The Roar
The Roar


'I'd have shaken your arm off for 2-2': The Pommy and the Aussie on ties, moral victories and who'll be left in 2025-26

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3rd August, 2023
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Ashes, eh? It depends how you like them.

Do you prefer your trophies won – or, at least, drawn – on the field? Or would you prefer them with a side of moralising, that you surely would have won if something else had happened?

Can’t we all be winners? Isn’t, at the end of the day, Mother Cricket the winner?

Well, no. That’s not how it works.

There’s been a lot of discussion about who actually won The Ashes, with opinions largely split between whether you wanted Australia to win or England to win. 

If only The Roar had been running a weekly column featuring one of each, where this could be all sorted out in the end…

Yes, the Pommy and the Aussie are back once again for a final spin around cricket’s greatest rivalry, with the now well-rested Tim Miller live from Melbourne and our resident moralist, Mike Meehall Wood, wearing a bucket hat, listening to Oasis and wishing he was still in Manchester – even though it’s colder in Manchester’s summer than it is in Sydney’s winter.

MMW: Tim, what’s more annoying – moralising or whingeing? Asking as a Pom.


TM: Boy, this series has been filled with a bit of both, hasn’t it! From Jonny Bairstow getting stumped at Lord’s to Ballgate in the fifth Test, I think both supporter bases have come out of this series feeling a bit jilted.

I guess it speaks to the high emotion the Ashes generates, which can only be good for Test cricket given *vague hand gestures at the ICC*  but I won’t lie in that it’s taken a bit of the gloss off what has been one of the greatest series of our lifetimes. 

Or added to it, I guess, if you go for that sort of thing.

MMW: ‘Jilted’ wouldn’t describe my reaction, though I am but one of millions of England supporters, and I did have to field a 20-minute long rant from my father about how Australia’s don’t know what the phrase ‘it’s just not cricket’ means. He was all for penning a tirade of his own for The Roar, but I talked him down off that particular high horse.

My feeling is that this is a little bit of a moral victory, though for the reasons discussed in a previous one of these chats: the 2-2 in 2019 felt like England had just about held parity, whereas this one feels like we were largely the better team.

To my mind, Australia are at the end of a cycle and England are at the start of one, whereas in 2019, we weren’t in anything, we were just clinging on and hoping for the best.

In the great wash-up, this will go down as one of the best series ever, right up there with 2005: four close finishes (by the definition of such things that statisticians use) plus a draw. 

I don’t buy the saving Test cricket stuff, because Test cricket between England and Australia has never needed saving, but if anyone wanted a display of the best form of the game, this was it. Now to make India play Pakistan…

Anyway, ICC-wrangling aside: my favourite dirty cheating Australian was Usman Khawaja – who was your pick of the Poms?

TM: I have a conspiracy theory, just quickly, that Brendon McCullum maliciously chose Mitchell Starc as his Australian Player of the Series, so offensive did he find Khawaja’s 39 strike rate for the series. That’s the only reason I can find for giving the nod to Starc – who took a lot of wickets but was as easy to hit as all the other Aussie bowlers – over the best bat on either side.


I can’t dispute the choice of Chris Woakes as Player of the Series, though – he and Mark Wood turned the tide at Headingley and gave the England bowling the bite it needed. You could make the case that underbowling him in the 2019 series cost that team plenty, especially in the second innings of the first Test back then, if memory serves.

The interesting thing about Woakes and Wood, though, is whether they’ll still be around in 2025/26. So much has been talked about how this was the last hurrah for a whole bunch of Aussies, which is true – but Woakes will be 36 when the Gabba rolls around (and a terrible tourist historically), Wood will be 35, Jimmy Anderson will be approximately 6000 and Stuart Broad has ridden off into that good night. It could and likely will be a very different bowling attack to the one that caused Australia so much problems in this series, especially if Jofra Archer succumbs to injury and/or IPL millions.

MMW: I found Starc strange, too: Khawaja was the best single batter in a series dominated by the bat…

England’s attack, I feel, isn’t actually in that much strife. There’s the great unknown about Wood and Archer in terms of fitness, but really, that’s been there forever. Broad is done and Jimmy is nearing it, but again, we’ve known that is coming. Woakes doesn’t play outside of England anyway.

Instead, I’m actually more confident that I can see the pathway. Josh Tongue definitely impressed in limited opportunity and will surely get more gametime in foreign conditions. We always knew we needed a new spinner, and we already have Chris Woakes deluxe in Sam Curran, who only didn’t play because he hadn’t accumulated enough red-ball cricket. He’s the Bazballiest Bazballer never to Bazball.

England have never struggled to produce guys like Woakes and Anderson, and we’re now getting more guys like Wood and Archer because of T20. It’s a decent spot to be in.

