Have you ever seen a better headline than that (from Sydney's Daily Telegraph)? As an English Cricket fan I can honestly say not much has given me more joy than watching us embarrass the convicts in their own backyard as we have done over the past seven weeks!
I've just re-read my pre-Ashes blog and I've never been so pleased to be so wrong. I was right on a couple of fronts, Colly was hopeless and Bell proved that he is a class act (his series average of 65.8 was higher than KP who hit that double ton and Hussey who was the only noteworthy Aussie batsman!)
There were two main differences between the teams though: Alastair Cook being the first. He was easily man of the series, finally becoming the batsman he always promised to be. Definitely benefited from the fact that they Aussies can't swing the ball, but his technique was a million times better than over the summer. Those 110 runs he scored against Pakistan in the third test were probably the most important runs scored in this series too. They gave him back his self belief and now, instead of watching his bat during the delivery he is focused on the ball. My main criticism of him was always that he got a score then got out without ever going on, well he's finally put that to bed! Top performance!
The second difference was the bowling unit. Jimmy lead the line superbly, Finn was expensive but took wickets, then Bres and Tremlett came in and did fantastically well. I thought we'd really miss Broad but his stats are actually our worst (highest average with the ball, 0 with the bat), he did his job well in the first two tests and was unlucky not to take more wickets but Tremlett had the Aussies in his pocket! Swann didn't have the opportunity to shine, the Australians nullified his threat with the pitches they prepared as they didn't have a spinner of their own but he did remarkably well considering, totally drying up the runs from his end. Between their four spinners used they bowled 182.5 overs taking just 5 wickets at 133.2 runs per wicket. The contrast was stark with the pace men too, if you take Perth out of the equation they just didn't look like taking wickets (bar Siddle in the first innings of the first test, that 6 wicket haul was good for us as he only took another 8 wickets in the next 5 innings). Then you get onto Mitch, well:
He bowls to the left
He bowls to the right
That Mitchell Johnson
His bowling is sh...well you get the picture!
I could go on all day, about preparation, Australia's poor top order but I wont, and Tom Fordyce sums it all up much better, so here are my series ratings:
Alastair Cook: 10 (If you don't get 10 for a Bradman-esq series you never will!)
Andrew Strauss: 8 (Batting wasn't perfect, only averaging just over 40 but captained superbly)
Jonathan Trott: 9 (Second best average of the series, was just as hard for the Aussies to move, shame about his first ever duck)
Kevin Pietersen: 7 (Incredibly frustrating, one awesome innings but looked like he could do that every time and only managed one other fifty)
Paul Collingwood: 4 (Perfect in the field, that catch of Punter may have won us the series, just didn't do enough with the bat, however he retires with an average better than players like Athers and has won 3 Ashes series, not many people can say that!)
Ian Bell: 9 (No longer the Sherminator, now the Terminator, was stuck with the tail in his first few 50s, only two failures to add to 1 century and 3 fifties, despite Chef's success I still think he is our form batsman)
Matt Prior: 9 (23 catches and an average of 50 with the bat, can you really ask for more from your 'Keep?)
Stuart Broad: 4 (Bowled well without reward, unfortunately for him his injury lead to Tremlett getting a chance and he will be hard to drop now!)
Graham Swann: 6 (His batting average would have put him 4th on the Aussie list, his bowling was economical and he managed 15 wickets, not to be sniffed at!)
Jimmy Anderson: 9 (Lead the line brilliantly, 24 wickets is a great return for him, proved all his doubters wrong after his struggles 4 years ago, he is now a different animal!)
Steve Finn: 6 (England's leading wicket taker after 3 tests but was a little expensive, unlucky to be dropped and hopefully he'll play well to get back in the team, he is only young!)
Chris Tremlett: 8 (Was exceptional in his three tests).
Tim Bresnan: 8 (Did I ever say a bad word against him?)
I can talk about this all night, but I shall just finish with a few things:
2) Excellent comedy from the BBC
3) And finally the best image I think I've ever seen: