Imagine if three witches in a forest glade had offered England this deal on a dark November night. Steve Smith, scorer of 11 Ashes hundreds in 20 outings, with an average of over 100 in his previous two Ashes series, would not add to those centuries and would average 30. David Warner, with an Ashes average in Australia of 60, would not make a hundred and would average 34. Marnus Labuschagn e, on a streak of 13 Tests averaging 73, would make one small and lucky hundred and average 42. Fast-bowling leader Josh Hazlewood would miss four Tests, Pat Cummins would miss one and Australia would call on three replacement quicks with two Tests between them.
The thing about witches in a forest glade, as Macbeth could attest, is that beneath the promises lies a catch. Not that England took many of those, but still. Despite all of the above going the touring team’s way, they experienced a series of thrashing with few statistical peers. Those top-line players were the focus of supposed years of planning, yet it was Australia’s second rank that dominated whenever called upon.
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