London – England wrapped up the Ashes 3-0 at The Oval on Sunday, we look back on the highs, lows and lighter moments of an often temptestous series.
1 Man of the Series (England)
Ian Bell: Despite having a highly impressive record for England over the years, including 17 Test match centuries before this series, it is fair to say that Ian Bell has never won the complete affection of English cricket fans.
Labelled a batsman who never made “the hard runs under pressure”, the apparent ease with which he batted made every dismissal seem that much more frustrating.
However in this series he has proved every critic wrong, almost single-handedly batting England to their series victory – rescuing his side on multiple occasions when the supposedly more reliable batsmen above him had failed. Despite somehow never quite managing to take home a Man of the Match award, he is the undisputed Man of the Series.
2 Man of the Series (Australia)
Ryan Harris: It seems unthinkable now that he wasn’t selected for the first Test of this series, perhaps with back-to-back Tests looming it was an attempt to avoid picking up an injury – something that has blighted his career.
In the end, though, Harris survived the rest of the series unscathed and was a constant menace with the ball picking up 24 wickets at an average of 19.58. Australia will desperately hope that he is fully fit for the return series down under.
3 Leading run-scorer, leading wicket-taker
Ian Bell: No surprises here, Bell finished 562 runs ahead of the next man on the list who, perhaps surprisingly was Shane Watson. A superb series by the Warwickshire stalwart ended with three hundreds, two fifties and average of 62.44.
Graeme Swann: At the beginning of the series Swann was doubtless one of the favourites to end as leading wicket-taker, but given that he has not perhaps been at his best in this series it is perhaps a little surprising. However, he remains such a key part of this England side.
4 Most improved
Steve Smith: When the series began, Smith was considered a bit of a joke to many England fans after his performances in the last Ashes series. However, he has shown this summer that he is a much improved cricketer, finishing with a maiden Test century and two fifties. He also took some crucial wickets and looks the most likely of Australia’s young batting order to have a long career wearing the baggy green.
5 Could do better
Jonathan Trott: Despite a good showing on the final day and there being some other big contenders for this award, Trott takes the prize. Although seemingly coming into the series in good form, he ended the series with just 293 runs at an average of 29.30 – not the sort of numbers we have come to expect from him.
Honourable mentions: Alastair Cook, Usman Khawaja, Jonny Bairstow.
6 Social media meltdown
Cricket Australia: Steve Smith caught Ian Bell in the gully – or so he thought. The decision went to the third umpire who ruled it wasn’t a catch. CA took to twitter to slam the decision before swiftly deleting the tweet.
Honourable mention: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who tweeted: “I've just sat down to watch the test. That was one of the worst cricket umpiring decisions I have ever seen. KRudd” – when Usman Khawaja was sent packing by DRS.
7 Actor in a leading role
Stuart Broad: It was the moment of the series – Broad edging Ashton Agar behind, the ball ricocheting off Brad Haddin’s legs and flying to first slip. Australia celebrated but Broad calmly stood there, completely unflinching, as the umpire didn’t give it out. What a performance!
8 Worst interview
Darren Lehmann: On the eve of the dead-rubber fifth Test, just when it seemed as if there would be nothing to talk about, “Boof” Lehmann did everyone a favour by going on Aussie radio and calling Stuart Broad a “blatant cheat”. He was ultimately fined 20% of his match fee.
Honourable mention: Kevin Pietersen scored a magnificent hundred at Old Trafford before giving an almost equally majestically surly press conference.
9 General incompetence award
This is awarded to the ongoing confusion caused by a terrible melange of bad umpiring, problems with the DRS technology and just downright incompetence – perfectly encapsulated by the moment New Zealand official Tony Hill gave Ryan Harris out to a pitch devoid of fielders.
10 Best beer snake
Old Trafford Day 4: There could only be one winner, the monster that spanned the whole temporary stand at Old Trafford on day four.
Honourable mention: In the face of strict stewarding, and to combat an interminably dull day’s cricket by England, a mighty serpent was constructed on day three at The Oval.
November 21-25: First Test: Gabba, Brisbane
December 5-9: Second Test, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
December 13-17: Third Test, WACA, Perth
December 26-30: Fourth Test, MCG, Melbourne
January 3-7: Fifth Test, SCG, Sydney – The Independent