Captain Joe Root and star all-rounder Ben Stokes take positives from drawn series as their country focuses on Test Cricket after World Cup triumph
Yet the way they came back to draw the series 2-2 at The Oval has given everyone plenty of confidence as they look ahead to the next series against Australia in 2021-22.
It may be a very different England team that takes the field at the Gabba in 26 months’ time.
Australia, too, will by then likely have done some major restructuring to a batting line-up that was overly dependent on the genius of Steve Smith during this northern Ashes summer.
For England, though, sharing the spoils in this series thanks to their win at The Oval, even if the urn remains in Australian hands, has given them renewed confidence they are heading in the right direction in Test cricket.
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“The scoreline looks a hell of a lot better than 3-1 and is probably a fair result,” said captain Joe Root.
“It has been a long, gruelling summer. For English cricket it is a success. There has been some phenomenal cricket.
“The World Cup was incredible and to be backed up by such an evenly matched Ashes – what a summer of cricket it has been.
“This win is a blueprint of how we want to go about playing. We can get better and there are areas we want to strengthen and improve on but guys have stepped up under pressure and that is really pleasing. Hopefully that is a starting point.
“It looks like we’re starting to get to grips with Test cricket after a long period of one-day cricket. “In the next two-and-a-half years we have to really push and prepare for that tour of Australia. That will be a huge focus for me and for English cricket. That has to be our main focus, going down there and winning.”
Just how England will shape up come that next Ashes series remains an open question, not least because nobody yet knows who their coach will be, given they have now lost the services of Australian Trevor Bayliss after four-and-a-half years in charge.
An appointment to replace him is expected by the start of England’s tour of South Africa in December. There is expected to be an interim coach in charge for their tour of New Zealand that starts next month – likely to be current assistant coach Chris Silverwood. QUICK SINGLE Wade, Archer face-off in sizzling Ashes battle
There is a chance Silverwood, who had much success with Essex at domestic level before joining the England set-up 18 months’ ago, could get the job on the full-time basis.
But there are several other outside contenders, including Ottis Gibson, the former South Africa coach and ex-England bowling coach, Alec Stewart and Mickey Arthur.
However, after winning the World Cup for the first time in July, England, as mandated by director of cricket Ashley Giles, will shift away from prioritising white-ball cricket and re-focus on the Test format – and specifically that next tour of Australia – over the coming two years.
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One man who will help on that front is Ben Stokes, the hero of England’s summer having followed up his starring role in the dramatic World Cup final against New Zealand at Lord’s by being named his team’s man of the series for the Ashes.
Rory Burns, the outstanding opener across both teams, Stuart Broad, who at 33 produced his most prolific Ashes series with 23 wickets, and Jofra Archer, the fast bowler who took Test cricket by storm in his debut series, were the other England players who made life difficult for Australia.
All, even Broad, who dismissed David Warner seven times in 10 innings this series, should be involved come the next Ashes.
“A few people said a few things about Broady and maybe he was coming to the end of his career, but I think he’s shown here that he’s nowhere near done,” said Stokes.
“The way he has bowled right from the start of this series, and with Jimmy (Anderson) not being available, has been heroic.
“He’s set the tone for the bowling attack every time, especially against someone like David Warner. The fact their opening partnership has gone nowhere is largely down to Broady.”
For Stokes, though, it is Archer who could have the biggest impact in Australia in two-and-a-half years’ time.
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“He is no doubt the sort of guy who can help get those Ashes back when we go Down Under,” he said. “He’s got experience in that part of the world already with the Big Bash, so he’ll feel comfortable going there and performing.
“When you can bowl 90 miles per hour-plus and with the control that he’s got, then he is going to be a huge threat.
“I look at someone like Pat Cummins for Australia and how effective he is everywhere he goes. He runs in and he hits a hard length in the high 80s and 90 miles an hour every now and then and he takes wickets everywhere he goes, and that is why he is the world’s No.1 bowler. QUICK SINGLE Langer issues fresh challenge to Australia
“I think Jofra is built in the same way in terms of the way that he bowls and the lengths and the areas he hits.
“Let’s not forget he is still very inexperienced in terms of Test cricket. But I think he has learned as he’s gone in this series and is getting better game by game. I don’t think I’ve seen a more talented bowler in my time and it is great to have him on your team.”
England will no doubt build their next Ashes campaign around both Archer and Stokes. Whoever else fits in around them in the team, that’s not a bad starting point.