Ashes series player ratings
Sydney, New South Wales
Well well. England, in a fashion that few of their supporters would have dared believe, retained the Ashes with a stunning 3-1 series win. Australia, in a way that their fans found increasingly awful to watch, suffered their worst Ashes defeat in just over 25 years.
Who deserves the plaudits, and who the brickbats? I'll start the debate, and then you pile in.
Andrew Strauss - 9
If the series started in the worst possible fashion for Strauss - out in the first over of the first session of the first Test for a duck - it has ended at the opposite end of the spectrum, only the third English captain in history to win the Ashes both home and away. His batting was solid - an average in the low 40s is historically very good for an England opener in Australia - but it was his captaincy that was inspired. A model of calm and control in the field, he led his side with authority, imagination and class, bringing the
absolute best from almost every one of his players.
Alastair Cook -10
This is one mark that we'll surely all agree on. Arriving in Australia as a supposed weak link at the top of the chain, Cook left it as an indomitable run-machine, breaking records with such unhurried ease that it seems impossible he had an average over eight innings last summer of just 13. His 235 not out saved the game in Brisbane; his big centuries in Adelaide and Sydney set up historic English victories. Only Wally Hammond has scored more runs in a single Test series for his country, and that was in an era of timeless Tests. Man of the series.
Jonathan Trott - 9
In any other Ashes series down under, an England batsman who averaged almost 90 would be the hero of the day. That Trott's achievements have been overshadowed by those of his team-mate one place up the order will bother him not one bit. His century in Melbourne was the pick, a study in ferocious concentration and application, but throughout he was a rock in Australia's path to purgatory. England's best number three in a decade.
Kevin Pietersen - 7
This should be a no-brainer. Pietersen's 227 in Adelaide was the most complete innings of his career, as disciplined as it was destructive, the display Australians had feared from the very start. At the same time, there will be those who think Pietersen let himself down with the bat, wasting good starts and losing his wicket to impetuous shots at inopportune moments, as in the second innings in Perth and first dig in Sydney. In reality, we may be wasting our time expecting one without the other.
Paul Collingwood - 5
If his valedictory series was a poor one with the bat, Collingwood will still leave the Test arena with his head held high. His fielding set the benchmark to which all his team-mates aspire, his attitude energised the team and his bowling was an unheralded factor in allowing England to pick just four front-line bowlers. The catch to remove Ricky Ponting on the first morning in Perth will remain one of the highlights of the series. Colly, thanks for the hard work and memories.
Ian Bell - 8
Four years ago the Sherminator, this time the Terminator. Bell was the most aesthetically pleasing batsman in the series, contributing on almost every occasion despite batting too often with the tail and, through the excellence of those above him, getting far less time at the crease than anyone could have imagined. His maiden Test century against Australia at his 31st attempt was a fitting way to seal an excellent series.
Matt Prior - 8
Along with James Anderson, Prior is one of England's most improved players over the past three years. His glovework was excellent throughout the series, his foot movement sharp and his hands quick both standing back to the quick and up for Graeme Swann. Dismissed for a golden duck in his first innings of the series, he ended it with a thumping century as England compiled their highest ever Test total on Australian soil. Is there currently a better wicketkeeper-batsman in Test cricket?
Stuart Broad - 7
Two wickets from 70 overs across two matches doesn't sound like a great return, especially with not a single run from the bat to add into the mix. In this case, statistics fail to tell the story. Broad's control in Adelaide - he went at just 2.3 runs an over in his truncated series - built the pressure that led to wickets at the other end. He even made his debut as a TMS expert summariser in Perth, which gets him a bonus BBC mark.
Graeme Swann - 7
The Aussies were so scared of his spin wizardry, they prepared green-tinged wickets to thwart him but Swann still took 15 wickets in the series, his best 5-91 coming at Adelaide to put England 1-0 up. He showed his nous to operate within his limitations if there was no spin, performing a great enabling role and tying up an end on many occasions. Not as swashbuckling with the bat as he has been, but he didn't need to be, and special praise for bringing the "sprinkler" dance to the world's attention.
