It is nice England won at the Oval to end a great summer on a good note, but we should not be deceived in thinking that because it was 2-2 we were equal to Australia. We were not.
Australia’s cricket in this match was 15 per cent below their best. With the Ashes retained, they could not rouse themselves to play their best cricket.
But over the course of the series they deserved to retain the Ashes because we did not win those big moments, when matches were on the line. Australia held their nerve when it mattered and won those decisive moments.
There were three successes for England. Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes. Broad bowled magnificently throughout the series. He stuck to a beautiful, full length in the corridor of uncertainty and completely dominated David Warner, one of the best players in the world.
He dismissed him seven times in 10 innings. Warner scored 95 runs at an average of 9.5, and against Broad he faced 104 balls, scored only 35 runs at an average of five.
Warner is a naturally aggressive person who has always transferred that personality on to the field, many times giving lip to the opposition. He has taken that into his batting as well, but he has been told to be on his best behaviour now after his one-year suspension.
Having to change his personality may have affected his batting and the problem for an opener is when someone like Broad is making life difficult for you, there is no escape. As an opener you face the same new-ball bowler every time you bat, whereas middle-order players can come in at any time.
Stokes’ batting was outstanding, not just at Headingley, where he played my favourite innings. He scored a hundred at Lord’s and his second innings here at the Oval was patient, careful and excellent. On top of that, he bowled superbly at Headingley with that long spell, which helped change the course of the match and his catching is world class.
Archer has done well, taking 22 wickets at 20.27. In the World Cup he was quick and exciting, so we almost took it for granted that he would come into Test cricket and do well. That was not guaranteed, but it is what happened.
He has added the dimension England have been looking for and there is no reason why he should not go on and become even better. If you bowl quick and move the ball off the straight and narrow you will get wickets. Archer ambles in and bowls 90mph with controlled aggression.
He does not lose his rag and bowls fast without busting a gut. It is like watching Michael Holding. You always felt Mikey could bowl quicker, because it looked like it was easy for him. Same for Archer.
He ambles up and the ball comes down at high pace. It is a different dimension when you have someone like that in your side. Not only do they take wickets, but they worry people enough that they play funny shots when facing the other bowlers.
Rory Burns has shown excellent application, grit and courage against hostile, short-pitched fast bowling. He has ducked and weaved well after Australia targeted him with the short ball.
He scored his first century at Edgbaston and what matters most is that he has come out of the series with 390 runs at 39. That is a great effort in his first real trial at this level, for batting against this Australia attack was a proper examination.
Jack Leach became a folk hero after his heroics with the bat at Lord’s against Ireland and at Headingley supporting Stokes. Wherever he fields and the ball comes to him, the crowds give him such a warm ovation. I feel that has helped his confidence as a Test player and translated into his bowling. He bowled really well at the Oval. He was bowling to stay in the team at one point, but now he is bowling to take wickets.
Sam Curran was the player of the summer last year and did not get a game until this last Test at the Oval. Even when Stokes is fit again and resumes as England’s premier all-rounder, the selectors should find a way of keeping Curran in the side, perhaps not every Test, but keeping him on the sidelines is not smart.
He offers a different variation with his left-arm over, swings the ball and causes problems with his angle. He caused Steve Smith more awkward moments playing and missing than any other bowler in this series.
Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow have had a modest series. They need to tighten up their defence. Both are naturally comfortable playing shots and, at their best, take the game away from the opposition. That is OK when it comes off, but to help the team they need to be more consistent and dependable.
I would never tell them to be cautious batsmen or occupiers of the crease. But they both get out early too many times playing poor strokes to ordinary balls. Look at yourself, tighten up and make it harder for bowlers to get you out.
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2019