This is a collection of cricketing statistics. Look away now if you don't want to take in this level of pointless analysis.
Australia all out for 98? That's the lowest first innings ashes score since England crumbled to all out for 77 in 1997 at Lord's, and the lowest Australian first innings Ashes score since their spectacular collapse in the 1909 series at Edgbaston, all out for 74. A game I'm sure none of us can forget, where England cruised to a ten wicket victory after Hobbs was lbw on 0 in the first innings but smashed a triumphant 62 in the second to see England home. Shame we went on to lose that series after V.S. Ranford hit a stunning 143 in the second test. That 143 not out was actually his test best, far eclipsing his otherwise not extra-ordinary average of 37.84, which counts his single test hundred and sole test six. Vernon Seymour Ranford certainly raised his game for tests against England.
If you discount Ponting's only half-decent performance in this series, a knock of 51 not out, his average is a delightful 7. Including that 51, it's 93 he's made in 7 innings so, even with his 51, his average is 13.3. Ponting is a man on the wane. Even Mitchell Johnson has a higher top score (62) and a better average (21). Eat that, Ponting!
I have stats pouring out of me today. Uh oh, I feel another one coming... Ricky Ponting has lasted an average of just 28.42 balls against the English bowlers. Even if he were to hit a six for each of those balls, graciously including the .42, he would score only 170, a full 87 runs shy of his test best of 257!
Statistics are great. I always become an amateur statistician in the Ashes period. It's the best thing about cricket.
I think I'm saying what we're all thinking when I say Hussey (Average this series of 87.5) is the best batsman the Australians have and should be batting at 3, relegating Ponting to "Somewhere else, preferably not on the team".
Speaking of best players, England's finest, Alistair Cook's average is 115, but he still has the rest of this innings to raise that up to something ridiculous, hopefully by eclipsing his 235* test best against the Australians. Preferably raising his average to something around the 200 mark. His test average in general is 45.83, meaning he plays 2.51 times better against Australia (In this series) than all other nations. He's not even this good against Bangladesh (test average of 66.83 against them).
Let's take a moment to compare the two captains, shall we? Strauss has taken 5 catches this series, Ponting an unremarkable three. Strauss has racked up another test century (110), and could smash a passing bumblebee to the ropes with perfect timing, whilst Ponting couldn't knock a beachball lobbed to him by an elderly woman, or perhaps an infirm child, to mid-off for a quick single without edging it through the slips for four. Probably why his best is 51*. Strauss averages 40.33; so far, his innings hasn't yet ended in Melbourne, and I fully expect him to score that elusive triple century.
So Strauss is 1.66 times better as a fielder, and 3.037 times better on average as a batsman. What more do I need to say?
We haven't even LOOKED at the bowlers, but Graeme Swann has 5/91 against the Aussies in Adelaide, whilst their best spinner, Xavier Doherty, picked up 2/41, which sounds alright, but Swann's worst was either 2/128 or 0/51, whilst Doherty's worst was 0/107, or 1/158 (2/128 and 0/107 both coming in the same match, so not really a spinner's pitch). Siddle may have picked up 6/54 in the first test (Including that rare beast, the Ashes hat-trick) but also bowled 0/121 so "hit and miss". Australia's best bowling figures were Mitchell Johnson's 6/38 in the 3rd test off the back of his impressive batting (62), but without the confidence of solid batting to spur him on, he bowled 0/66 and 0/104 in the 2 innings of the first test, at 4.04 runs per over. Whilst England's Jimmy Anderson has been fantastically consistent, his worst figures being 0/15, his best being 4/44 and 4/51, desperately unlucky not to pick up a five wicket haul on either occasion. And Chris Tremlett, back in the side, has made a fantastic start, picking up 12 wickets in 3 innings for just 176 runs, including 4/26 and a five-fer. Even Bresnan's nipped in on the act.
The difference is, all of England's bowlers can have a good day, whilst only one Australian can. Yes, Siddle got 6/54 in the first innings, but he's picked up just one wicket since, and bowled a 0/121, and the best anyone else managed that test was 2/41. Yes, Johnson bowled 6/38, but he's only had 3 wickets in the other 3 innings, and bowled a 0/104. Hilfenhaus has picked up only 2 wickets in his 4 bowling innings. Ryan Harris is the only bowler who seems anything like a consistent threat, his worst figures being 2/84, his best, 6/87. The third test was the first the Australian bowlers dared to be in form at the same time, with Johnson and Harris picking up 9 wickets each, a six-wicket haul each in separate innings. As long as we can avoid that (And at 157/0, it's looking pretty likely that we have) England should be home and dry.
So, to summarise, England's batsmen have been on top, England's bowlers have been more consistent, and in general, England's fielding has been better (Trott's run out of Katich is a good example). It's no wonder, therefore, that England are destined to keep hold of the Ashes for at the very least, this series. Having made this bold prediction, I fully expect them to collapse to 201 all out, with an embarrassing run-out that'll be shown on Question of Sport for generations with that Inzamam-Ul-Haq wicket where the tripped over to Monty Panesar and basically fell over the wicket. I can imagine Sue Barker laughing at it now.