End of an era for Ashes greats leaving dancefloor after golden summer


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Jun 13, 2023

End of an era for Ashes greats leaving dancefloor after golden summer

This series was a genuine banger with scant few days of outright dominance but a changing of the guard is inevitable In the hours after Stuart Broad wrapped up the most clippable, clickbait-able Ashes

This series was a genuine banger with scant few days of outright dominance but a changing of the guard is inevitable

In the hours after Stuart Broad wrapped up the most clippable, clickbait-able Ashes in history came one last hunk of red meat for the internet: did England snub Australia for the traditional post‑match drink? Or were the tourists a bit too keen to leave early?

Whatever the mix-up in communications here – something later rectified by the players meeting on the sticky floors of a London nightclub, according to a 4.11am tweet from Ben Stokes – it does seem a bit of a shame after sharing a memorable 2-2 draw, not least for the early birds and non‑drinkers among them.

These after‑play rituals are usually away from the public glare, a chance for the teams to finally unwind in private. Although Danny Reuben, England’s ever-upbeat media manager, did offer a peek behind the curtain four years ago; a lovely snap of players and support staff mingling at the Oval after that drawn Ashes series, whites on, cudgels down, swapping stories and generally decompressing over some cold ones.

David Warner looks like he is beer‑burping something very important to Jack Leach. Sam Curran is possibly explaining how he makes things happen to Steve Smith. Pat Cummins and Chris Woakes are providing scientific evidence that a couple of handsome, unimpeachable good guys do not repel each other like opposing magnets. Four years on, the lack of an all-in repeat may become a regret in time.

But really, over the past six and a bit weeks these two sets of combatants have surpassed expectations that were already sky high, even before Zak Crawley became Champ Kind at Edgbaston and met the first ball from Cummins with “whammy”. The weather in Manchester robbed everyone of the ultimate finale, but the four positive results – fine margins of two wickets, 43 runs, three wickets and 49 runs – plus scant few days of outright dominance underline how golden it all was.

The truth no one is quite ready to accept, having seen a good few greats on both sides go at it for the past decade, is that this is the end of an Ashes era. A changing of the guard is inevitable given the number of thirtysomethings. And who knows what the landscape will be like in 2025‑26 as the red weed of T20 franchise cricket spreads. This may have been the last Ashes that did not involve players seeking release forms from their primary employers to turn out for their national team. Urgh.

Will Smith, 34, be there? Possibly, although folks in Australia do not expect him back here in 2027. If so, then that final 54 in the thwarted run chase at the Oval ends a remarkable time in England: 2,225 Test runs at 55, second only to Don Bradman among tourists. With eight centuries, the last of which came in what proved to be Australia’s Ashes-retaining win at Lord’s, it really is time to put some respect on the name.

Warner says he intends to retire before the next one, while the so often adhesive Usman Khawaja is 36. Nathan Lyon, 35, could return in 2027 given the lesser demands of spin bowling on the body but the fast-bowling cartel will probably change. Mitchell Starc, 33, and Josh Hazlewood, 32, have been coming here since 2013 and fine tourists with it. Cummins, a late arrival in England in 2019 due to injuries early in his career, is slightly younger than them at 30, so he may be back.

Stuart Broad’s performance shows it is possible for all three but any more tributes and his head will not get out of the door. That said, there is sadness this was the last time he will share a field with Jimmy Anderson, who in turn is surely approaching the end. Then there is Moeen Ali, who, like a veteran safe-cracker, was back out of retirement for one last job, sprinkling his own brand of elegant fairy dust, putting team before self, creaking physically but finishing up a match-winner.

Woakes and Mark Wood made for a heartwarming bromance, the latter joking that their own Ashes series – and sadly perhaps their last at 34 and 33 – was won 2-0. Woakes had a mighty series of sizzling seam-up nip, 19 wickets at 18 in three Tests and smacking the winning runs at Headingley. Wood was a genuine mood-shifter, that electric late arrival in the same match turning things up to 11 on the amplifier.

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Stokes, 32, wants to plough on to 2025‑26 provided he can get that gammy knee fixed, while Joe Root, the same age, will surely be there. Both delivered some of their best work, Stokes also underscoring his impressive captaincy. Jonny Bairstow, 33, found form after a ropey start but try telling him this was his last Ashes series.

Did Bazball work? Viewed as a catalyst for thrilling cricket, certainly. For England, given the predictions at the end of 2021‑22 series, just about. They were a bit shabby out of the traps, all self-belief but loose in delivering some of the old-as-time basics. But when it clicked it was some spectacle, answering the question of “can they do it against our boys?” as Crawley and then Bairstow ransacked Old Trafford. That said, it was notable Stokes became more orthodox tactically as the series progressed.

It has not been a great series for the advancement of Anglo-Australian relations. The crowds have been off the charts by way of numbers but beyond the pale on occasion. There has been excellent coverage and analysis, although some of the discourse has been a bit unseemly at times for what is supposed to be entertainment; Botham-Chappell in macrocosm, a never-ending circle of whataboutery.

Perhaps on this score the 30-month break is a good thing. But it is also hard not to be wistful in the afterglow of an Ashes that sees a good few favourites leaving the dancefloor. This was a genuine banger, to which we should all raise a glass.

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