Ashes 2021-22: our writers’ end-of-series awards

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·8-min read
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Ali Martin

Player of the series Pat Cummins was class personified, both as a courteous, seemingly ego-free captain who had Australia playing in his image and the standout fast bowler of his generation.

Breakthrough player Scott Boland arrived mid-series with little by way of fanfare and walked off at the end in Hobart with 18 wickets at 9.5 runs apiece. Build the man a statue.

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Best moment The final session on day two of the Boxing Day Test, when the Melbourne Cricket Ground turned into “The G” and Australia’s quicks charged in with a wall of noise behind them. Thrilling stuff.

One thing I would have changed The schedule change made it understandable in this instance – and the twilight period does make for a stunning backdrop – but one day-night Test match per Ashes series is plenty.

The 2023 Ashes series will be … a golden chance for Australia to claim a series win in England for the first time since 2001 unless the hosts can perform a handbrake turn on their flatlining form in the meantime.

Mark Ramprakash

Player of the series If you asked any of England’s batters which one bowler they would not want to face it would be Pat Cummins, who in his first series as captain was fast, accurate, and led his team excellently.

Breakthrough player I’ve been massively impressed by Cameron Green. Technically he looks a very sound right-hand bat who can play long innings at the highest level, and as a bowler he is tall, strong, hostile and unsettles players with pace and bounce.

Best moment England’s highlight has to be Mark Wood getting six wickets in Hobart. I think he’s such a great character, who brings the team energy, enthusiasm and a point of difference. His first three overs in the final Test went for 30 and his resilience, the way he stuck at his task and came back to earn his reward, is a lesson for all cricketers.

Mark Wood appeals for a wicket in Hobart
Mark Wood appeals for a wicket in Hobart. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

One thing I would have changed I would rewind to the first morning and get England to bowl first. If I’m allowed a second change, obviously I’d also have played Anderson and Broad.

The 2023 Ashes series will be … very hard to predict for England, and by then we might have lost Jimmy Anderson, but I think we will be more competitive.

Barney Ronay

Player of the series Scott Boland, a man having the time of his life against the most joyless opponents imaginable, a glorious and instructive note of contrast.

Breakthrough player Cameron Green, who can be basically anything from here, genuine all-rounder, giant swooping eagle-man predator in the gully, and a cricketer of real grace. The numbers. The numbers are going to be ridiculous.

Best moment For Australia: first ball of the series. Also, everything else that followed. For England: n/a.

One thing I would have changed Complete systemic restructure of professional game, abolition of the ECB in favour of body driven by engagement not profit, quota of annual ringfenced free-to-air TV, serious national investment in public facilities, genuine, no-bullshit 10-year plan to re-engage cricket in schools and lost parts of the demographic. Nobody gets to call themselves “chief executive” or “managing director” (lol) or draw vast personal bonuses.

The 2023 Ashes series will be … very different. This is a low. Details matter. Chris Woakes hooping it around at Edgbaston, one or two semi-functional batters and the root and branch machine will be packed up in the shed for the next three years.

Andy Bull

Player of the series Pat Cummins. Just pips Mitchell Starc, who had a superb all-round series. Cummins took 21 wickets at an average of 18, led his team brilliantly, and did it all without whining, snarling, sledging, or posturing.

Breakthrough player Cameron Green. With all respect to Scott Boland’s Edwardian bowling average, Green looks utterly formidable. The idea of how good Australia could be in the next 10 years now they have a genuine all-rounder is a little terrifying.

Cameron Green in full flow
Cameron Green in full flow. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Best moment Cummins and Starc at the MCG. The way Starc got Rory Burns with the first ball of the series is the moment people will remember, but his spell with Cummins on the second evening at the MCG was as good as Test bowling gets.

One thing I would have changed Everything? The one thing that would have made the most difference in the short term would have been a few proper warm-up games. Even that wouldn’t have saved England.

The 2023 Ashes series will be … either a new low for England, or a landmark on the upslope from this tour. It depends entirely on the decisions the management make in the next couple of months.

