Well, after several weeks of speculation, adulation, exhilaration and perspiration The Ashes is over and Australia's campaign with them. Noone realistically could have imagined England would so comprehensively rebound from an innings defeat - perhaps if the 4th and 5th tests were back-to-back they wouldn't have. But of course it all means little now.
Well done, England: you performed at the key moments while Australia did not. Australia will forever rue Cardiff where they should have been 1 nil up going to Lords. There is no doubt the series would have been shaped differently had Aus' bowlers worked out how to dismiss numbers 10 and 11. Funny when you consider that is their job and they had little trouble rolling Eng for 100 at Headingly. Of course the bowling unit became stronger and more reliable through the series but you must have something to bowl to and the batsmen failed at Lords when it counted. Similarly at the Oval first innings runs were paramount and again Aus could not deliver.
While tight finishes like 2005 were largely absent, this was a great test cricket series. Clarke, North and Hilfenhaus have written themselves contracts til retirement - what a pity none of them could achieve the ethereal heights at the final post. Hussey should still be held accountable for appalling decisions and Watson should NOT open this coming summer. Siddle demonstrated his heart again and will still improve. Undoubtedly there is positive elements to this series that Ponting will reflect on but it won't be too long before some tough questions will be asked. Maybe we can ask some of them right now.
1. Why the hell was Hauritz not picked for the worst pitch of the Ashes? Is it not the job of touring selection to examine the pitch before naming your 11?
2. Why would you give a young player two tests to make a big score yet give an older player 20 tests to make anything at all?
3. When will Australia take a balanced and comprehensive squad on overseas tours?
4. Is it Ponting's fault for being reactionary when this mode begins at the selection table? (Well, yes in part but you get the gist)
5. Will someone please tell Ponting he will not be needed in 2013?
Note no reference to the umpiring this series, until now. Both teams can feel harshly done by at times but it always evens out. This should not, however, relieve the umpires from scrutiny.
When test cricket needs a boost we only ever need to look at series such as this. The most heartening element for this humble writer is that India, South Africa, England, Australia - and perhaps Sri Lanka - will produce exciting series whenever they play each other. The only down side is that the best batsmen of the series, Michael Clarke, now has to put coloured clothing on and lead Aus in an exercise in futility. What a terrible way to reflect on the Ashes!