A first drawn Ashes series since 1972 was the final result after nearly six weeks of some terrific Test cricketing action between arch-rivals England and Australia.
It is the visitors who still return with the urn due to their 4-1 triumph in the previous Ashes series Down Under but the hosts will be delighted to level matters nevertheless after an extraordinary summer which saw them lift their maiden World Cup trophy.
At the end of what was a fierce red-ball battle between the two old foes in England, we take a look at the biggest hits, flops and surprises from the series.
The Australia opener will be relieved to see the back of Stuart Broad for some time after enduring one of the worst series of his career. The left-hander was dismissed on seven separate occasions by Broad in the series and he finished with a batting average in single-digits.
Off Warner’s 95 runs, 61 came in a single knock while he was able to muster just a paltry 34 runs in his remaining nine innings in the series. To finish with a batting average less than Jack Leach and Broad himself is the ultimate insult for a player who has 21 Test tons to his name.
That Warner’s average was even lower than Jason Roy’s tells you all you need to know about the Aussie’s struggles in England. Roy himself averaged just 13.74 in four Tests before he was ultimately dropped for the final clash at the Oval.
The limited-overs opening stalwart’s technique was horribly exposed by Australia with the red ball with even a move down the order to No4 failing to bring any change of fortunes for Roy.
Opening woes was one of the more prominent themes in the Ashes with Australia’s Marcus Harris being among the biggest culprits. The left-hander came in as a replacement for the equally abysmal Cameron Bancroft but failed to deliver the goods with just 58 runs in his six innings at an average of less than 10.
He was also shocking on the field and was guilty of dropping some important catches including that of Ben Stokes at Headingley moments before the England all-rounder turned the game around in dramatic style.
The former Australia skipper was England’s public enemy No1 at the start of the series but he had the packed home support on its feet after he was dismissed for 23 in the second innings at the Oval. It was Smith’s lowest total in the series but the standing ovation was for what came before with the Aussie single-handedly leading the visitors’ charge with the bat.
A tally of 774 runs at an average of over 110 in a single series despite missing the Headingley clash are staggering figures in any circumstances. To do it after missing nearly 16 months of Test cricket due to the Newlands ball-tampering episode is even more commendable. He’s ended all debates over who is the No1 Test batsman in the world.
While it was the No1 batsman who led Australia’s charge, No1 bowler Pat Cummins played his part as well in retaining the urn for the visitors. Despite not picking up a five-wicket haul in any innings, Cummins still managed to top the wicket-taking charts by some distance due to his remarkable consistency.
The Australia pacer’s 29 wickets came at an average of less than 20 but it was his fitness and longevity which caught the eye. Only off-spinner Nathan Lyon bowled more overs than Cummins among bowlers from both sides with the quick pushing through to play all five Tests in the series.
England’s World Cup 2019 hero was the man for the hosts in the Ashes as well with the all-rounder helping them pull off the most incredible feat at Headingley with an all-time great Test innings of 135 not out.
Another excellent ton at Lord’s and two further fifties meant that Stokes finished only behind Smith in the run-scoring charts. He was a livewire on the field as usual and made some important bowling contributions as well including his marathon spell in the second innings at Headingley.
The right-handed batsman only got a chance in the Ashes due to the concussion blow suffered by Steve Smith at Lord’s but what a replacement he turned out to be! Labuschagne struck four fifties on the bounce to announce his arrival as a Test player and he was among the only three batsmen to average more than 50 in the series.
The 25-year-old looked like a proper Test batsman with his compact technique and his performances have ensured that he will be a mainstay for the team for some time to come.
His part-time leg spin proved to be an excellent threat and was pivotal in Australia clinching the decisive win at Old Trafford.
Some debut Ashes series it turned out to be for Jack Leach with the England left-armed spinner establishing himself as a pivotal figure in no time. The 28-year-old replaced Moeen Ali from the second Test onwards and showed plenty of gumption and fight straight away.
