Ashes 2023: A series of big hitting, ruthless bowling and some of the most entertaining cricket ever seen
The 2023 Men’s Ashes has come to an end- and it’s one which won’t be forgotten in a hurry
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On a sunny evening in South London, the LV= Insurance Men’s Ashes Test drew to a close. It was Stuart Broad who picked up the final wicket, which poignantly was the last ball he would bowl in the sport. An in-swinging ball found the edge of Alex Carey’s bat, and Jonny Bairstow took the catch ensured the five match series ended 2-2.
Broad ran straight to his best mate James Anderson for a last hug on a cricket pitch, and it felt like a deserving end to a brilliant summer of Test cricket. It was the last time we’ll see many of these players in an Ashes series in England, and it's unlikely even the old guard of either team would have played in one half as exciting.
The series was one of the most highly anticipated of recent times, and it lived up to pretty much every expectation set by players, press and fans. The discourse of this series included highs and lows for both sides, and in the end it was nothing but the Manchester rain stopping what could have been a dramatic, gun-slinging and adrenaline pumping series decider at The Oval.
England’s Bazball attitude to cricket was the talk of the town on the days and weeks leading to the opening Test at Edgbaston. It had worked countless times before, the big hitting and fast scoring version of the sport’s longest format had won multiple matches around the world. Yet the visit of Australia was touted as the new regime’s biggest challenge so far.
When Josh Tongue had his leg stump dismantled by Mitchell Starc at Lord’s, the wicket which sealed victory for Australia and put them 2-0 up from 2 games, it looked as though this challenge was to be a step too far. England needed a change of attitude, and whilst not changing how they batted, something was switched up.
Mark Wood and Chris Woakes were in the squad, but didn’t get the nod until the Third Test at Headingley. In Leeds, England got their just rewards from brutal batting and lethal bowling. Wood and Woakes got us over the line, and the lifeline England desperately needed was secured. Australia looked flat, and the momentum of Edbaston and Lord’s was lost.
As the dust settles on the series and with the benefit of hindsight, It was two days of Manchester rain which put the damper on England’s chances of a historic comeback series win. The Fourth Test at Old Trafford was heavily in England’s favour at the end of the third day, and even one more full day had many pundits predicting a win for the home side. The rain came on the fourth day, and it barely stopped until well after the allocated close of play on the final day. Watching the rain lash down, knowing that England’s Ashes hope were drifting away, was frustrating- but the series was far from over.
Heading into the Fifth and final Test, Australia knew that a win or draw would seal their first series win in England since 2001. Much like with Headingley and Old Trafford, England looked the more likely to get the job down at The Oval. England’s second innings was quintessential ‘Bazball, with 395 coming from just over 81 overs. In an attempt to try and bat Australia out of the match, England were ruthless.
The final day was about as dramatic as expected. England struck early, then Steve Smith and Travis Head formed a strong partnership. The next drama came in the form of a rain delay, and when the sun shone again Australia crumbled with England taking the last 7 wickets for 70 runs.
The series started with a crunching four hit by Zak Crawley, and it was rounded off by Broad- a man making his final bow in cricket. In between, we got treated to a series which was another scintillating chapter of the sport’s oldest rivalry.