Welcome to The Data Day, our rolling Ashes stats blog for 2021-22. Here, we use data to try and make sense of what just happened and why. And when we can’t, we ask our models what they think.

December 28, Day 3

England 68 // Australia win by an innings and 14 runs

Wow. At the start of this Ashes series, even the most optimistic England fan (do you exist anymore?) would have conceded it was going to be extremely difficult for England to come to Australia and do anything more than put up a good fight. But they didn’t even get that.

Instead, England lost the Ashes in 12 days. 12 days takes some doing… England spent longer than that quarantining at the start of the tour.

Resuming day three on 31-4, England were bowled out for just 68 in just over an hour, with debutant Scott Boland ripping through the order to take an astonishing 6-7.

It was all embarrassingly easy for Australia really. And the muted celebratory tweet from their captain Pat Cummins sums it up. “Was it really that straightforward?”

For England, there will be huge fallout from this defeat. Questions have already started swirling around Joe Root’s future as captain, the future of head coach Chris Silverwood and around the state of England’s county cricket game. All are justified. But here is not the place you’ll find those questions discussed.

Instead, you’ll find the stats and storylines from this Test and from 2021 as a whole. England fans, look away now. Australia fans (tbh all non-England fans too) get ctrl + c at the ready.  

  • Joe Root’s insane 2021 comes to an end. Not that he’ll care right now, but he amassed 1,708 Test runs in 2021 which is the third most in a calendar year in history.
  • England’s reliance on him for runs was historic. The skipper scored 26% of England’s runs in men’s Tests in 2021, the highest % of a team’s runs in a calendar year in Test history (min. 10 games). He finished ahead of Viv Richards (25.3% West Indies 1976) and Michael Clarke (24.5% Australia 2012) in this respect.
  • There’s been a lot of noise about England’s duck numbers this year. They were fast approaching their own record set back in 1998 for the most ducks in a calendar year. Did they get over the line? Not quite, but they tied that record for the most ducks in one year (54).
  • Yes, England’s third-highest ‘scorer’ in 2021 was extras (412), behind Root’s 1,708 and Rory Burns’ 530.
  • The last time England were dismissed for fewer than 200 runs in both innings of a men’s Test against Australia was in the Sydney Test in January 2014 (155 & 166).
  • England’s 68 all out is their lowest total in Australia since March 1904 and their ninth lowest score against them in Tests.
  • Scott Boland took a wicket in every single one of his overs on his way to figures of 6-7.
  • His bowling figures are the best innings figures of an Australian debutant in men’s Tests since Jason Krejza took 8-215 against India in November 2008. But come on, we all know what figures we’d rather have…
  • Boland took his wickets at an average of 1.16. That’s the joint-fourth lowest average for a five-for or more in Test history.
  • Cameroon Green’s Ashes-winning delivery that rattled James Anderson’s off-stump was just the 1,084th ball in the Test. At 180.4 overs, this was the shortest completed Test match in Australia since 1950-51.

Those numbers are stark. England will start 2022 hoping to avoid the ignominy of a 5-0 whitewash. It’s hard to see any other outcome.

December 27, Day 2

Australia 267 // England 31-4

At stumps yesterday, our Player Score Predictor liked the chances of Marcus Harris to finish as Australia’s top batter in their first innings at the MCG, projecting him to finish on 63. Harris went slightly better than that, top scoring for Australia with 76 runs as the home side went about the business of eating into, and then surpassing, England’s lead. Harris was eventually dismissed by a beauty from James Anderson, with the 39-year-old producing a fine delivery that Harris could only edge to Joe Root at first slip.

And where would the tourists be without Anderson? Time and time again he has been their saviour and England’s elder statesman produced another masterful swing and seam bowling performance to take 4-33 as he led England’s bowlers in a spirited fightback. The bowling attack eventually dismissed Australia for 267 to give their side a fighting chance in the Test. It’s interesting to note that at the start of day two, our Live Win Probability gave Australia an 87% of winning. After their first innings, that had dropped to 82.6%. Still overwhelming favourites, yes, but it does evidence a slight England comeback.

In 2021, Anderson has actually fared better away from the UK than at home, putting further ice on the argument that he only thrives in home conditions. Anderson’s average at home in 2021 stands at 32.0, while his away average is an incredible 13.0.

