Where else to start? On his return to the Test arena after a 12-month ban for his role in the ball-tampering scandal, the former Australia captain was on another level to every other batsman.
His 671 runs – coming in just five knocks – is over 300 runs more than the series’ second-highest runscorer Ben Stokes has managed. He posted scores of 144, 142, 92, 211 and 82 and the one Test he missed – after receiving concussion from a Jofra Archer bouncer during his score of 92 at Lord’s – ended in an England victory.
The former Australian opener took over the team following the fallout of the ball-tampering scandal. He played one Test the last time Australia successfully defended the urn on English soil and was the brains behind the team’s resurgence in this series. Langer was charged with improving the culture of Australian cricket off the field and his attention to detail helped Australia to success on it.
The leading wicket-taker in the series shone throughout but his efforts in Australia’s series-clinching match will long be remembered. He opened the innings by removing Rory Burns and Joe Root for ducks in the first over. He then got the first two wickets on the final day, including the key wicket of Headingley hero Ben Stokes for just one. His 24 wickets came at just 16.58.
He was surprisingly left out of the first Test but after coming in at Lord’s he soon proved a thorn in the side of England’s batsmen, taking three wickets at the ‘Home of Cricket’ and nine at Headingley. And he stepped up when it mattered in the crucial Old Trafford Test.
With England looking well set on 166 for two, Hazlewood removed Burns (81) and Root (71) in successive overs. He soon bowled Jason Roy, too, and England were suddenly scrapping just to avoid the follow-on on 196 for five. Then in the second innings, his superb delivery bowled Jos Buttler and ended any realistic English hopes of saving the Test.
The batsman started the summer batting for Glamorgan in Division Two of the County Championship and is on course to end it as Australia’s second-highest run scorer in the Ashes. He was Test cricket’s first concussion replacement for Smith at Lord’s and his impressive 59 frustrated England’s efforts of levelling the series.
At Headingley, with Smith sidelined, he was Australia’s top scorer in both innings, with scores of 74 and 80. He then enjoyed a crucial century stand with Smith in the first innings at Old Trafford to move Australia into a strong position.
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