As for the batting, I could conceivably see it being much the same top seven by the time we reach the next edition over here. Stokes might actually be a permanent number three by then, which I’ve felt he always was all along.

Australia, on the other hand, could be in all sorts. We’ve discussed it before, but there’s not a lot been given a chance with spaces in the XI at a premium.

Do you think they’ll start to blood them in what should be, at least, a relatively easy Aussie summer?

Chris Woakes celebrates dismissing Alex Carey.

Chris Woakes celebrates dismissing Alex Carey. (Photo by Stu Forster – ECB/ECB via Getty Images)

TM: From a bowling perspective, I really, really hope so. The Nathan Lyon injury totally destabilised the attack given Cummins’ lack of trust in Todd Murphy, but fortunately I imagine that 2025/26 series might be a good swansong and he’s bowling as well as he ever has this year.


As for the quicks, the two real up and comers are Jhye Richardson and Lance Morris – both have had injury issues but the former has been the heir apparent for four years now and the latter broke into the squad last year and has the pace to throw something properly different at Bazball, especially on Australian pitches.

It’s inconceivable that Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc play all five Tests this summer, but my hope is that it’s those two and any other promising young Sheffield Shield bowlers like Matt Kelly or even Will Sutherland are prioritised over the old firm of Michael Neser and Scott Boland, who as good as they’ve been will be 35 and 37 when 2025/26 starts and the latter at least is proven to be easy to take apart by batters coming at him.

Batting wise, though, I can’t see much change. Whether we like it or not, David Warner will get and has earned the chance to retire on his own terms, and unless we somehow lose a Test to the West Indies or Pakistan he’ll probably get it even with an average of 20. Usman Khawaja will be pushing 40 for the next Ashes series but the selectors won’t drop the best bat; Labuschagne, Smith and Head are set, and Cameron Green and Mitchell Marsh will duke it out for the all-rounder role.

The interesting one is Alex Carey – he tapered off very badly with bat and gloves this series after a superb start. Australia as a rule don’t jettison keepers unless there’s a crisis or an Ashes looming, but if he has a poor one against India at home next summer – boy, will that series be career-defining for a lot of guys! – then there will start to be pressure on him to keep Jimmy Peirson and Josh Inglis at bay.

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MMW: I’d call up Inglis for England right now if I could, just for the wind-up… and also because Jonny Bairstow – not even my favourite sporting Jonny B from Bradford, given the Wests Tigers star – shouldn’t be near the gloves again.

It’s all eyes to India now though, both for Australia in terms of their competitive cricket, because realistically they won’t play any before next summer, and for England, with the narrative of Bazball v spin building for early 2024.


I suppose that’s a good place to leave the 2023 Ashes, because Test cricket is safe and well and on the way to India soon, where England shall save it all over again.

Speaking of: it’s ODI time! Remember ODIs? They’re back in World Cup form! 

I jest, but just when you think you’ve got your sweet circadian rhythm back, we’ll be ready for the 50-over stuff, which is cricket’s greatest afterthought, but also kind of the best six weeks of cricket when it happens. Australia are *checks notes* actually playing again in about two weeks.

England are off completely, thankfully, but only because the Hundred is a total load of nonsense…LOL, jk, we play New Zealand in four weeks in a series already being described as ‘totally meaningless’…

Oh, and one for the road: given that we drew this series, how should we settle drawn series? I’ve heard of this amazing method called boundary countback, worked a dream in 2019…shall we do that???

TM: I say this everytime some big shot AFL journalist comes out trying to abolish the draw – what’s wrong with them? It’s this American thing that somehow two teams being unsplittable is something unspeakably hideous and we should try time and again until there’s some way to break the tie.

In all seriousness, if you’d offered me 2-2 at the start of the series I’d have shaken your hand off, primarily because that means Australia would have retained the Ashes against a very strong and in-form England team. 

It’s a definite advantage, no doubt, but one we don’t often talk about because 2019 was the first drawn series in 45 years. We’ve now had two in a row, so naturally the discussion grows a bit louder, but I don’t have an issue with a team good enough to win the last series holding a key advantage when it comes to the Ashes for the next one. 

Really, England only have being godawful in Australia for the last decade to blame…


MMW: Oh Tim, sweet gullible Tim…I offered you victory on a plate and you settled for a draw – Australia would win on boundary countback! 

TM: Oh goodness, I’d forgotten about seeing that stat! That might be the most surprising part of this whole series – but then again, maybe not, seeing as Australia manned the boundary from ball one of the series and gifted singles pretty much whenever there was decent bat on ball.

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MMW: That’s right: with Bazball, you come for the sixes but stay for the agreed singles. I cannot wait for Zak Crawley smashing Indian batsmen to the boundary for three overs, then sending 15 edges towards non-existent slips for the next 70 in Chennai.

That’s Bazball, baby… the wrong way, but faster!