Jonathan Liew

Player of the series Travis Head. How different might the series have been without his momentum-shifting hundreds in Brisbane and Hobart? Well, probably not that different. But still, a towering effort.

Breakthrough player Turns out the bowler of the series was an 83mph seamer in his 30s. Unhappily for England it was Scott Boland, Australia’s most spectacular Ashes debutant in a generation.

The 2023 Ashes series will be … probably an England win. Life moves pretty fast, you know.

Best moment The first ball. Who would ever want to forget the ferocious noise at the Gabba, the searing pace of Mitchell Starc, the thrilling clunk of shattered stumps? Well, probably Rory Burns.

One thing I would have changed England’s preparation. Poorly drilled teams play desperate cricket, and England’s capitulation did immeasurable damage to the Ashes brand. Two first-class games should be a bare minimum in future.

The 2023 Ashes series will be … largely unaffected by Covid, riotously entertaining and probably an England win with a new-look team. Life moves pretty fast, you know.

Tanya Aldred

Player of the series A last minute call-up to the captaincy, Pat Cummins did everything with grace, was the series leading wicket-taker, and one end of an electric spell of fast bowling that wonderful Melbourne evening.

Breakthrough player Cameron Green. He bangs the ball in with unerring accuracy, fields like an angel at gully, and by the end was unfurling divine cover drives that defy his 2m height and wingspan.

Best moment Jonny Bairstow’s hundred and Usman Khawaja’s double would be up there, but for Ashes-defining momentum, it has to be Starc’s yorker to topple Burns with the first ball of the series.

Usman Khawaja celebrates his second century at the SCG
Usman Khawaja celebrates his second century at the SCG. Photograph: David Gray/AFP/Getty Images

One thing I would have changed Chosen to bowl at Brisbane. England’s batting morale never recovered from being 11 for three in the first half hour of the series, while a jaunty bowling performance might have stayed that death spiral.

The 2023 Ashes series will be … pimped for all its worth. Cummins will be photographed in the royal box at Wimbledon and England will be better with a Dukes in their hand and the clouds on their back.

Geoff Lemon

Player of the series Scott Boland. Sure he didn’t play the first two, but featured so dramatically from then on. Averaging 9.5 with the ball is like averaging 120 with the bat. Old school.

Breakthrough player Also Boland, but he deserved the main gong too given his returns were so far ahead of everyone else’s. Beneath the radar, but every time he bowled, wickets came.

Related: Ashes 2021-22: Player ratings for Australia’s ruthless rout of England

Best moment Marnus Labuschagne dancing off to cover, getting bowled behind his legs, and ending up flat on his face. Also Stuart Broad repeatedly having the celebrappeal shot down – then declining to review.

One thing I would have changed England’s batting. The coaches for England’s batting. The system that produces England’s batting.

The 2023 Ashes series will be … not as bad as this one. Surely? Won’t it?

Simon Burnton

Player of the series Cameron Green. Only one Englishman scored more runs than him, and only one took more wickets – plus they were often important runs (his partnership with Travis Head in Hobart turned the game) and important wickets (70% were top-five batters). Just 22, he is quite the prospect.

Breakthrough player Not long before his 33rd birthday Scott Boland’s breakthrough was both late and ludicrous, his figures in the second innings of his debut Test in Melbourne – four overs, seven runs, six wickets – reading like some kind of practical joke.

Scott Boland holds the ball aloft after his remarkable spell in Melbourne
Scott Boland holds the ball aloft after his remarkable spell in Melbourne. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Best moment The first ball of the first match sensationally set the tone for a miserable campaign both for Rory Burns individually and the England team as a whole.

One thing I would have changed For all the pain involved this series may come to be seen as important and even beneficial for England, however ideally I wouldn’t have watched any of it, read anything about it or spoken to anyone with any knowledge of it.

The 2023 Ashes series will be … an unhealthy obsession for all of English cricket and general distraction from more useful stuff.

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