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Opinion

Smith goes missing, no Archer and ball-friendly pitches: Ashes series disappointments

Justin Langer and Steve Smith chat during the 2019 Ashes. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)
Roar Guru
26th January, 2022
16

This article was prompted by a Roar reader – so many thanks to DTM for this idea.

The Ashes are over and in the final wash-up, most attention has been on the positives: the series win, how well the bowling unit went, Scott Boland’s amazing form, Cameron Green coming good with the ball, some terrific batting by Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne and Jonny Bairstow and of course, a triumphant entry into the Test captain ranks by Pat Cummins.

There were more than a few disappointments which led to this series being so lopsided, however. The first disappointment started months ago.

England squad selection – there were two names missing when Chris Sliverwood announced his squad for this tour.

Ben Foakes is among the best glovemen in world cricket and a pretty useful bat. He’d have taken the majority of chances Buttler missed and would have likely valued his wicket more when batting.

Matt Parkinson is a leggie in the Shane Warne mould who can give the ball a serious rip. He’d have been a handful in both Adelaide and Sydney.

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No Jofra Archer – England knew a while ago they were going to be without a guy who could have had a huge impact on this series. I’d have loved to see him play in all of the Tests, but especially in the first three. He’d have given Warner and co some serious hurry up.

Steve Smith looks on as Jofra Archer bowls

Archer in action (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Haseeb Hamid – I watched him make a couple of excellent 60s in the home series against India and thought he had the technique and temperament to succeed in Australia. Even his first innings at the Gabba hinted at how good he could be.

It didn’t take long for the Australian attack to sort him out and that first Test was the last time he made double figures in the series.

Ollie Pope – I truly thought he’d make some series scores in Australia. He can play well off the back foot and doesn’t appear intimidated by any attack. He just can’t stay there long enough to build decent scores on a regular basis.

Jos Buttler – before the series started, I had doubts about England’s wicketkeepers but they persisted in the high-risk strategy of playing blokes who are batsmen first and keepers a distant second. That tactic came back to bite them badly on this tour, with Buttler proving he’s not a Test-class gloveman.

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Marcus Harris – as a fellow leftie, I really wanted Harris to do well, but Khawaja’s terrific batting and Harris’ underwhelming production in the first four Tests left selectors with no choice but to leave him out of the Hobart match.

Part of my disappointment is, I have no idea what he has to do to fix what ails him and stops him from making good scores consistently at Test level.

Steve Smith – I hate seeing elite batsmen out of form and that’s where Smith is at the moment.

Sheer class got him a couple of decent scores in this series, but the sight of him trudging off the park in Hobart, after holing out to an obvious trap, was one of the saddest parts of this Ashes campaign.

Josh Hazlewood – I realise if he’d have been fit, we wouldn’t have seen the amazing debut by Scott Boland, but I was just disappointed he didn’t get back on the park.

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(Photo by Mark Kolbe – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

The pitches – we seem to have gone from one extreme to another in the space of a summer.

Last year’s series against India was played on pitches that were strongly in favour of the batsmen, bar Adelaide and this year the pendulum had swung in favour of the bowlers.

I was happy for the bowlers because Test-level bowling in Australia is as hard as it gets, but I also want to see at least four days of competitive cricket and that was a rarity in this series.

The bogans – giving players a bit of schtick when they’re out on the field is part and parcel of watching Test cricket live. Where the line has to be drawn is when they come off the field.

I have no idea what right some people think they have to give players all manner of lip when they’re leaving the field. That photo of some moron giving Bairstow and Stokes a mouthful (in the Members’) in Sydney seriously disappointed me.

No doubt there are other disappointments I’ve missed, but the one disappointment I anticipated before the first Test, failed to eventuate.

This was a series played in good spirit. I’m sure there was plenty said out in the middle that we didn’t hear, but there wasn’t the nastiness that has characterised Australian series over the past decade or so. Hopefully this is a trend that continues.

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