The Ashes: A statistical look at the series

  •  PA Sport

Australia retained the Ashes while England secured a series draw on Sunday with a win at the Oval.

Here, we take a statistical look back at this summer’s thrilling series.

Steve Smith’s Brilliance

Any statistical analysis of Australia retaining the urn must start with Steve Smith’s extraordinary accomplishments.

His 774 runs were a remarkable 333 clear of second-placed Ben Stokes on 441, despite Smith featuring in only seven of Australia’s 10 innings due to the concussion that ruled him out of the second innings at Lord’s and the Headingley Test.

He had three of the eight hundreds made in the series – Stokes and Matthew Wade managed two each and Rory Burns one – and added three 50s before England finally dismissed him for 23 in the second innings at the Oval.

That gave him an average of 110.57 – more than double Stokes’ second-ranked 55.12 – as he contributed over 30 per cent of his side’s runs in his first series since being suspended and stripped of the captaincy for his part in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

His series high was 211 at Old Trafford – Smith aside, only Stokes, Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Wade, Joe Root, Joe Denly, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow made that many runs in the whole series.

Opening Woes

While Smith made a triumphant return from his ban, his fellow sandpaper conspirator David Warner did not fare nearly as well.

Smith hit more boundaries in the series (92 fours and five sixes) than Warner’s total number of runs – 95, the lowest ever by a Test opener in 10 innings in a series, despite his 61 at Headingley.

Warner did not reach double figures again until his 11 in the second innings of the final Test, when he fell to Stuart Broad for the seventh time in the series including three successive ducks at Headingley and Old Trafford.

Warner averaged 9.50 for the series, but just five when facing Broad, scoring 35 runs for those seven dismissals in 104 balls. Jofra Archer picked up his wicket on the other three occasions as Warner struggled through the series without facing a single delivery of spin.

Opening partners Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris fared little better, scoring only 102 runs between them and failing to pass 20 in 10 innings. Combined, Australia’s openers averaged 9.85 for the series.

England’s experiment with Jason Roy also failed – he averaged 13.75, and only 9.50 as an opener, leading to Joe Denly being promoted from number four – but Burns trailed only Smith and Stokes with 390 runs in the series.

Series of Elite Bowling

Teams have rightly noted since time immemorial that “to win a Test, you have to take 20 wickets”.

Both bowling attacks took that to heart this time around, with teams bowled out in 14 of the 20 innings and five different bowlers reaching an individual tally of 20 or more wickets for the series.

Australia’s Pat Cummins led the way with 29 at an average of 19.62, with Broad England’s top wicket-taker with 23 at 26.65.

Archer took 22 and Josh Hazlewood 20 despite both sitting out the first Test at Edgbaston. Nathan Lyon, with 20 at 33.40, was the fifth man to achieve the feat and outbowled England’s frontline spinners – Jack Leach and Moeen Ali combined for 15 wickets at 32.13.

Only once before have five bowlers taken 20-plus wickets in an Ashes series – England’s Ian Botham, Geoff Miller and Bob Willis and Australia’s Rodney Hogg and Alan Hurst in 1978-79 in a six-Test series.

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