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Australia's Ashes victory a testament to Smith's artistry and Paine's resolve

Australia retained the Ashes after winning the Manchester Test and now lead the five-match Test series 2-1 with one match to go at The Oval.

India TV Sports Desk India TV Sports Desk
New Delhi Published on: September 10, 2019 14:38 IST
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Australia's Ashes victory a testament to Smith's artistry and Paine's resolve

Do you believe in luck? In the alignment of stars bringing all the good fortune? If England's summer is anything to go by, one would certainly be compelled to revisit the supernatural abilities of constellations.

England reached the semifinal, and then the final of the 2019 World Cup when at one stage in the tournament, they almost faced a looming scare of being knocked out. And then, the final; A lot has been written about the drama which unfolded, but words still fall short of that epic game at Lord’s.

In the ongoing Ashes series, England were handed a tough loss in the first Test in Edgbaston. Steve Smith, who, by then, may have already set the record for being the most booed cricketer in a country, was dishing out sweet replies with the bat.

In the next Test, however, Smith suffered from an injury, and in the third, England's World Cup hero Ben Stokes defied all odds to lead England to yet another dramatic victory in Leeds.

“Surely, it’s England’s year,” everyone thought.

But it was Tim Paine and his Australian side – or the UnAustralian side – whatever you may want to call, which triumphed in the end.

Australia reached England as an underdog, and that tag stayed with them as they geared up for the Ashes. England had barely recovered from the euphoria of their first World Cup win, and that showed when they faced a scare against Ireland. The Aussies, on the other hand, received a big boost with the comeback of Smith and David Warner in the longest format - two blokes who made a mistake, endured it all and were eager to prove themselves all over again.

Warner may not have had the best of tours, but Smith, with his performances in the series so far, has reignited the comparisons with Sir Don Bradman. Smith has scored over 650 runs in the series, having missed one-and-a-half Tests. He is the highest scorer as well, while England’s highest run-getter is yet to cross the 400-run mark. 

Smith stood between England and the Ashes. It was as simple as that. The English bowlers tried everything at him, and his lowest score in the series so far remains 82. His unorthodox batting style may earn fans retweets and shares, but it made all the difference between Australia's cries of cheer and England's sighs of despair. Smith, with his incredible performance in the tour, washed the stains which so deeply settled in Australian cricket in the last 18 months.

And even as Smith played a major role in Australia's win, their team did play better cricket than the hosts throughout the series. They were powerful, tight, more organized than their arch-rivals, and most importantly, tactically better than England in their own conditions. Ben Stokes was able to fight them off and he pulled out a miracle in the third Test, but a series win was too much to ask of him.

Smith has led from the front but in the end, as Australia retained the Ashes after another thriller in Manchester, there is one more man, who needs to get a mention and perhaps for just one decision and one decision itself. Tim Paine. The wicketkeeper-batsman's inspiring thought of introducing Marnus Labuschagne when Jack Leech and Craig Overton were grinding in the overs and edging England towards another miracle worked wonders. The part-time leg-spinner somehow got rid of Leech, who had played 51 balls for his 12 and looked set to deny Australia another victory. But, not that day. The gamble paid off and he was gone thanks to some smart thinking from Paine.

The Australia captain, who took over from his buddy last year, has had bad moments. Calls of replacing him got louder when they lost to India 1-2 in the four-match Test series at the start of the year. Since then, Paine was dropped from ODIs and was under the scanner as the Aussies arrived in England for the sternest test of them of all but in the end he passed it with flying colours by becoming the first skipper since Steve Waugh since 2001 to win an Ashes series in England. 

Also, Pat Cummins. Cummins's spell on day four of the Test match was a nightmare for any batsman. He was breathing fire and got rid of Rory Burns and Joe Root with two peaches and next day, returned to get Jason Roy, who finally got some runs in his new role and then the big fish in Stokes before Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood ran through the middle-order despite some resistance from Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Overton.

It has been a series where every Australian has performed when called upon and led by Steven Smith with his bat, a smile and performances that made Englishmen his fans.

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