With the notable exception of Jonathan Trott, England’s top six came into the Ashes series with doubts hanging over them after a collective poor return against Pakistan over the summer. Ian Bell, who had been injured for the Pakistan tests, was deemed a concern too given his previously poor record against Australia.
The man considered the biggest concern was Alastair Cook, with some pundits, including as shrewd a judge as Michael Atherton, calling for the opener to be dropped in favour of Eoin Morgan with Trott promoted to open. Thankfully, England’s selectors stuck with their man and Cook repaid them by transforming himself into a left-handed Herbert Sutcliffe to score more runs in a test series than any Englishman ever except Wally Hammond in 1928/29.
And it wasn’t just Cook. For those that grew up in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s, you will doubtless be familiar with Roy Castle singing “dedication is what you need…if you want to be a record breaker”.
Perhaps this tune was played alongside KP's favourite Carly Simon song on the dressing room stereo, as this is exactly the mantra that England’s batsmen followed during the series. Having all got into nick in the crucial warm-up matches prior to the 1st Test, England’s batsmen showed exemplary patience and good judgment throughout the series – except in the aberration that was Perth. But even though they left the ball much better than the Australians, England still managed to post a higher run-rate per over for the series – 3.5 to 3.1.
In seven innings, England reached 500 four times. They hit their highest totals ever in Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney, with the latter being England’s highest ever test total in Australia.
In those seven innings, England’s batsmen hit nine hundreds (Cook (3), Trott (2), Strauss, Pietersen, Bell and Prior) – with six being at least 135 or over, compiled 11 hundred partnerships and all of the top seven – with the exception of Paul Collingwood – comfortably averaged above 40 for the series.
The comparison with the Australians was stark. The home side only once passed 400 in ten innings, hit just three hundreds (Hussey (2) and Haddin), only had four century partnerships and three batsmen averaging over 40 for the series (Hussey, Haddin and Watson). And unlike Cook, Australia’s premier opener Watson was unable to even convert one of his several good starts into three figures. That meant that with Australia’s supposed best batsmen Ponting and Clarke having dreadful series', none of Australia’s top four registered even one hundred.
If that wasn’t enough proof of how much Australia were outgunned with the bat, how about the fact that their average runs per wicket lost in the series was 28.9 to England’s 51.1? Or even that England had Bell coming in at six instead of North or Smith. Now that is perhaps the most damning point of all!
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