Statistics and numbers suggest Mitchell Johnson wasn’t the only major difference between the results of the two Ashes series of 2013 © Getty Images
By Adrian Meredith
What is the real reason that Australia has done better in Australia than they did in England, changing from 0-3 down after 5 Tests to 4-0 ahead. Is it the improvements of key players, the disappointment in key English players, or is it simply the toss?
In England, Australia’s best run scorers were:
Michael Clarke (381 runs avg 47.62)
Shane Watson (418 runs avg 41.80)
Chris Rogers (367 runs avg 40.77)
Steven Smith (345 runs avg 38.33)
Ashton Agar (130 runs avg 32.50)
In Australia, Australia’s best run scorers have been:
David Warner (491 runs avg 70.14)
Brad Haddin (390 runs avg 65.00)
Michael Clarke (347 runs avg 49.57)
Shane Watson (293 runs avg 41.85)
Chris Rogers (333 runs avg 41.62)
Warner was a big improver (47.14 better), while Haddin was a complete transformation (42.12 better), but neither were in the top 5 in the England leg. Warner in Australia is far better than Smith in England (31.81 better) and Haddin in Australia is far better than Agar in England (32.50 better). Take them out and the scores are fairly similar – Clarke (1.95 better), Watson (0.05 better) and Rogers (0.85 better) – but they moved from top 3 in England to 3-5 in Australia.
In England, Australia’s best bowlers were:
Ryan Harris (24 wickets avg 19.58)
Peter Siddle (17 wickets avg 31.58)
Mitchell Starc (11 wickets avg 32.45)
Nathan Lyon (9 wickets avg 33.66)
In Australia, Australia’s best bowlers have been:
Mitchell Johnson (31 wickets avg 14.32)
Ryan Harris (24 wickets avg 26.00)
Peter Siddle (13 wickets avg 26.07)
Nathan Lyon (16 wickets avg 26.93)
Harris himself has done worse than he did in England – 6.42 runs per wicket worse – but Siddle (5.51) and Lyon (6.73) have done better. But Mitchell Johnson is 18.13 runs per wicket better than the man he replaced, Mitchell Starc. 1-2-4 in England moved to 2-3-4 in Australia, with Mitchell Johnson being the difference.
In England, England’s best batsmen were:
Ian Bell (562 runs at 62.44)
Kevin Pietersen (388 runs at 38.80)
Joe Root (339 runs at 37.66)
Jonathan Trott (293 runs at 29.30)
Jonny Bairstow (203 runs at 29.00)
In Australia, England’s best batsmen have been:
Kevin Pietersen (285 runs at 35.62)
Ben Stokes (200 runs at 33.33)
Ian Bell (217 runs at 31.00)
Michael Carberry (238 runs at 29.75)
Alastair Cook (232 runs at 29.00)
Ian Bell’s (31.44 worse) form has been the big difference. Kevin Pietersen is only slightly worse (3.28) while the others have more or less had similar avergaes. In actual fact, other than Ian Bell, Australia and England batted similarly in England. But in Australia, that difference of Ian Bell was enormous.
In England, England’s best bowlers were:
Stuart Broad (22 wickets at 27.45)
Graeme Swann (26 wickets at 29.03)
James Anderson (22 wickets at 29.59)
Tim Bresnan (10 wickets at 29.60)
In Australia, England’s best bowlers have been:
Stuart Broad (17 wickets at 26.82)
Tim Bresnan (5 wickets at 41.20)
James Anderson (11 wickets at 45.63)
Ben Stokes (7 wickets at 47.28)
Broad is slightly better (0.63) but everyone else has been worse with Anderson (16.04 worse) and Bresnan (11.60 worse), both suffering. But Swann (50.97 worse), who isn’t even on this list, was far worse than his England average.
And this paints a bit of a clearer picture than simply “Mitchell Johnson has been the difference”.
It is true that Mitchell Johnson has been player of the series. He has won man of the match awards in 3 of the 4 Tests played so far, and in the other one he was still pretty close to player of the match. It was so surprising that he did so well too.
England’s batting hasn’t dropped all that much – it is just that in England, they had Ian Bell playing out of his to lift them above Australia – not counting Bell, Australia did better batting-wise. England’s bowling has dropped significantly though – now they just have one good bowler while in England, all four had similar figures.
If you compare the figures, Australia actually had similar figures to England in the England leg. Ryan Harris was the best bowler on either side, but England had the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th best bowlers – just ahead of Australia’s. With batting, similarly Ian Bell was the best batsman on either side, but Australia had the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th best batsmen – just ahead of England’s.
It is not that Australia transformed from being flogged to winning easily – they transformed from a close-run contest to one in which they won easily.
The 3 key England players that did much worse in the second Ashes leg:
Ian Bell - In England he was a phenomenon, saving matches and winning matches for England, on his way to 562 runs at 62.44, to get player of the series, just ahead of Ryan Harris. In Australia he hasn’t really done anything much, managing just 217 runs at 31.00, averaging half what he did in England. Half! In a low scoring series he isn’t exactly doing badly – he is still England’s 3rd best batsman – but he went from being easily the best on either side to being 3rd best for his country. That is a huge drop.
Graeme Swann - In England, he was the leading wicket taker with 26 wickets at 29.03, but in Australia he managed just 7 wickets in 3 Tests at an average of 80.00 before retiring. Leading wicket taker one series, retiring the next. That was a huge difference.
James Anderson - 22 wickets at 29.59 was a decent haul, and he was a consistent bowler, who was part of a four-prone attack in England, but in Australia he has been horrible, managing just 11 wickets at 45.63, and four of those were in one innings in the fourth Test in Melbourne.
The 3 key Australians that did much better:
Mitchell Johnson - He didn’t play in England but in Australia he has been phenomenal, not just the best bowler on either side, but also better than the best on either side in England (Ryan Harris). He has also been six runs better than anyone in Australia. And the leading wicket taker by a margin of 7 wickets. Oh, and he has three man of the match awards in four matches. And he has intimidation, which no bowler had in England.
David Warner - He didn’t even play the first two Tests in England but when he did play, after a good first innings, he was quite ordinary. In Australia, he has been the best batsman on either side, better even better than Ian Bell in England. If it wasn’t for Johnson, he would be man of the series.
Brad Haddin - He took a world record number of catches in the Test series in England but has improved since then, with his batting now leading to reliable late order fightbacks, four Tests out of four, batting first, when the team was in trouble. In the fourth Test he went solo but in the first three Tests he had a partner. His improvement, surprising though it is, as he was already good in England, has been phenomenal.
So that is it really, while England have had three players go from great to terrible, Australia have had three players go from terrible to great.
But there is another statistic that tells the tale: tosses.
In England, England won three of the five tosses. All three times that they won the toss they batted first, and won the match. Australia won two of the five tosses and drew both matches – they were also the only two Tests that had rain. In Australia, Australia have won all four tosses, and have batted first in three of the four matches, winning all four.
In other words, winning the toss has led to 77.77% wins and 22.22% draws. Winning the toss at home has led to 100% wins. Winning the toss away from home has led to 100% draws.
In other words, if England win the toss in Sydney, it should be a draw, while if they lose the toss, then it should be an Australian win.
But is the toss that significant an element? Or is it the improvement in those three key Australian players and the worrying form drop of those three key English players?
(Adrian Meredith, an Australian from Melbourne, has been very passionate about cricket since he was seven years old. Because of physical challenges he could not pursue playing the game he so dearly loved. He loves all kinds of cricket – from Tests, ODIs, T20 – at all levels and in all countries and writes extensively on the game)