In the end, it just wasn’t enough. Australia were too good, and as the Cricinfo commentator astutely pointed out, you always felt like England had lost one wicket more than they needed to see out the day.
And that’s the Ashes. Sure, there’s still the 5th test, and the chance for England to level the series and save a little face, but the teeth will be out of the game. Australia will rest players, especially those who played both the World Cup and all four Tests. And hopefully for England’s sake they give a couple other guys a chance, as the autopsy on the Test team begins now.
The ECB has prioritized white ball cricket for four years now. And the result is what you saw today in Manchester: a batting lineup that just isn’t good enough. One can of course point to the loss of Jimmy Anderson — losing their best bowler and forcing them to play the game one man down — but he’s just one man, and he’s not a batsmen. For me, England bowled pretty well throughout the series. And if not for Steve Smith, they might have restricted some of those big Aussie totals.
Speaking of: Smith is surely Man of the Series. Rarely do you see one person dominate three out of four Tests. But that’s exactly what he did. It was a joy to watch. He is a talent of the highest order. And a Test batsmen of the highest order. Patient, calm, yet also aggressive, violent. A champion. One who bats when his country needs him most. In the three Tests that he played in, Australia scored a total of 1,858 runs. Smith scored 672 of them. More than a third of the team total. Remarkable.
Are the results different if Smith sits and Anderson plays? Maybe. Almost definitely.
But there’s no changing things now. It’s all done and dusted. Australia home and hosed. Just a few more days cricket and then that big boat home where they will await Pakistan in November.
England, for their part, head to New Zealand in October for five T20s and two Tests. Those Tests are not under the World Test Championship umbrella, and so the popular notion is that they will rest their busiest players. Which means we’ll won’t be able to see if any major adjustments have been made until they play South Africa on Boxing Day. That should be a fun series either way.
Now summer is over. Winter looms large. Soon it will be dark at dinner time and I’ll be watching Pakistan play Australia as a sharp north wind rattles my storm windows. The soundtrack for this summer has been city white noise through the open windows of my porch. The sunlight angled and dappled and low. But in the winter it will be plows out on the main road outside my window. The radiators ticking. And I will keep warm watching the shirtsleeves and green grass at the Sydney Cricket ground.
Cricket is relentless. It just keeps happening. Summer is over, sure, but it also never ends.
On to the next one then.
See ya there.