As the dust settles on a pulsating Ashes series, the post-mortem must begin, and a couple of ex-Ashes captains have had their say on England’s handling of Jofra Archer, and the impact losing Jimmy Anderson so quickly in the series had for both sides.
With the series tied at 2-2, the urn booked itself a first class seat on a Qantas airlines jet due to the Aussie’s status as holders.
Would the tiny trophy’s destination have been different had England’s all-time leading wicket taker in Tests played a full part in the series? And how should Joe Root best utilise the blistering pace of Jofra Archer going forward after the world got a taste of things to come with his box-office battles with Steve Smith and Matthew Wade?
“Losing Jimmy Anderson on day one at Edgbaston was a massive blow – not just for the Test but the series,” said Hussain.
“Don’t forget that despite that, though, Australia were 122-8 in their first innings but England couldn’t grasp their chance.
“It would have been great to have seen Anderson – England’s best bowler against right-handers – go head-to-head with Steve Smith. The pitches did a bit during the series, Smith was in phenomenal form, and it would have been a great battle.
“Stuart Broad was brilliant in the series, by the way, in particular to left-handers, and his hold over David Warner made sure Australia began on the back foot every innings.”
Ponting, a veteran of eight Ashes campaigns, said: “Australia put on 162 for the last two wickets in that opening Test, with Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon providing superb support for Smith. Those were crucial stands in the series.
“I remember sitting at home and checking the scores, thinking it was going to be a long way back into the game for Australia, but those two partnerships really turned the tide and Australia ended up going on to win that Test match by 250 runs.
“If Anderson had played the whole series then I feel the attacks would have evened each other out.”
Jofra Archer lit up the series with hostile spells of fast bowling that brought the crowds to their feet and the batsmen to their knees.
The speedster hit 96mph in the Lord’s Test during a memorable battle with Steve Smith, before forcing the run-making metronome to briefly retire hurt after a vicious bouncer to the neck.
“You sit in the commentary box and think ‘these guys are doing things I can only dream of,” said Hussain
“It has been proper Test match cricket. The standout player in Test cricket, Smith, against a new kid on the block in Jofra Archer.
“We wanted to know if all the fuss and hype around him was justified, and I think Archer showed that it is. He challenged Smith – even knocking him over at Lord’s – but Smith came back after missing the third Test and got a double hundred. Brilliant.
Ever the pragmatist, Ponting declared that England must take a cautious and considered approach to the way they deploy Archer or risk burning the 24-year-old out.
“I think England do have to be careful [with Archer],” exclaimed Ponting.
“I think we [as pundits] have to be careful with what we expect from him every time he’s got the ball in his hand.
“Looking back at the couple of spells after that one at Lord’s, we all just expected that he was going to come in and bowl 94mph all the time. He’s not going to be able to do that and, if he does, he’ll be out of the game quicker than he came in. You just don’t last that long bowling that quick all the time.
“They are going to have to manage him and map out a very clear plan for what they want to do with him in short-form cricket and how much Test cricket they want him to play in the next four or five years because he won’t be able to play all of it.”
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