LONDON: An ill Joe Root was unable to resume his innings as Australia wrapped up a 4-0 Ashes win with an emphatic innings victory at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Here are the five things we learned from the Pink Test.
Off the field, Pat Cummins is as amiable as Postman Pat. With ball in hand though, there’s unmistakable menace. Throughout this Ashes summer, Cummins has been the enforcer, with an assortment of short-pitched deliveries designed to weaken resolve and then dismiss tail-enders. Before the Sydney Test, he had not quite got the rewards his relentlessly hostile and skilful bowling deserved. But on a flat pancake of a pitch, he was at the forefront of a dominant Australian display. His four for 80 reined in England’s first innings, and the four for 39 in the second blew away the last vestiges of resistance after lunch on the final day. Jonny Bairstow was beaten for pace and trapped in front, Stuart Broad fended one behind to avoid being decapitated, and Mason Crane was lucky his thumb was not shattered as he followed in similar fashion. With Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood a little short of their best, Cummins finally had the limelight he deserved.
Each of Australia’s four-man attack took at least 21 wickets in the series. No other Englishman came close to matching Anderson’s tally of 17. In a series where the other main seamers, Broad and Chris Woakes, averaged nearly 50, Anderson’s bowling was the only consolation. He will be the first to admit that he did not get it right when England bowled first with the pink ball in Adelaide — perhaps a series-defining passage of play — but he was otherwise at the heart of England’s best moments on the field. The economy rate of 2.11 was the best on either side, and he did not lose his discipline and control even once the series was lost. The final act, however, would have been sickeningly familiar — Anderson in the middle, the home crowd baying for closure, and bouncers whizzing past his helmet. In his last act as a Test cricketer in Australia, Anderson was one of very few players not to let his skipper down.
SLEEPING ON THE JOB
At the precise moment that England slumped to a fourth defeat of the series — to go with a 4-0 defeat in India 13 months ago — Joe Root, the captain, was sleeping on the job. Literally. Only, it was extreme exhaustion rather than laziness or ennui that was responsible. Having batted heroically in blast-furnace heat to reach 42 at stumps on the fourth day, Root spent part of the final morning in hospital, suffering from a gastrointestinal virus. He came back out at the fall of Moeen Ali’s wicket, and pinged a few more off the middle of the bat before fatigue kept him in the dressing room after lunch. Root’s series — crossing 50 five times, with a highest score of 83 — was a microcosm of England’s woes. Decent, but nowhere near good enough. Steve Smith, his counterpart, had scores of 76 and 83 to stand alongside epic innings of 141 not out, 239 and 102 not out.
STAY CLASSY CRICKET AUSTRALIA
A total of 182,349 watched the Sydney Test, in a summer that served as a reminder that an age-old rivalry draws crowds just as much as an evenly matched contest. A significant number of those fans were from the Barmy Army, whose support remained steadfast even as the team’s fortunes nosedived. That even the Australian team went to applaud them says much about how they contributed to the atmosphere at all the games. Sadly, that sporting spirit was nowhere to be seen in the appalling backdrop for the series presentation. It featured an Australian hand with four fingers (presumably for the wins), and a clenched English fist. It was kitschy and disrespectful, prompting Bryce McGain, who played one Test for Australia, to tweet: “Huge congratulations to our Australian Test Team @CricketAus led by the sublime @stevesmith49 To the marketing team #StayClassy ”
THEY CALLED IT
Trevor Hohns and his selection panel were pilloried before the first Test for some of their choices. Shaun Marsh finished with 445 runs at 74.16. Tim Paine kept beautifully — 25 catches and a stumping — and averaged 48 with the bat. Mitchell Marsh, drafted in before Perth, struck two fluent hundreds in three Tests. Usman Khawaja rewarded the group’s faith with 171 in the final Test. Only Cameron Bancroft, who struggled after the first Test, ended the series with questions hanging over his future. By backing their hunches, the selectors went a long way toward winning back the Ashes.