It was an Ashes series to largely forget for England as head coach Chris Silverwood saw his side lose 4-0 Down Under against arch-rivals Australia. While the England management pick through the bones to find positives from the heavy series defeat, the Three Lions mission to claim back the Ashes on English soil in 2023 has already started.
England Shortcomings Exposed on Biggest Stage
It does not get any bigger in Test cricket for England than an Ashes series in Australia, in what has proved one of the greatest challenges in sport, putting the athletes among the best. It was back in 2010 the last time England came back from the southern hemisphere with the famous Ashes urn thanks after a 3-1 victory. While England has fared better on home soil, and was as of January 26th at 11/8 in the cricket betting to win the Ashes in 2023, winning in the Baggy Greens’ backyard has proven to be a mammoth challenge. A 4-0 series defeat for the 2021-22 series just shows the gulf between the two sides at present, with England’s weaknesses in the batting order being brutally exposed by a slick Aussie bowling attack.
England skipper Joe Root was forced to put on a brave face for much of the series, while his side seemed to inevitably wander into traps laid out by Australian bowlers. Big questions have been asked about the futures of some players, with the likes of Haseeb Hameed and Rory Burns both failing to take their opportunities Down Under. Hameed finished the series with an average run score of just 10 in his appearances in four of the Tests, while Burns did not fare much better with an average of 12.83. Both players have previously shown they have the quality to play Test cricket for their country. But they will have to overcome doubts and show significant signs of improvement if they are to feature in the Ashes on home soil next year.
Root Still the Man to Lead Three Lions
While the captain of the team often bears the responsibility for a series defeat, there seems to be little doubt that Root is still the man to lead the England Test side forward. Root finished the series with the second-highest batting average in the squad with 32.20, as he contributed 322 runs to the England cause. With a total of 1,708 runs in 2021, Root was named men’s Test cricketer of the year by the International Cricket Council. The Yorkshireman almost landed another award after being nominated for the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC men’s cricketer of the year before the prize was handed to Pakistan’s Shaheen Afridi.
The stats clearly show Root is still one of the best in the business. There are certainly no other players in the England camp putting their hands up to take on one of the most difficult roles in cricket in the Three Lions captaincy. At the age of 31, Root still has plenty of years ahead of him, and not just taking in the sights Down Under. Winning an Ashes series in Australia will still be one of his main targets to achieve before calling time on his playing career.
Bairstow Resilience Offers Hope
Another player to come out of the last Ashes series with credit was Root’s fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow. The wicketkeeper-batter only managed to feature in two of the five Tests but was still able to secure an average of 48.50. Bairstow stood up to the Aussie seamers in the fourth Test as he produced an impressive score of 113 in the first innings, before notching up 41 more runs in the second. What made the display even more outstanding was the fact he sustained a thumb injury during that first innings but still managed to see out the Test, before being forced to miss the final match in Hobart.
Bairstow has found himself in and out of the Test picture over the years, with the 32-year-old being more involved in white-ball cricket for his country. Bairstow will be in the frame for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year and will be hoping his efforts in the last Ashes series will keep him in the frame for more Test cricket in the future.
Wood Can Spearhead England Attack
In the bowling department, no player bagged more wickets than Mark Wood, with the Durham seamer claiming 17 in his four Test appearances through the series. There are questions regarding whether the veteran duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad will still be available for selection when the next Ashes series rolls around. On his performances Down Under, Wood looks like a player who can take over from the likes of Anderson and Broad in leading the English seam attack.
Day three of the final Test saw Wood earn career-best figures of 6-37, while taking on much of the heavy lifting with the number of overs he put in. While also putting in some notable performances with bat in hand, Wood and Bairstow look like players who can shine under skipper Root at the next Ashes series.
The 2021-22 series made tough viewing for England fans but there are seedlings of optimism that the Three Lions can make the 2023 Ashes the competitive contest this famous competition deserves.