His unbeaten innings of one at Headingley in the last-wicket partnership with Stokes at Headingley has already turned him into a cult hero in England while he wasn’t shabby with the ball either with 12 wickets in his four appearances at an average considerably better than his Australia counterpart Lyon.
Head coach Justin Langer feels Australia still have some way to go before being considered as a great Test side after they squandered the chance to win the Ashes series on English soil.
The visitors led twice in the five-match series but were pegged back in the next Test by England on both occasions with the Ashes ultimately ending all square at 2-2.
Although his Australia side have become the first visiting team since 2001 to retain the urn on English soil, Langer has issued a fresh challenge to his players to take their game to the next level.
“To fight back from a tough loss (at Headingley) is admirable, and I said how proud I was with everyone for that,” the Australia coach was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
“But also, over the last couple of years, we haven’t necessarily performed at our best after a win. We had a really good opportunity after winning the first Test, but we didn’t necessarily turn up to the Lord’s Test as well as we could have, and we didn’t turn up to this Test (Fifth Test).
“Really good teams do that. I think that’ll be part of the maturity of our side. The way we were in this series, we aren’t a great team yet. We are a good team, we are a maturing team and we’ve got some great players in it, but we’re aspiring to be a great cricket team.”
Batting failures, especially in the opening department, proved to be Australia’s undoing at Headingley and the Oval even though Steve Smith himself racked up 774 runs in just seven innings.
While admitting his team’s shortcomings with the bat in the series, Langer took comfort from the displays of the bowling unit led by the No1 ranked Pat Cummins.
“There’s a real challenge for young Australian batters,” Langer said.
“The ones who want to step up and score lots of runs and work hard on their footwork patterns and techniques and ability to score runs – it’s a pretty exciting time.
“That’s a big challenge moving forward. But with this exciting fast bowling group we’ve got, if we start batting well we’ll win a lot of games of cricket.”
After a long and extensive tour of England which included the 2019 World Cup as well as the Ashes, Langer and Australia will enjoy a brief break before they turn their attentions to the home T20 clashes against Sri Lanka and Pakistan towards the end of October.
Their next assignment in the ICC World Test Championship will come in a two-match series at home against Pakistan in November.
Pakistan head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq has named a 20-man probable squad which will undergo a training camp for the upcoming limited-overs clashes against Sri Lanka at home.
The training camp is set to get underway at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore on Wednesday and will help prepare the side for the three ODIs and as many T20s slated to take place against Sri Lanka.
Misbah will announce the final Pakistan squad for the Sri Lanka clashes on September 21 following the conclusion of the training camp at Lahore.
The two biggest omissions from the 20 probables are veterans Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez who had both been earlier granted a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to participate in the ongoing Caribbean Premier League until October 12.
Pakistan will first face Sri Lanka in a three-match ODI series which begins at Karachi on September 27. The entire ODI leg will be held at Karachi before the two teams move on to Lahore for the three T20s which will culminate with the third and final clash on October 9.
Probables for Sri Lanka series announced— PCB Media (@TheRealPCBMedia) September 16, 2019
However, there has been a spanner thrown into the works for the proposed Sri Lanka tour of Pakistan with SLC (Sri Lanka Cricket) currently reassessing the security conditions. The development came in the light of a tip-off from the Sri Lankan government for a potential terror threat to the tour.
Meanwhile, PCB chairman Ehsan Mani has stated that the tour will not be moved to a neutral venue and is expecting Sri Lanka to honour their commitments towards visiting Pakistan.
10 senior Sri Lanka players including Lasith Malinga and Dimuth Karunaratne had earlier pulled out of the tour citing security concerns with SLC subsequently naming rejigged ODI and T20 outfits led by Lahiru Thirimanne and Dasun Shanaka respectively.
Pakistan probables for Sri Lanka clash
Sarfaraz Ahmed (c), Babar Azam (vice-capt), Abid Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, Asif Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Umar Akmal, Usman Shinwari, and Wahab Riaz.