Slider

Best Players From the Fourth Test of Ashes 2021/22

If you are a football fanatic, you will be aware of the phenomenon called third-place playoff. From FIFA World Cup to the Copa America, many major tournaments organize a match between the losing semi-finalists to determine who comes third.

Beyond the facade of providing magical consolation just days after your biggest dream has been devastated, this match does not serve a purpose. In a bilateral series in cricket, any match after the fate of a series has been decided could be compared to the third-place playoff.

A dead rubber, as it is affectionately called, lacks the very aspects which make sport special – thrill, intensity and consequence.  When Australia took on England at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 5th January, it was to contest in one such dead rubber.

Being the fourth Test match of a five-match series whose fate was already sealed after the Aussies won the first three matches – this game could easily have enlisted itself in the assemblage of sporting snooze-fests.

However, despite having no ostensible consequence, it was a significant game – solely because it belonged to perhaps the greatest bilateral series of the sport, where rodomontading could lead a team to produce one of their better performances in a long while, albeit with nothing at stake.

What unfolded Sydney is a quintessential, clichéd yet cogent testament of the fact that Test cricket, is perhaps sport’s solitary invention that can keep you at the edge of your seat for five consecutive days, only to leave you hanging without a closure.

Australia put up a humongous total of 416/8 in the first innings, before England replied with a characteristically meek 294. The hosts declared at 265/6 in the second innings, and though at one stage if felt a 4-0 scoreline is inevitable, the Englishmen dug deep to play out 64 deliveries under floodlight without losing all of their wickets, as five days of unending drama produced all but two words – Match Drawn.

Let us have a look at the best players from the fourth Ashes Test:

 

1. Usman Khawaja

By looking at the scoreline, it is not too difficult to conclude Australia have had some spectacular individual performances this season, but not necessarily from the usual suspects.

By looking at the scoreline, it is not too difficult to conclude Australia have had some spectacular individual performances this season, but not necessarily from the usual suspects.

When skipper Pat Cummins was unavailable for the Adelaide Test, Jhye Richardson came good and picked up five wickets, while in the very next game, Scott Boland took his place and picked up seven wickets in what was his Test debut.

The pattern was adhered to in this match, as Usman Khawaja, who was included in the playing XI only because Travis Head tested positive for COVID-19, became only the third batter ever in score tons in both innings of a Sydney Cricket Ground Test match – joining the elite company of Doug Walters and Ricky Ponting.

The local lad was making a comeback after missing Australia’s last fourteen Tests, but it seemed as if he had never left the scene. Khawaja scored 137 runs from 260 deliveries in the first innings, and then took the hosts from 86/4 to a respectable total in the second innings, courtesy of his unbeaten 101.

 

2. Stuart Broad

Chances are, you have come across this pun gazillion times in the past, but Stuart Broad’s influence in this match should broadly be categorized into three aspects – his bowling in the first innings, his batting in England’s first innings and then his exceptional display of character and grit in the visitors’ fourth innings.

To start off, he claimed a fifer in the first innings of the match, dismissing some key batters in the likes of Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja. He then played a decent hand of 15 in England first innings.

The 35-year-old went wicketless in the Aussies’ second innings and would perhaps have thought his part in the Test was all but done, except that England needed him again, in the fourth innings, and now more than ever before.

Broad was asked to play out the last few overs of Day 5 and somehow prevent a possible whitewash. To provide him company from the other end was Jack Leach at first, who has a Test average of 13.50, and then Jimmy Anderson, whose Test average is 9.27 despite remaining unbeaten on 103 occasions. The battle seemed lost, but Broad fought hard for his 35-ball 8, saving the day for the Three Lions.

 

3. Scott Boland

At 32, cricketers might start taking major decisions on their future, but Scott Boland has decided to become a seemingly indispensable member of a formidable Australia Test team. His seven wickets in Melbourne was so enthralling that Boland has only gone and done it again and is now boasting of a Test average that can put anyone’s statistics to shame – 8.64.

He took four wickets in the first innings, which included the most important wicket of the ten Australia took, that of Jonny Bairstow’s. The Melbourne lad then followed it up with his three scalps in the second innings, getting the better of Bairstow yet again.

 

4. Jonny Bairstow

Whether Test cricket is the purest format of the game or not is a debate for another day, but the purists who will strongly support that motion might not hold Jonny Bairstow in high regard.

The 32-year-old lacks the aesthetics of a textbook, classy Test batter. The perception about him is that of a swashbuckling limited-overs cricketer, playing shots with a swagger and scoring runs at a brisk pace.

The Bradford-born cricketer’s form did not help his case either, as his last Test century before this match came way back in 2018. Having said that, the two knocks Bairstow played at the SCG could spur widespread revisionism of the Test aesthetics jargon.

With an injured Ben Stokes to provide company, Bairstow scored 113 runs in the first innings, becoming the first English batter to do the unthinkable and register a ton in this series. In the second innings, he played another crucial knock of 41 runs which prevented what could easily have been a trademarked English collapse.

 

 

●●●

VISIT OUR BLOG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT CRICKET NEWS STORIES & FEATURES

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.