Ashes 2019 review: No1 ranked Steve Smith and Pat Cummins headline combined XI

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Smith and Cummins were Australia's heroes in England.

An extensive English summer drew to a close on Sunday with the hosts clinching victory in the final Test at the Oval to level matters in the Ashes series against Australia.

The visitors had already retained the historic urn after their win in the fourth Test although they missed out on the chance to become the first Aussie side to win the Ashes on English soil since 2001.

The hosts, on the other hand, will take a drawn series after a summer that also saw them end their excruciating wait for a World Cup title.

At the end of a hard-fought Ashes series, we take a look at which players make our combined XI from both sides.

Rory Burns

The Englishman was the outlier in what was a horror series for openers in the Ashes with the left-hander accumulating 390 runs with the help of a ton and two half-centuries.

Rory Burns has been a class apart among the Ashes openers.

Rory Burns has been a class apart among the Ashes openers.

Joe Denly

The 33-year-old got progressively better as the Ashes wore on and performed an admirable job as a makeshift opener for England in the final Test.

Marnus Labuschagne

The Queenslander came into the Australia XI as a concussion substitute for Steve Smith and did not look back with four fifties on the bounce. Showed an accomplished technique to boot.

Steve Smith

A sensational return to Test cricket after a gap of nearly 16 months for Smith who racked up 774 runs at a staggering average of 110.57. A double ton at Headingley, twin tons at Edgbaston and other scores of 92, 82, 80 and 23 were Smith’s returns in a display for the ages.

Steve Smith was sensational on his Test return for Australia.

Steve Smith was sensational on his Test return for Australia.

Joe Root

The England skipper bagged three ducks in the series in a sub-par display but was still one of the better batsmen on display with four half-centuries to his name. He makes it as skipper over Tim Paine after what was a shocking series with regards to DRS calls from the Australian.

Ben Stokes

England’s man-of-the-series followed up his incredible World Cup act with an even better one at Headingley to keep the hosts alive in the Ashes. The second-highest run-scorer in the series with two tons and as many half-centuries along with eight wickets with the ball as well.

Stokes is the man of the moment for England.

Stokes is the man of the moment for England.

Matthew Wade (wk)

The left-hander played as a specialist batsman in the series but he takes the gloves in our XI with Paine and Bairstow not exactly standing out with the bat. Two centuries including a superb one at the Oval for Wade in a fine Test comeback.

Pat Cummins

The No1 ranked bowler in the world went some way to justifying that tag with 29 wickets at an average below 20 in the series. Cummins has played his part in Australia retaining the Ashes by finishing as the top wicket-taker in both the 2017 and the 2019 series.

Jofra Archer

The England pacer’s Test debut was a hotly anticipated one and he more than delivered by picking up 22 wickets in his four appearances. He was instrumental in both England victories by picking up six-wicket hauls in the first innings of the Headingley and Oval Tests.

Jack Leach

The orthodox left-armed spinner outshone his Australia counterpart Nathan Lyon despite picking up fewer wickets. While Lyon claimed 20 wickets in five Tests, they came after bowling a total of 242 overs.

Leach’s 12 wickets, on the other hand, came off just 101 overs in comparison.

Leach (1)

Josh Hazlewood

The Australia seamer did not play the first Test but his impact was instant once he was drafted into the playing XI. 20 wickets at an average of only 21.85 for Hazlewood who showed exceptional control with his lines and lengths.

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Ashes 2019 review: The biggest hits, flops and surprises featuring Jack Leach and David Warner

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Leach turned into an unlikely Ashes hero for England at Leeds.

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.

FLOPS

David Warner

David Warner.

David Warner.

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.

Jason Roy

Jason Roy's red-ball struggles show no signs of stopping.

Jason Roy’s red-ball struggles show no signs of stopping.

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.

Marcus Harris

Harris has been no better than Bancroft and Warner.

Harris has been no better than Bancroft and Warner.

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.

HITS

Steve Smith

Steve Smith in a league of his own.

Steve Smith in a league of his own.

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.

Pat Cummins

Cummins has been Australia's hero with the ball.

Cummins has been Australia’s hero with the ball.

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.

Ben Stokes

Stokes (15)

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.

SURPRISES

Marnus Labuschagne

A fine Ashes debut for Labuschagne.

A fine Ashes debut for Labuschagne.

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.

Jack Leach

Leach made quite the impact in the Ashes for England.

Leach made quite the impact in the Ashes for England.

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.

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Justin Langer feels Australia have a long way to go to be considered as a great Test side

Sport360 staff 16/09/2019
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Justin Langer has issued a fresh challenge for Australia.

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).

Australia head coach Justin Langer.

Australia head coach Justin Langer.

“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.

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