Cameron Green rounds out Australia’s tale of Ashes-winning reserves | Australia cricket team


Imagine if three witches in a forest glade had offered England this deal on a dark November night. Steve Smith, scorer of 11 Ashes hundreds in 20 outings, with an average of over 100 in his previous two Ashes series, would not add to those centuries and would average 30. David Warner, with an Ashes average in Australia of 60, would not make a hundred and would average 34. Marnus Labuschagne, on a streak of 13 Tests averaging 73, would make one small and lucky hundred and average 42. Fast-bowling leader Josh Hazlewood would miss four Tests, Pat Cummins would miss one, and Australia would call on three replacement quicks with two Tests between them.

The thing about witches in a forest glade, as Macbeth could attest, is that beneath the promises lies a catch. Not that England took many of those, but still. Despite all of the above going the touring team’s way, they experienced a series thrashing with few statistical peers. Those top-line players were the focus of supposed years of planning, yet it was Australia’s second rank that dominated whenever called upon.

Travis Head, player of the series for bookending it with two fast centuries at crucial times. Usman Khawaja, his Covid replacement in Sydney, making twin hundreds in the match to join a storied club. Marcus Harris with the decisive hand in Melbourne. Just like previous tours, when the likes of Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh and Brad Haddin reached an ascendancy with the bat that their broader careers would not have suggested possible.

With the ball, there was Scott Boland with the frankly 1800s numbers of 18 wickets at 9.55. Jhye Richardson played once for a match-winning five for 42 – and as a bonus, has the highest batting strike rate ever in an Ashes series for his 17 from seven balls. Mitchell Starc’s history suggested that he would flag but he finished with 19 wickets at 24.35. Michael Neser, with one Test, was the only one of Australia’s nine bowlers to finish with an average higher than Starc. James Anderson was the only one of England nine bowlers to finish with an average lower than Starc.

Scott Boland was almost unheard of by English cricketers and fans before he stepped in to play the Melbourne Test.
Scott Boland was almost unheard of by English cricketers and fans before he stepped in to play the Melbourne Test. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

This pattern of the supporting cast taking the spotlight was demonstrated no more dramatically than by Cameron Green on the final night of the series. He had already made scores of 74 and 23, striking the ball crisply to form partnerships of 121 with Head in the first innings and 49 with Alex Carey in the third. The only dual contributor with the bat, he was the main reason Australia had a lead of 270 going into the fourth. Then he showed up with the ball.

With England batting under darkening skies, descending into evening with floodlights glaring and the pink Kookaburra showing life, you can guess who would be perceived as the main threats. Starc, the day-night king, with 55 wickets in the format. And Cummins, with his diabolical seam movement, third on that list with 30. Zak Crawley and Rory Burns scored quickly against both of them, first with edges, then with increasing fluency. On-drives, square flicks, proper stuff. Nathan Lyon, with 34 pink-ball wickets? He wasn’t called upon. Boland, with his knack for carnage? Leg-glanced repeatedly.

England tallied the best opening stand in the series for either side with 68. Then came Green. Where other bowlers had been survived, the big names seen off, the new arrival brought pace, extreme bounce, and an around-the-wicket line to the left-handers. Burns needed a long DRS review to survive a possible outside edge in Green’s first over. He didn’t survive the inside edge on to his stumps, the ball leaping at his attempted leave. Dawid Malan was bounced and hit on the helmet before being bowled in the same way, left with nowhere to go.

It was a different piece of work to Crawley, a right-hander who likes driving. Green came over the wicket, accepted one lovely boundary as the cost of doing business, then pitched up again with enough outswing to take the outside edge. That meant a burst of three for 17 within five overs, the first three wickets to fall, the two set players gone, and England’s innings soon to fall into disarray.

That same old story, from useful contributor to match-defining threat. Green finished the series with 13 wickets at 15.76, of which only two were tailenders, and of which nine were well-set players on scores of 25 or more. Nothing was more impressive than his final burst, knocking the top off an innings when others could not. Green, Head, Boland: these were not the players who England had planned for, but they had plans of their own.



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