When this Ashes series is talked about in years to come, what will they say?
They will talk of Steve Smith. His bat waving towards point as the bowler ran in, then swooshing like a lightsabre in his hands as he extravagantly left the ball outside off stump, his face contorting into any one of a gallery of almost caricatured expressions after every ball. But mostly they will talk about the runs, hour after hour, innings after innings, hundred after hundred, Smith just kept batting and England did not know how to make it stop.
They will talk about Ben Stokes. That innings at Headingley. The despair at 3:17pm to the euphoria at 4:17pm and all the emotions in between. His defiance and look of steely determination as every six crept over the ropes, each one seemingly a millimetre or two closer to a leaping Aussie fielder, while all the while Jack Leach stood as a picture of composure at the other end. Ultimately it was not enough to take England to Ashes glory, but it was glorious all the same.
They will talk about Jofra Archer. The fast bowler England had been craving for so long finally arrived. His epic battle with Smith, the usually sedate Lord’s crowd suddenly baying for blood as two gladiators went at each other in the middle in what will go down as only the second most memorable hour of the series until finally the Australian was felled. Not out but certainly down.
Then at some point they may eventually touch upon the leading wicket-taker in the series, Pat Cummins.
One could reasonably expect that an Australia fast bowler taking 24 wickets at 17.41 in the first four matches to help guarantee the Aussies will end a tour of England in possession of the Ashes for the first time in 18 years would have taken his share of the headlines.
However, in a series where compelling narratives have carried through from match to match, the consistent brilliance of a bowler such as Cummins can seem a little mundane; after all there is a bloke in his team who, despite not having played Test cricket for over a year, averages 134.20 and is quite probably the most effective red-ball batsman since Don Bradman – and by some distance.
It is not to say that it is any great secret that Cummins has been excellent in this series and for some time before that; you don’t become the No 1-ranked Test bowler in the world without people realising you might be quite good. Yet for an unquestionably a fantastic bowler, there is relatively little fanfare.
Perhaps it is because there is not one thing you can point to and say ‘that is what makes Pat Cummins so good’. He can clock 90mph but he is no longer the young tearaway that burst onto the Test scene in Johannesburg in 2011.
He can swing the ball both ways but will rarely get the prodigious movement associated with someone like Jimmy Anderson. He can hold a disciplined line and length over after over but, of the Aussie seamers, it is Josh Hazlewood who tends to draw the comparisons to Glenn McGrath. Cummins can nibble the ball off the seam, bowls a sharp bouncer and can maintain a good pace spell after spell.
You name an attribute you want in a Test match fast bowler and you can bet that Cummins possesses it.
It is Hazlewood who took the final wicket at Old Trafford, the one that will be replayed in Australia countless times over the coming days, weeks and possibly years while even Marnus Labuschagne will get more airtime than Cummins after breaking Leach’s stubborn resistance with his part-time leggies.
Meanwhile, Cummins finished with 4-43 and dismissed all three of the England batsmen who had previously shown the capacity to bat long in the series, Rory Burns and Joe Root on Saturday evening and then Stokes on the fifth morning.
Given the way day five panned out, those two wickets in two balls late on day four look all the more crucial. With 10 wickets remaining going into the last day, England may well have been able to hold out for a draw and keep the series alive. Instead, Cummins got Burns and then produced a beauty to peg back Root’s off stump. Oh yes, he is capable of a moment of magic as well.
He is the complete fast bowler and while Australia have shuffled their quicks from game to game, it speaks volumes that Cummins has been the one constant.