Ashes talking points and odds after thrilling series
England and Australia shared the spoils after an epic Ashes series ended in a 2-2 draw.
Here we look at some of the key issues raised by five unforgettable Tests and the Ashes betting odds for their next meeting.
Which side comes out of the series stronger?
If sport is all about the end result, then Australia walk away happiest after hanging on to the famous urn. But on every other metric, England will feel like they have established the upper hand in this rivalry for the first time since 2015.
There was something meek about the away side’s post-match celebrations after defeat at the Kia Oval, having last tasted victory 29 days and three Tests earlier at Lord’s. Australia have not won outright in England since 2001 and the wait will now go on for at least 26 years.
Few could argue that England would have won the series had it not been for a two-day deluge at Old Trafford.
How much of a culture clash was it?
The contrast in the two teams’ methods was profound. England’s ‘Bazball’ brigade played with a freewheeling spirit that offered constant entertainment and veered occasionally into sheer recklessness.
Australia, meanwhile, found themselves playing the role of traditionalists. They played conservative cricket, both with the bat and in their consistently-timid field placings, but felt vindicated at 2-0 up. The Baggy Greens now feel caught between two unappealing realities – being seen to copy English cricket or having the tone of their biggest rivalry dictated to them.
What does the next Ashes hold?
Make no mistake, Australia will still be favourites when the battle reconvenes Down Under. While series in England often tend to be closely fought, Australia have become dominant in their own patch.
Since a brilliant away win in 2010/11, England have played 15 away Ashes Tests, losing 13 and drawing two. Getting a single victory would be an achievement of sorts but regaining the urn looks an enormous challenge, although England’s style of play offers plenty of encouragement.
“This is the shortest price England have been for an Ashes series Down Under for quite some time, which reflects the confidence there now is in this England team under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum,” said Coral’s John Hill.
“England can count themselves unlucky not to win this series this summer, with rain costing them in Manchester, however, they can look forward to their next trip to Australia knowing they can push their rivals hard on Australian soil.”
Was this the end of an era?
Stuart Broad and Moeen Ali both retired at the end of the fifth Test, but plenty more seasoned combatants might hit the end of the road before these nations next meet in the longest format.
James Anderson is now 41 and is surely on his lap of honour, David Warner has already set his own end date in January and the list of thirtysomethings is long. Player of the series Chris Woakes has a lot of miles on the clock at 34, Mark Wood has had a dreadful time with injury, top run-scorer Usman Khawaja is 36 and even Steve Smith had to deny reports that he was set to call time.
Whatever happens, the cast list of this gripping drama appears to be in flux.
Did any of the controversies really get settled?
Ashes cricket tends to heighten emotions and there were several examples. There was enormous row about the spirit of cricket when Jonny Bairstow was controversially stumped by Alex Carey at Lord’s but the main upshot was that batters should stay in their crease until the ball is dead.
Sections of the Australian media, including former captain Ricky Ponting, were worked up about a ball change that benefitted England in the fifth Test, but both sides had been asking for swaps all summer and the decision-making process lies squarely with the neutral umpires.
Meanwhile, some found themselves railing against Mother Nature herself after England were denied by rain in Manchester. Potential solutions, including reserve days and roofs, look certain to wither on the vine.
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