Well it’s over… finally. The 72nd edition of the Ashes will not go down as a classic battle. The 2021-22 tour of Australia was Joe Root’s third Ashes series without a win and England’s third tour since they last won a Test.
There are, though, common themes which point to serious issues which remain unresolved despite the formula being so clearly flawed.
This century has seen five captains lead a touring party Down Under, and only Andrew Strauss has won a series. Nasser Hussain remains the only other England captain since the turn of the millennium to have won a Test in Australia, in early 2003.
In all but one series, Michael Vaughan in 2002-03, the highest scorer of the series has come from the winning side: Vaughan, then Ricky Ponting, then Alastair Cook, then David Warner, Steve Smith and Travis Head.
That said, Head’s 357 Ashes runs is the lowest highest run total of any series in Australia this side of 2000.
Mark Wood has earned himself a huge level of admiration this tour for his honesty and he’s rightly pointed out that he and his fellow England bowlers can only do so much when the specialist batters are struggling to build scores.
Of the six centuries to have been scored in this Test series, only one of them, Jonny Bairstow’s 113, belongs to England. Runs protect bowlers and stop them from tiring out.
Six times this series England failed to reach a total of 200 in an innings. That is simply an insufficient number of runs on the board for Root’s side to have ever been competitive. In comparison, just twice did Australia fail to reach 200, and one of those was because they only needed 20 to win.
Following the fifth Ashes Test, former England captain David Gower said: “Poor old Joe Root, I do have genuine sympathy for him.
“He finds himself with people unavailable because where are they? They’re in the IPL. What good is that of English Test cricket?
“This is the oldest and most important form of the game. We need to defend it. We need an England team that plays it well and that’s not languishing at the foot of the World Test Championship.
“These things really annoy people and apparently It’s really annoying me at the moment.”
Gower is right, there is neglect surrounding Test cricket. So much was thrown into white-ball formats and no one can deny they were successful – England won the 2019 one-day World Cup and made the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup last year.
But amid the T20 Blast, the one-day cup, the County Championships and The Hundred in England, there’s just no time for England to assess fringe players.
The difference between being good on an English County standard pitch and being good at the Gabba or the MCG is a chasm.
Seven times this century have England lost by more than an innings, four times by more than seven wickets in the final innings.
There will no doubt be significant discourse to come unpicking every aspect of this tour. But when all is said and done England have notched up another series loss and are once again without a win. It shouldn’t take a genius to dissect that part, at least.