joe Root were batting, and when anyone else was. That duo were so far above and beyond anything the rest of the batting line-up offered in Brisbane and Adelaide it wasn’t funny.
Malan’s pair of 80s in those two matches, along with his sole Test century on the last tour of Australia, seemed to suggest he was ideal for Antipodean conditions. From there, though, things collapsed dramatically, with a highest score of 25 in his last seven knocks.
Gets to take home his first two Test wickets after being thrown the ball with Australia slogging towards a declaration in Adelaide; a nice, if insignificant, souvenier.
Chris Woakes – 3
3 Tests, 6 wickets at 55.33; 146 runs at 24.33
England’s plan pre-series to attack Australia with the pace of Wood, Jofra Archer and Olly Stone was scuppered by the latter pair’s injuries. That they turned to Woakes as back-up, despite an ugly tour of Australia four years ago, perfectly sums up why they head home with a 4-0 loss.
As threatening as he is in English conditions, Woakes averages beyond 50 overseas, and was handled with ease by the Australian batters. Case in point: with the Aussies reeling at 3-12 in Hobart after a mesmerising new-ball spell from Broad and Robinson, Woakes came on, served up a half-volley first ball, and proceeded to ease all the pressure on Labuschagne and Head.
With the bat, he was gutsier than many of the specialists, which is why his mark is above a 1; a dogged 44 to try and force a draw in Adelaide his series high point.
Ben Stokes – 3
5 Tests, 236 runs at 23.60; 4 wickets at 71.50
England had worse performers this series, but no player summed up England’s woeful tour more than the star all-rounder and 2019 Ashes hero.
Rushed back into the side in Brisbane having not played competitively for months, Stokes looked all at sea with the bat and lacked rhythm with the ball. From the moment he had David Warner caught off a no-ball in his first over at the Gabba, overstepping became a constant scourge.
There were 14 (!) no-balls bowled by Ben Stokes in the first session.
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) December 9, 2021
Looked close to his best with a pair of fighting half-centuries to force a draw at the SCG, but that came unstuck in Hobart with two single-figure scores. His airy hook shot to be caught on the boundary with England beginning to collapse in their run chase was as irresponsible as it gets for a player of his experience and standing.
Also suffered the ignominy of being out-bowled by his captain and genuine part-timer Root, who took five wickets to Stokes’ four for the tour.
Jos Buttler – 2.5
4 Tests, 107 runs at 15.28; 12 catches
A white-ball superstar, Buttler’s woeful series might just prove the end of England’s seven-year attempt to turn him into a Test gun too.
A sparky 39 in Brisbane to be top-scorer and stonewalling 207-ball 26 on the final day in Adelaide showed signs with the bat, but a ghastly average of 15.28 for the series was simply not good enough. With the gloves, too, he dropped as many catches as he plucked screamers, his spills of Labuschagne in the city of churches costing his team dearly.
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) December 16, 2021
With Sam Billings showing promise on his Test debut in Hobart, Jonny Bairstow a capable keeper in his own right, and a superior gloveman in Ben Foakes starved of opportunities, England have too many other options to keep investing in Buttler in the longest format if he keeps performing like this.
Jack Leach – 2
3 Tests, 6 wickets at 53.50
More than one spinner has succumbed to the graveyard that is Australia; while this is unlikely to be the end of Leach’s career as it was for Graeme Swan in 2013-14, it would be a surprise to see him feature again down under.
While the savagery dished out by Warner and Labuschagne in Brisbane wasn’t a regular occurrence, he struggled to cope with some strangely negative tactics from his captain Root, which saw him leak singles far too frequently in Melbourne and Sydney.
When at last he had the chance to take something home with a fourth wicket as Australia chased runs at the SCG, Pat Cummins went and declared on him! Ruthless.
Ollie Pope – 2
3 Tests, 67 runs at 11.16
Seen as the great white hope for English batting, Pope leaves Australia with his career in limbo.
He’s only 24, but the right-hander’s technique was savagely picked apart by the Aussie attack; Nathan Lyon spun him into knots in Brisbane and Adelaide, while the quicks took care of him in Hobart.
An impressive display as back-up wicketkeeper when Buttler was injured in Sydney was his finest contribution to the series; perhaps it’s there where his future lies?
Rory Burns – 1
3 Tests, 77 runs at 12.83
From literally ball one of the series, the England opener’s first trip down under was nothing short of a nightmare.
Bowled in comical fashion by Starc to begin the series with calamity, things hardly got better from there. With his bizarre technique worked over by the Aussie quicks, Starc in particular, he was dropped for the Boxing Day Test, with his future uncertain.
Upon his return in Hobart, he survived a caught behind off Starc again when no Aussie appealed, only to be run out for a duck anyway – and receive a grilling from Ponting for lacking sufficient desperation to make his ground.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) January 15, 2022
His one credit was that, somehow, he wasn’t even England’s worst opener of the tour.
Haseeb Hameed – 1
4 Tests, 80 runs at 10
A speculative pick to start the series, Hameed started solidly with a pair of 20s to see off the new ball in Brisbane. From there, though, things got horrifying.
For three consecutive Tests, he failed to reach double figures, Australia’s deadly pace attack simply treating him like a walking wicket.
Thankfully for his sake, he was put out of his misery and dropped for the final Test in Hobart, otherwise he would almost certainly have challenged Warner’s 95-run effort in the 2019 Ashes for the worst ever series by an opener.
Not rated (only one Test): Sam Billings (30 runs at 15; 5 catches)