Ashes predictions that were very wrong

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It’s almost time to start looking ahead to the Ashes again, but before we get back to that, let’s first look back on the Ashes. Specifically, let’s look back on ‘looking ahead to the Ashes’ by revisiting our 10 things to watch out for from before the series, so that you can all see how massively wrong we were about absolutely all of them on account of being an idiot.

To recap, the 10 things we advised you to watch out for were…

  1. Suggestions that this could be as good as the 2005 Ashes
  2. Ollie Robinson’s wicket celebration
  3. David Warner being either rubbish or not rubbish at cricket
  4. James Anderson’s opening spell
  5. James Anderson losing his rag at something
  6. Travis Head’s head
  7. England’s openers
  8. “Doctored pitches”
  9. Ben Stokes’ bowling
  10. Michael Neser

Of those, we can skip over Michael Neser and (utterly bizarrely) doctored pitches too, because somehow neither featured. We also have very little more to say about suggestions the series could be as good as the 2005 Ashes. In some ways it was better, but mostly it wasn’t for the reasons we outlined previously.

Ollie Robinson’s wicket celebration was witnessed 10 times. Australian batters repeatedly fell victim to his 124kph nude nuts in the first half of the series, but then he had one of his now-traditional Ashes back spasms and England didn’t dare pick him again. The end result was another disappointing series for Robinson in which he averaged the same as Stuart Broad and was the most economical bowler on either side.

Or should we say equal most economical bowler? (Yes, we should.) James Anderson’s opening spells were characterised not so much by mastercraftsmanship and cascading wickets as rucks and rucks of dot balls. He bowled okay, but on this occasion neither batters nor spectators were blown away. Nor did we really get to see Jimmy losing his rag at something. He mostly had the confused, slightly downbeat air of a man who had misplaced his rag a while ago and was no longer sure of its whereabouts.

David Warner being either rubbish or not rubbish at cricket is a harder one to assess. Warner averaged 26.04 in England at the start of the series with zero hundreds to his name. He then averaged 28.50 across the series and still didn’t reach three figures. He was quite resolute at times, which we suppose is not rubbish, but there were definitely rubbish bits too.

England’s openers by contrast certainly were worth watching – so much so that we’re working on a whole separate article about them, so let’s leave this at that for now.

Before we finish with the big one, we first have to acknowledge what happened with Ben Stokes’ bowling. “Anyone who’s seen The Prestige will know that some tricks are performed at a cost,” we wrote at the start of the series. “It feels like every time Ben Stokes bowls an over, another chunk of his cricket career dies.” England’s captain bowled 14 overs in the first Test; picked four right-arm fast-medium seamers to bowl ahead of himself in the second; and gave up all pretence of being an all-rounder by the third.

We’ll tell you what was still going strong at the end of the series though – the ‘tache that is the magnificent central feature of Travis Head’s head. Well, we say ‘still going strong’ but what we actually mean is ‘going strong again’ because our man had a full shave mid-series.

This unexpected development confirmed our suspicion that Head has Homer Simpson facial hair, because within a day he was looking stubbly and dishevelled and within a week he was sporting the full mo’ again. Performance of the series, really. Well played, Travis Head.

> The Travis Head look is complete

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  1. Who is that man behind Travis Head in the picture? He appears to be fielding at second slip. He also appears to be an older version of Travis Head. A time traveller from a future Ashes series?

  2. It’s actually Travis Head’s time-travelling son, who is… also his father!

  3. Didn’t “doctored pitches” morph into Ricky Ponting whinging ad nauseum about the ball change after 37 overs on Day Four at the Oval? Ponting wasn’t the only pundit to go on about it either.

    A little disappointed that you didn’t predict the bail-switching trick ahead of the Ashes. KC. That would have been pretty darned impressive. “Could have been a contender” and all that.

  4. I would happily have a month of 2023 Ashes (men and women) retrospectives on this place over a month of Hundred coverage.

    1. Don’t think it’ll be quite that, but with match reports and other stuff, it’s looking like at least a couple of weeks’ worth.

  5. Our Manchester rain v London rain debate (thread in the comments of the previous piece) has a wonderful tester in The Hundred today, with double-headers theoretically being played in both cities.

    I note that, at the time of writing, the first match in Manchester has already been abandoned, whereas I suspect that no-one has yet been able to row their boat across the Lord’s outfield to get the message across that the first London match will also be abandoned.

    But which city will see the most balls bowled in The Hundred today? That surely is the ultimate scientific test of the contrasting hypotheses about the extent of rain-ruination of cricket matches in those two great cities.

    I’ll be glued.

    1. It is indeed a nail-biter.

      We would however willingly concede that rain is slightly more of a factor in Manchester than in London. Our gripe is really just that ‘slightly more’ results in this weirdly self-perpetuating perception of a wholly different climate where Manchester rain is ‘typical’ and almost a unique characteristic, when there are in fact plenty of wetter parts of the country and even the places that aren’t wetter are still pretty damn wet because this is the United Kingdom.

