The Top 6: Gone in 60 minutes; Knocked on its Head; Wood’s exclamation mark; ‘Blue chip’ Green; Fifth Test Talking Points

Australia celebrates its dominant Ashes victory in Hobart. Image: cricket.com.au

Australia smelt blood in the water on the third night of the fifth and final Ashes Test in Hobart and went ahead to blow England away to wrap up a 146 run victory and win the series 4-0 at Bellerive Oval. 

Wickets tumbled at a rate of knots across all three days on a green pitch where batting was difficult and only strong concentration and application would allow batters to profit which Travis Head did on the opening day.

One English seamer continued to enhance his reputation down under while other Australian heroes continued to add to the tapestry and folklore of their burgeoning international careers.

As another Ashes series wraps up, Here are the Top 6 Talking Points to emerge from the fifth Test at the Bellerive Oval.

Gone in 60 minutes

It was just before 9 pm that captain Pat Cummins smelt the blood in the water.

With just 90 minutes left in the day’s play, another great English collapse had just begun when Ben Stokes holed out in the deep off Mitchell Starc. After starting so brightly at 0/68, England had slumped to 4/92 with Ollie Pope striding out to the wicket to partner Joe Root.

After being guilty of playing shots before he had learned how to defend, the easy-on-the-eye right-hander pushed to the covers. It continued the young talent’s desire to score freely.

It was not long before he had stepped inside the line of the ball and lost his stumps. And thus the end was nigh.

Just as England had recorded their best opening stand in Australia in eight years, it was all over in a blink of an eye, losing 10/56 in 22.4 overs in a brutal final session.

As former England captain and FoxCricket commentator smelt a potential victory earlier in the day, he tweeted his anger and frustration as to how they threw it all away so easily.

Same patterns dog England right to the end

From the selection table to the batting to the bowling to the fielding, England has been comprehensively outplayed in almost all facets of the game this series. It’s only amplified when they have consistently made things hard for themselves on almost every occasion.

Across all five matches, England has had questionable selections across every test but the selected XI are sent out to do a job as the best XI to win that game that week.

Multiple times this series, England was presented with repeated opportunities to drive the game and seize the momentum, with either bat or ball in hand. 

With the ball in hand, There would be a wicket off a no-ball to give the batter a reprieve. Three of them by the end of the series including Chris Woakes in this Test match. On several occasions, after taking a couple of quick wickets, the foot would go off the pedal and they let Australia get away and build a partnership.

With bat in hand, once they lost a big wicket, they collapsed. And when they collapsed, they were big.

4-29 and 8-74 in Brisbane. 8-86 in Adelaide. 10-61 in Melbourne. 4-14 in Sydney.

3-7 in the first innings in Hobart when it looked like the rebuild was on and, after being 0/68 when chasing 271, with a victory there for the taking and lost 10-56 in Hobart.

Right to the very end, England contributed to their own downfall in this series. As soon as the pressure came, they wilted and never seized the moment.

Knocking all selection questions on its Head

Only 6 centuries were scored in this Ashes series. One of them came off the bat of Marnus Labuschagne, the World’s best Test batter. Another came off the bat of Jonny Bairstow, the only Englishmen to reach three figures and the only Englishman not named Joe Root to raise the bat for three figures in the whites since July.

The other two came from Usman Khawaja and Travis Head. The two Australian batters drew most of the discussion over the makeup of the Australian side in the number five position.

Head made the best possible first impression after winning the hotly contested spot with a blistering hundred up at the Gabba which justified George Bailey’s call to go with the South Australian who has the capabilities to be able to move a game along at a decent pace.

When Head was forced to miss a Test due to contracting COVID-19, Khawaja took the opening with two hands registering twin centuries at the SCG, marking his return to international cricket and leaving Bailey with more headaches.

With Australia in early trouble on Day 1 at 3/12 and Head striding out to the wicket, while his hundred at the Gabba was exhilarating, this one had that little bit extra as it showed the maturity in the South Australians game.

Not only 12 months ago Head was left off Cricket Australia’s central contracts list and was dropped from all international sides. Now after two big hundreds, in two very different contexts and stages of the game, at 28 years old still, This Ashes series has proved the making of Travis Head the Test cricketer.

