© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Steven Smith was invincible throughout the 2017-18 Ashes, but still could not near Don Bradman’s immortality. Smith finished with 687 runs at 137.4 in the series, the 11th most by a batsman in an Ashes series. Bradman aces the list with 974 runs at 139.14.

Pat Cummins finished as the highest wicket-taker. He took a wicket more than Mitchell Starc did. Starc, however, was rested in the fourth Test due to injury. Let’s see how the Australians fared in CricketCountry’s Marks Out of 10.

David Warner (441 runs at 63): 8/10

Warner missed out on a hundred twice in the series. It would have been thrice had Tom Curran not overstepped when Warner was on 99 at Melbourne Cricket Ground, where had scored a magnificent 144 exactly a year ago.

Warner was the second-best batsman in the series. For that matter, any genius would come second if Smith is in the vicinity. There is otherwise nothing new to highlight Warner’s performance. He performed his duty as the deputy and an aggressor with distinction.

Cameron Bancroft (179 at 25.5): 3/10

Bancroft made headlines only when he head-butted Jonny Bairstow in a pub. The incident also unveiled that Bancroft has one of heaviest heads and that he has measured it. To add more weirdness to the chapter, Bancroft did not flinch when Mark Stoneman pulled one into his shoulder.

With the bat, Bancroft could not fulfil the expectations. After his 82* in the opening Test, his highest score read 26 in the next six innings.

Usman Khawaja (333 runs at 41.5): 5/10

Khawaja’s 51.3 per cent of runs in the series came in one innings, on a flat MCG track. However, his best effort came at Adelaide, against the pink ball and under the lights: facing James Anderson’s late swing Khawaja scored a resolute 53 in the first innings, setting the tone for the middle-order batters.

His fifty at Perth would not be rated highly, for the pitch had hardly any purchase for the bowlers. In his remaining, ordinary innings, he managed 11, 20, 17, and 11.

Shaun Marsh (445 runs at 74.16): 7/10

Shaun has 4 more runs than Warner, but he did not have to face the new, shiny, moving ball that the English veterans hurled at the vice-captain. He nonetheless was one of the vital cogs in the wheel.

Only Adelaide provided a characteristic Australian pitch. There, Shaun scored a fighting 126*, after Smith fell for a mere 40. His innings picked Australia from 209 for 5 to 442 for 8 declared. Joe Root was the only Englishman to pocket a fifty in the match.

He bettered his numbers in the final Test but only on a docile SCG track.

Mitchell Marsh (320 at 106.6): 6/10

Mitchell Marsh was not even in the scene. He had last played against India at Bengaluru earlier in 2017. Peter Handscomb was Australia’s man in the middle-order, but after he lost his form, the Australian selectors summoned Mitchell Marsh for the Perth Test.

Amidst his home crowd and parents watching him play, Mitchell Marsh produced an innings of substance: he collected 181 runs, stitching up 301 runs with Smith for the fifth wicket. The duo helped Australia take a lead of 259 runs. Australia eventually won by an innings and 41 runs.

Mitchell Marsh continued to feast on the hapless Englishman. With his brother Shaun, he laced 169 runs in the final Test. He almost got himself out when he reached the hundred as both started celebrating prematurely.

He would not have gone wicketless had Smith not dropped Alastair Cook at first slip. Cook went on to remain unbeaten on 244, and England drew the match.

To summarise Mitchell Marsh ‘s performance, it would be unfair to rate him higher than 6. We did not see him bat at Brisbane and Adelaide, where the pitches weren’t featherbeds.

Tim Paine (192 runs at 48): 6/10

Paine dropped a catch on the opening day of the 2017-18 Ashes, and the talks of dropping Matthew Wade surfaced. He would, however, later end the series with as many as 25 catches and a stumping. He was often busy behind the wickets as the Englishmen’s flashing and poking blades induced plenty edges.

With the bat, Paine did what was asked of him. His counterattacking 57 at Perth brought Australia back in the contest, also taking some pressure off Shaun. He continued his stellar performance with 49* at Perth and 38* at Sydney.

Peter Handscomb (62 runs at 20.6): 1/10

Handscomb had averaged over 50 in 10 Tests before the series. He had performed remarkably well in India and Bangladesh earlier. Come Ashes and he fades away with the swinging ball. He was the easiest of Australian wickets to remove. Mitchell Marsh replaced him for the remaining three Tests.

Jackson Bird (no wickets in his nest): 1/10

Bird bowled in a match when Cook scored 244*.

Mitchell Starc (22 wickets at 23.5): 8.5/10

The injury-marred Starc looked fit as a fiddle. He ran in hard, and there was nothing wrong with his stride during delivery. He swung the ball as late as he is reputed for, and those breakthroughs often came off his bowling. From top order to the tail, Starc wagged all Englishmen alike.

His spell towards the twilight of Day One of the fifth Test changed the equation. Root walked back, and England could never recover.

Josh Hazlewood (21 wickets at 25.9): 8/10

On a Perth track that the Englishmen were taken to the cleaners, Hazlewood managed the only five-wicket haul in the match. He first removed the openers and then sent the set Dawid Malan packing.

He was as impeccable with the line and length as he always is. There, however, was an extra spark of aggression in his approach. Perhaps the Ashes ignited the fire within him.

Pat Cummins (23 wickets at 24.6): 10/10

Cummins is not armed with a deadly in-swinger or immaculate accuracy. He relies heavily on pace. Making matters worse, he bowls when the ball loses its shine. Despite all this, he took 23 wickets at 24.6. His best came in the final Test, taking a four-for in each innings. He stuck twice in three balls immediately after lunch, when England were in the middle of delaying the defeat. He bent his back and showered a legion of short balls to bounce England out of the contest.

He gets extra points for significantly contributing with the bat. He was involved in two momentum-sucking partnership: 66 runs with Smith at Brisbane and 99 runs with Shaun at Adelaide — both on better bowling tracks.

Nathan Lyon (21 wickets at 25.9): 9/10

Lyon loses a point because Cummins carried the extra workload of scoring runs. Nathan otherwise was too cool with his Lyon and length.

Lyon dismissed Moeen Ali as many as 7 times in the series. The best of all was that one-handed blinder: jumping to his left, midway through his follow-through, Lyon pounced on a catch to dismiss Moeen.

There was another one in the fourth Test: this time Lyon jumped to his right.

In all, Lyon gave wickets when Australia were yearning for them, when the pacers ran out of steam. England escaped the bear but fell to Lyon.

Steven Smith (687 runs at 137.4 and 3 dropped catches): 9.5/10

Smith perhaps dropped three catches only to prove that he is human. Otherwise, who scores runs 137.4 in a five-Test series? Of course, Bradman had scored at 139 once in an Ashes series, but he had also collected 6,000 Test runs in 68 innings compared to Smith’s 111 innings. See, the comparisons will often come to the fore, and that tells Smith’s aura in modern-day cricket. He, for all the obvious reasons, has the second-best average.

Without boring you with the Smith phenomenon, we conclude this episode of Marks out of 10 with Smith’s scores in the series: 141, 40, 6, 239, 76, 102*, 83.