      1. It’s 160 miles between Manchester and London as the crow flies with barely a hill between.

        In the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty much the same weather.

      2. Nail-biter? What nails? Fleshy stubs are all that remain.

        The first match in London has indeed been abandoned, while there is talk of mopping up and warming up in Manchester. Meanwhile, here in The Smoke, we have graduated from relentless gloom to “monkey’s wedding” lighter rain. Even Daisy is now conceding that we might get some cricket.

        From the facts department, it seems that the average number of inches of rain per annum in London is c23 whereas the average in Manchester is c42. I think that is a statistically significant difference if assessed over a decent number of years. I rather like this Freeflush blog piece which includes its own rainyness factor: – Manchester is not the wettest, but London is one of the driest in the UK.

        Sometimes these things are a matter of perception. Daisy and I went to Manchester together several times in the 1990s, primarily for her to do training courses and me to see friends. Our perception is that it almost always rained for those visits. Some years later – from around 2005 – I found myself visiting Manchester quite regularly on business and latterly for cricket. My perception during that period is that, despite its reputation as a City, it hardly ever rained while I was there. The reality of course, is that both of those perception samples are far too small to have any objective meaning, but the subjective impression is the thing that matters…

        …that and of course the Manchester v London 2 August 2023 The Hundred Balls Statistic, soon to be determined, which should become the measure for all matters Manchester and London rain on this website for the rest of all time.

      3. From the alternative facts department, The Met Office says, “the reputedly wet city of Manchester averages only 830mm” – which is about 32 inches.

        Maybe the higher figure was recorded at Old Trafford itself because rainfall at every cricket ground in the world is 50 per cent higher than in nearby areas, as any fule kno.

        This only adds to the legitimacy of today’s experiment.

      4. Except that the Manchester matches are actually being played in Cardiff (which is definitely wetter than Manchester, by the way).

      5. Ouch. I’m sure I read that the venue was Manchester on the Cricinfo site, but perhaps I misread.

        In the weather counter facts department, the met office website says it’s stopped raining at our house and shouldn’t rain any more, accuweather says it is bucketing down at our house and will continue to do so for 90 minutes, while the look out of the window test says thst it is not raining and is temporarily brighter but the sky looks patchy in the distance.

      6. I apologise to all for not giving this vital matter my undivided attention this afternoon.

        Nevertheless, the assertion that Cardiff is “definitely wetter than Manchester” does not find its way into the met offices own 30 year averages.

        Cardiff rainfall 30 year average – 1203 mm (47.4 inches) per annum
        Manchester rainfall 30 year average – 1197 mm (47.1 inches) per annum
        London rainfall 30 year average – 722 mm (28.4 inches) per annum

        Cardiff average rainfall is not statistically significantly different from that of Manchester, ergo we can use Cardiff as a proxy for Manchester in today’s experiment.

        Not quite as good as the direct comparison, granted, but given that the arithmetical experiment is quite literally balls, the proxy will do. In any case it will have to do.

        80 balls in Cardiff with a delayed start guaranteed at Lord’s, with a bit more rain likely on and off until 19:00 or so – just drizzle on the window test at present. Squeaky bum time on that London ball count.

      7. Have we finally got to the nub of this?

        Your comment and statistics give rise to a theory that many “Manchester” weather stats are in fact based on the Met Office’s weather station in Rochdale, where the Lancashire hills start rising, rather than the Woodford station near the airport which is on the same low lying plain as Manchester, including the cricket ground.

        Manchester (Woodford) rainfall 30 year average 868 mm (34 inches). Wet, but not Rochdale or Cardiff wet.

      8. That really is intriguing/interesting. I simply entered the word “Manchester” – why wouldn’tI? – and was served Rochdale (Greater Manchester), not Woodford (Greater Manchester).

        I have been to Rochdale and can confirm KC’s assertion that the place is up in the hills. I would not have imagined/ expected the difference between rainfall in Rochdale and rainfall near Manchester Airport, but there it is clearly in the averages.

        This additional information makes my experiment a damp squib…which fortunately is now no longer the case with the weather Lord’s.

      9. That’s what a big wall of hills will do for you. You think the difference in rainfall is marked, you should meet the people. Different vowels up in those parts and Rs that’ll knock your socks off.

      10. Well you say ironically, but that’s pretty much how this whole thing started.

  6. Firstly my apologies, I don’t get time somehow to be as regular a visitor to the kingdom as i used to (kids, work etc) and I am well aware of your majesties tendency to not to accede to requests… but…. Mo has retired and this website has always been a supporter of the great man so wondered if you had a piece in the works?

    It was Vithushan Ehantharajah’s excellent piece that brought me back looking the KC take.

    Cheers and will endeavour to return more often!

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