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Hobart Ashes the crown jewel in Tasmania’s sporting boom

Wood’s exclamation mark on England’s series long tactical blunders

Mark Wood won the hearts of many on this tour with his lionhearted approach to the game and want to give his all for his country.

It’s rare to be able to say that a bowler has “deserved” better rewards than what his or her numbers have shown throughout a series or a match. Quite often the numbers haven’t told the full story of just how well someone has performed on the cricket field and that was certainly the case with Wood up until he arrived at Bellerive Oval.

After playing the first Test at the Gabba, Wood was rested at Adelaide before being recalled at the MCG where he played all the way through to the end of the series. The first time ever he had played three tests in a row.

England seamers have often been criticised on this tour for bowling half a metre too short but in Wood’s case, that half a metre represents, shorter, nastier, and better due to his express pace which the rest of the England seam attack just don’t posses.

England’s deployment of arguably their biggest weapon with the ball was a big talking point, especially when he was missing from the XI in Adelaide. In an unfortunate way, Wood’s best performances were when the series was well and truly decided. Again, speaking to England’s botched tactics and planning and selections as themes that have riddled the tour.

His nine wickets for the match, including 6/37 in the second innings to help run through Australia with a short ball barrage. 

Mark Wood celebrates one of his six second-innings wickets. Image: @ICC/ Twitter

Boland proving to be not just a MCG specialist

Once only known as a track specialist at the MCG is now a national hero who Australia is more than thrilled to have as a member of their fast bowling cartel.

After his dream Boxing Day debut, Scott Boland continued to collect wickets at will in the remaining two Test matches, playing as key a role as any of Australia’s fast bowlers in its comprehensive 4-0 Ashes victory.

On a green pitch in Hobart, Boland’s ability to operate away on a consistent line and length troubled the England batters as he consistently beat the bat, drew edges, and was a constant thorn in the side of England’s top order who had no respite from the express pace of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins when he came on to bowl.

He took another four wickets at Bellerive Oval this week and could have had two more if Australia had held their catches in the first innings, to finish with 18 wickets at 9.55 for the series from three matches, which included the prized scalp of England’s skipper Joe Root on four occasions.

Boland also proved his worth as a valuable nightwatchman on the second evening, where he survived 25 fast and probing deliveries to make it through to the next day.

‘Blue chip’ Cameron Green ready to take on the world

If last summer was the down-payment and investment, this summer was the sharp upturn that is set for a long stint at the top of the market.

The 22-year-old was dubbed the best since Ricky Ponting by Greg Chappell ahead of last summer against India. Chappell encouraged Australia’s selectors to blood Green because he could be a matchwinner by the time the Ashes come around.

The rise of Cameron Green has been well documented and watched closely by Australian cricket fans as he has built into the series all summer.

Before the series, the talk all rested on whether or not Ben Stokes – England’s great all-rounder and heartbeat would even tour down under. When he announced that he was going to be on the plane, it filled many English hearts and newspapers with love and hope that he could produce several Headingley-like performances to give England a chance at reversing thier fortune down under.

Before the series started, Cameron Green didn’t want to compare himself to Stokes.

“I’m not trying to compare myself to Ben Stokes. I think he’s the best in the world … I’ll have to see how it goes,” he told media in the days leading up to the first Test.

Five matches later, Chappell’s prediction has come to fruition.

Compared to the player that he dubbed the best in the world, Green out-batted and out- bowled Stokes across all areas. Green took 13 wickets at 15.76 and made 228 runs in 8 innings at 32.57. Stokes, albeit playing underdone and under duress only managed the four wickets at 71.50, and made 236 runs across 10 innings at 23.60.

After not taking a wicket on heavily managed loads last summer, Green has turned himself into a reliable wicket-taking option for Cummins, as shown when he stood up to rip the English top order out in the second innings and begin the procession on to victory for Australia.

What exactly is next for Green? Who knows.

One Day cricket? T20? IPL?

The cricketing world is at Cameron Green’s feet.

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