He was the pick of the bowlers, but each of them picked up a wicket, with Wood taking the important wicket of Marnus Labuschagne for 1.  Getting Labuschagne that cheaply is becoming something of a rarity. Since the 2019 Ashes Test at Lord’s, in which he came in as a replacement for Steve Smith, today was Labuschagne’s first single-digit score in a first innings.

But that hard work was all undone by a hostile last hour of play in which Australia’s fast bowlers produced an unplayable spell of bowling. England stumbled to 31-4 at stumps.

Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland shared two wickets each. The first came in the fifth over, as Starc struck to remove Zak Crawley and then he thundered one into Dawid Malan’s pads for a first-ball duck. Root then barely survived Starc’s hat-trick ball, an unplayable delivery whistling past his outside edge. In getting Crawley early, Starc continued the theme of England’s opening partnerships struggling badly this series:

Then it was Boland’s turn, the debutant summoned for the penultimate over of the day. It was a dream over, getting Haseeb Hameed caught behind with his third ball, then bowling nightwatchman Jack Leach two balls later.

England are still 51 runs behind with six wickets in hand. It’s hard to see how this game doesn’t end tomorrow, and our Live Win Probability model concurs. It gives Australia a 94% chance of winning this Test and wrapping up the series with two matches left.

December 26, Day 1

England 185 // Australia 61-1

For many, Christmas is a time for traditions. Obligatory family walks. Militantly enforced family ‘fun’. Drinking.

The England’s men’s Test team upheld a tradition of their own on day one of the Third Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day: Joe Root top scoring and England getting bowled out for less than 200.

For Australia it was business as usual. Their win at Adelaide in the previous Test extended their unbeaten streak against England at home in men’s Tests to 13 (W12, D1) ­– their longest unbeaten run at home in history – and at stumps on day one that run looks in no danger of coming to a halt.

Australia and Pat Cummins can seem to do no wrong at the moment. After winning the toss and electing to bowl, Cummins was exceptional in the morning session, removing England’s top three batters, Haseeb Hameed, Zak Crawley and Dawid Malan. Hameed was Cummins’ 100th Test wicket in Australia, and of all players to have taken 100 or more Test wickets in the country (unsurprisingly they are all Aussies), his average of 20.5 is the best.

Root once again looked a cut above the rest with a fluent fifty, before an errant waft outside off stump saw him caught behind off Mitchell Starc. It’s hard to criticize a player who has scored over 1,000 more runs than any of his teammates in 2021, but Root’s inability to turn fifties into hundreds was again on display, as our friends @OptaJim pointed out.

It was however his tenth 50+ score as captain of England in men’s Tests in 2021 and only one player has made more for England in a calendar year as captain (Alastair Cook with 11 in 2015). This really isn’t on Joe Root the batter.

From there things went from bad to worse, as England’s middle order collapsed with only Jonny Bairstow (35) offering a little resistance. The dismissals of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler in particular were exceptionally soft.

With some late thrashing from Ollie Robinson and an enjoyable Jack Leach six, England managed to claw their way up to 185. It was still way under par. In fact, 185 is their fourth lowest first innings total in men’s Tests against Australia at the MCG (75 in Dec 1894, 113 in Jan 1879, 159 in Dec 2006).

Amongst the carnage, there was a wicket on debut for Scott Boland, who trapped Mark Wood LBW.  Since the beginning of 2000, only Bryce McGain (36y 359d v. South Africa in March 2009) and Adam Voges (35y 242d v. West Indies in June 2015) have been older when making their men’s Test debut for Australia than Boland was today (32y 259d).

David Warner and Marcus Harris piled on the misery towards the end of play with a 57-run partnership, before James Anderson had Warner caught in the gully by Crawley for an energetic 38 from 42 balls.

Coming into the third Test, our Live Win Predictor understandably favoured Australia, giving them a 49% chance of victory to England’s 40%. That has swung massively in the home team’s favour after day one though, with Australia now given a huge 87% chance of going 3-0 up in the series and holding on to the Ashes.

Ashes Live Win Prob Day 1 third test

Our Score Predictor projects Australia to kick on from here and reach 337, with Harris predicted to top score with 63.

Australia Predicted score and Harris predicted score

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