Even though Australia have managed to retain the Ashes in England, former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting said that the 2-2 scoreline doesn’t do justice to how well the Tim Paine-led side played in the five-match series.
The visitors were outclassed in the final Test but it’s the second and third encounter which Ponting believes Australia should have won. On day four of the second Test with the match hanging in the balance, David Warner dropped Ben Stokes at first slip and the all-rounder went on to score a century. The match ended in a draw. On the very next Test, it was once again Stokes’ brilliance that led England to an unbelievable victory.
“Australia will look at it as a series of missed opportunities. I think they’ve clearly been the better team. They’ve clearly played better cricket throughout the series,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
“They should have won at Headingley. If Warner catches Stokes pretty early on at Lord’s I think they probably would have gone on to win that game as well.
“That’s the way I think they’ll look at it. Two-two is not a fair reflection.”
Australia were once sloppy on the field on the opening day of the fifth Test and allowed England to post 294 in their first innings. Ponting however feels it was the batting unit that let Australia down.
“Once they decided to bowl first, they had to go on and get a first innings lead,” Ponting said.
“Knowing how dry the wicket was and how dry it looked, they couldn’t afford to be behind in the game after both teams had batted once.
“Once they bowled England out for 294 they just had to get 350. If they got 350 they were in the game.”
Ponting also heaped heavy praise on Steve Smith who amassed 774 runs in seven innings at an average of 110.57. Apart from Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Matthew Wade were the only two other Australian batsmen who managed to score some runs in the series.
“Steve Smith has been unbelievably good,” he said. “Wade has made a couple of hundreds. The top-order batting has been a huge disappointment for them.
“The opening partnerships through the series haven’t been good enough. You take Smith, Labuschagne and Wade getting a second innings hundred here, you take them out and there’s been a lot of question marks about the batting.
“They bowled particularly well, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood have been outstanding, Nathan Lyon has had another good series with the ball. The bowling group can hold their head really high.
“The boys have been on the road for five months. Making a World Cup semi-final and retaining the Ashes 2-2, it’s been a good few months for Australian cricket.”