Steve Finn - 8
14 wickets at 33 in your first Ashes series, at the tender age of 21, is a marvellous return for someone still at the very start of his Test career. Finn was expensive at times, and struggled with his length on the unfamiliar Waca surface. Events in Melbourne proved that England were right to bring in Tim Bresnan. But that takes nothing away from the man he replaced.
James Anderson - 9
Tonked all over various ovals four years ago, Anderson shocked the Australian players and public alike with his transformation into a bowler capable of dismissing any batsman at any time. If his line and length were exemplary, his ability to move the new ball and reverse-swing the old one wrought havoc in the Aussie ranks. If his best moment was getting rid of Ricky Ponting for that golden duck in the first over in Adelaide, he was a consistent threat on every surface. The unquestioned leader of England's attack.
Chris Tremlett - 8
Surprise package #1. Some wondered why he had been picked in the squad in the first place; others said he was the wrong man to come in for the injured Stuart Broad. All were proved wrong. Tremlett ended the series a key man in the four-man bowling assault, frightening batsmen with steep bounce and finding movement off the seam at the Waca, MCG and SCG. Built like an ogre, he performed like a prince.
Tim Bresnan - 8
Surprise package #2. He wasn't supposed to have the weapons to succeed at the highest level, but that brilliant spell at the MCG of three wickets for two runs in 18 balls after tea on the third day, including the prize wickets of Ponting and Hussey, proved the doubters wrong. Continued to pose a threat in the fifth Test, finding movement off the seam and keeping a wonderfully tight line, and gives the England attack tremendous strength in depth.
Andy Flower - 10
Appointed amid the ruins of the Pietersen-Moores regime, Flower has gradually remoulded this England team into the fittest, best-prepared and most unified side in memory. The batsmen delivered, the bowling plans worked and the fielding excelled. The squad selection was proved faultless, and the changes in personnel made during the series all came off a treat. Neither will he stop here: he has already set his targets on the World Cup and then the number one spot in the Test rankings. He may yet achieve both.
Shane Watson - 6
435 runs is a fine return for an opening batsman, particularly in a team that's as consistently under the pump as this Australian side has been. Watson should be content. What will leave him unsatisfied is that he failed to play any innings that had a decisive effect on a match, and failed to build on so many good starts. He was also involved in three run-outs, all three of them utterly needless, and his bowling - 3-233 across the five matches - lacked any sort of menace.
Simon Katich - 5
If this was the end for Katich - and he refuses to throw in the towel, despite his advancing years - it was no sort of farewell. In the four innings before his Achilles problem ruled him out of the rest of the series he was averaging just 24, run out in that dramatic first over in Adelaide and sitting alone in the stands, far from his team-mates, for the rest of the day. If he was three years younger he would probably be Australia's next captain.
Ricky Ponting - 2
Could this Ashes series have been any worse for Ricky Ponting? Not in his most fevered nightmares could he have conjured up a total of just 113 runs, at an average of just 13. As the trot developed he looked a little unlucky to be getting out - nicking behind off his hip in Brisbane, seen off by one of the great slip catches in Perth by Paul Collingwood - but gradually the awful truth dawned: one the best batsmen of all time was on the slide. He wants to come back, and he wants to come back as captain; you'd say he had little chance, but who else is there?
Michael Clarke - 3
At his best a wonderful, free-flowing batsman, Clarke endured a miserable series. An average of just 21 would be bad enough for a number seven, let alone a number four and vice-captain, but it was the manner of many of his dismissals - wafting or pushing hard outside off - that was almost as bad. Given the captaincy after Ponting's finger injury to widespread dismay in the Aussie public, his young side was taken to the cleaners at the SCG. If he wasn't skipper, would his form be enough to keep him in the side?
Michael Hussey - 8
Australia's sole genuine success story. Had Hussey been dropped before the first Test, as so nearly happened, Australia could have lost this series 5-0. That might sound like an exaggeration, but remove his runs from the scorecards in Brisbane and Perth and then see what you think. Played beautifully in the first three Tests, showing excellent judgement outside off and driving and cutting beautifully; his relative failures in the final two Tests were the final nail in his country's coffin.
Marcus North - 2
Never popular with Australian supporters outside Western Australia, North managed just 49 runs at 16 in the first two Tests and found himself jettisoned after the thrashing in Adelaide. In some ways the timing was unfortunate - he prospers at the Waca, and at 31 years old and his state's captain he could have been an outside bet for national skipper. Steve Smith was also no improvement at six. Instead, he finds himself on the international scrapheap.
