Australia are odds-on favourites with bookmakers to retain the Ashes again when England next tour Down Under in 2021/22. Given the easy way their team kept hold of the precious urn during the late summer series in England, home advantage only makes their claims of further success look stronger.
Australia simply have better Test cricketers than their Ashes rivals at the moment. It’s no surprise the longest form of the game has suffered in England during the build-up to the 2019 Ashes as they hosted and won the Cricket World Cup – a 50 overs per side tournament. That always looked a priority for Trevor Bayliss and the ECB. If proof were needed, then what followed is damning evidence that One Day International batsmen do not make for top Test players.
England needed a virtuoso display from all-rounder Ben Stokes at Headingley just to keep The Ashes alive beyond the third Test. His outstanding performance could not delay the inevitable, however, and comparisons to Ian Botham and Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff from past series were made in hope rather than expectation that things could be turned around.
There is no papering over the cracks. England aren’t producing top order batsmen with the patience and discipline for Test cricket. Those previously overlooked in the County Championship that do keep in and make scores will have renewed hope of future selection.
Joe Root, burdened with the captaincy he has been free of in limited overs matches, was bitterly disappointed when Australia bowled his side out in the fourth Test at Old Trafford. England have a lot of rebuilding to do between now and what is for them the winter of 2021-22. Odds of 12/5 with bet365 in the cricket betting to win the next Ashes series reflect that. A drawn series which would see Australia retain the urn again anyway, meanwhile, is an 11/2 chance.
Root’s poor performances have been a stark contrast with opposition counterpart at number four, Steve Smith. What a way to answer critics after his role in the ball-tampering scandal during that infamous tour of South Africa that led to a year-long ban from playing for Australia.
Partners in crime Cameron Bancroft and David Warner may have failed to light up The Ashes, but Smith was a major difference between tourists and hosts. While England batsmen (Stokes apart) even in the middle order struggled to put on big scores, the restored Aussie simply didn’t know the meaning of the phrase out cheaply.
Smith amassed Ashes centuries in a manner not seen since the days of Don Bradman. And remember, he missed the third Test at Headingley with concussion after being struck by a bouncer at Lord’s. As the key man England toiled often in vain to remove from the crease, Smith confirmed himself as one of the great modern batsmen. The scary thing is he will still be in his pomp when Australia host The Ashes in 2021-22.
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) September 8, 2019
Given the World Cup glory tasted prior to Ashes disappointment, this will never go down as a disastrous summer for English cricket. The bowling find of Jofra Archer adding real pace to attack overlaps with what looks like the end of all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson, who at 37 surely won’t see another series and missed most of this one through injury.
England retain plenty of threat with the ball in Test cricket. Getting a batting line-up better suited to the different demands of this format is essential if they are to defy those odds Down Under when The Ashes are up for grabs again.
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