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By Abhijit Banare
The back-to-back Ashes were filled with some breathtaking bowling and batting performances which decided both the series. While Ian Bell ruled the English leg, it was a collective performance from the Australian batsmen lead by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin that returned the urn to the Aussies. There was not much to remember about England’s batting down under; or to rephrase, a team which was hardly seen batting throughout the Ashes. Michael Clarke, David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, all of them rose to the occasion. Below are the top five innings of the series.
1. Brad Haddin’s 94 in First Test
It was a fighting start by Australia in the Ashes. With six wickets down and a paltry 132 on board, it looked like a repeat of the previous Ashes. But two players who went on to win the series 5-0 for Australia scripted a revival which helped the team recover significantly. Brad Haddin started his dream run in the Ashes right in the first innings with this responsible knock of 94 and sharing a 114-run seventh wicket stand with Mitchell Johnson (64). As this article explains, it was a partnership that started the journey for a whitewash.
2. David Warner‘s 124 reaffirms his role as opener at Brisbane
Warner can be compared to Kevin Pietersen for Australia in terms of the way they go about shaping their innings. By the time the opposition realises, they have already stroked a half-century and snatch the momentum of the game. And things can turn worse if Warner is batting with his team already on the front foot. His 124 at Brisbane was not just about the thrashing he gave the England bowlers but reassured the team management that he is the opener Australia will be looking to move forward with in years to come. It was a chanceless innings where he asserted his dominance on the bowlers and rarely played any rash shot.
3. Ben Stokes’s 120 shows the calibre of the new all-rounder
The chips are down, you have been sledged by an in-form Mitchell Johnson on debut and you are playing only your second Test on a bouncy Perth track (with enough cracks sprinkled all around), you have not got much chance. It was a career-defining innings from Ben Stokes. He was not afraid of the huge cracks in the pitch and looked technically sound while facing the barrage of short balls. Stokes pulled the ball with ease turning such deliveries into scoring opportunities. The level of maturity and calm head Stokes presented at Perth will go a long way in assuring the selectors to retain faith in him. Eventually he turned out to be the lone bright spot for England in the series. His partnership with Ian Bell and Matt Prior in an attempt to rescue the team in the mammoth chase of 504 gave a glimpse that Stokes is ready to absorb the pressure situations in international cricket.
4. Steven Smith’s 111 & 115
Smith’s two tons in the series came at Perth and Sydney (third and fifth Test). In both Tests, Smith started off the partnership with Haddin with his side precariously placed. While the Perth knock showed the ability of the youngster in playing under testing conditions, his ton at Sydney was just a repeat of his abilities. One of the better aspects of Smith has been that, he has never been shy of pulling the ball and did it with ease throughout the series. He looked positive right from the start and never let go off scoring opportunities even if that meant going after a few accurately-pitched deliveries. At the same time, Smith showed enough patience to be not lured into playing a rash shot.
5. Shane Watson’s sparkling 103 in third Test
Even before we talk about his ton, Watson deserves a huge applause for resisting the urge to put his front foot forward and be dismissed leg-before. He came in to bat with Australia placed comfortably on 157 for one at Perth. It was more of a personal struggle for Watson than the burden of playing for the team. The runs had come in patches and the big one was due. Watson looked at ease towards the end of Day Two when he was batting on 29. Even before the English bowlers warmed up and got their length right, Watson smoked fire and went after the bowling. The whacking he gave to Graeme Swann enthralled the fans. It was raining sixes on the third morning.
There many other scintillating knocks which include skipper Michael Clarke’s 148. Clarke has been in sensational form throughout the year crossing 1,000 Test runs. Perhaps one could have a memorable innings list on Haddin based on the number of rescue acts he performed all through the series. His 118 at Adelaide was a notable innings. Chris Rogers too caught up with the trend by smashing consecutive centuries in the last two Tests at Melbourne (119) and Sydney (116) respectively. Rogers though failed to get a big score in the first half of the series, made his presence felt with the two tons. It’s hard to believe that a team which was lambasted for its batting in India and England has performed collectively to bat the opposition out. But then that’s what teamwork is all about.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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