Brad Haddin - 7
Always a strong batsman, Haddin impressed with great self-control in his huge stand with Hussey at the Gabba and with attacking brio at times elsewhere. Played loose shots to get out in Melbourne and Sydney, but on both occasions he had been left in the lurch by his top order. Not the tidiest gloveman, but kept going throughout a monstrous 800 overs behind the timbers as his bowlers toiled.
Mitchell Johnson - 4
First the good news for Mitchell: he took 15 wickets, including a match-winning haul of eight on the hard bounce of the Waca, to end the series as Australia's leading wicket-taker. Now the bad news: those scalps cost him 554 runs. Everywhere but the Waca he was innocuous at best and, at worst, a liability. Scored twice as many half-centuries as his skipper Ponting, which was saying a lot less than it once was, and completed his final spell of the Ashes being mercilessly taunted by half the ground.
Xavier Doherty - 1
Brought in to be the left-armed spinner who would see off Kevin Pietersen, Doherty instead found himself another unfortunate entry on one of the longest lists in Australian cricket: spinners who have failed to replace Shane Warne. If it was bad in Brisbane, it was awful in Adelaide - a double ton for Pietersen, spell after barren spell and not a sniff of control. His Test figures? 3-306. Was he really better than Nathan Hauritz?
Peter Siddle - 6
Began with that sensational hat-trick on his birthday in Brisbane and bagged another six-for on his home ground at the MCG. In between it wasn't quite so pretty - he took just two other wickets - but at least he tried his heart out. Would he have got near an Australian side of old? Probably not. But when the cupboard is almost bare, a cheese sandwich sometimes has to suffice.
Ben Hilfenhaus - 3
Such a danger in English conditions during the Ashes of 2009, Hilfenhaus began the series with the prize scalp of the English skipper in his very first over. That was about as good as it got. Took just six more wickets in the rest of the series for an overall average of 59 and was probably relieved to have missed the mayhem in Adelaide. No English batsman feared facing him.
Ryan Harris - 7
Whole-hearted and dangerous in the right conditions, Harris was Australia's best bowler in Adelaide. That's a little like saying that Siobhan was the best singer in Bananarama, but still. Bowled beautifully during England's second innings in Perth, picking up 6-47 to blow a huge chunk in the top order, but then broke down with a stress fracture of the left ankle in Melbourne. Deserves another bite at Test cricket.
Doug Bollinger - 2
Australia's most effective bowler over the previous year, Bollinger never recovered full fitness nor momentum after being injured on the tour of India in October. Overlooked for Brisbane, he took the England skipper's wicket in his first over at Adelaide and then, in his captain's words, "hit the wall". His 1-130 ensured he would not get another chance in the series.
Phillip Hughes - 1
Picked when horribly out of form, Hughes convinced no-one in his six innings. 97 runs at an average 16 spells it out: his technique is still too flawed for him to succeed at Test level. Looked most settled in the second innings at Melbourne, only to be run out, but needs a major overhaul.
Steve Smith - 2
One day Smith might make a Test player, but not yet. Woefully out of his depth at number six, neither did he pose enough of a threat with his occasional leg-spin to be picked as a bowler, going 0-138 in the two matches where he was tossed the ball.
Usman Khawaja - 5
Brought in for his Test debut in difficult circumstances, he did enough in the first innings to suggest he has a Test future. Undone by clever bowling and field placement in the first innings, he found Anderson's swing too much in the second, fooled by a great out-swinger after a series of in-swingers. Give him time.
Michael Beer - 2
He was better than Xavier Doherty, but that's hardly praise. Went 1-112 on debut, having been denied Cook's wicket on just 46 by his own no-ball, after being left out in Perth and Melbourne despite the selectors initially insisting he would be picked. Will get another chance despite his lack of impact here.
Tim Nielsen - 3
Australia's players, with one notable exception, batted feebly. They bowled with less discipline and success and dropped more chances. The players originally selected struggled; those brought in to replace them generally did worse. Not all of this is the coach's fault. He can only work with the material he's given. But what he did do brought few results.