When the Australian squad for the Ashes was announced there were some surprises, but there were three names which have been a constant since the last time the Ashes was played in Australia. Those names are Steve Smith, David Warner and Nathan Lyon (from here on mentioned as constants).
The constants have played all 39 tests that Australia have played since the last Ashes - a considerable feat on it’s own given how players have been picking and choosing their series but they have been there through it all. And while these three have been there in 20 Australian wins, but what makes them special is the fact that they are an integral part of the side in those victories.
Instead of taking a look at all the players selected, let’s take a look at the Constants and what they bring to the table for Australia.
There is no opener who scores runs as quickly as David Warner in world cricket right now. Scoring at 4.90 runs per over Warner gives Australia something, which all sides crave and that is a quick start. Other openers might see off the new ball, but Warner ensures that he gives his team a start and an early advantage, pushing the opposition on the backfoot. The best example of this tactic was when he scored a century in the first session of play against Pakistan in Sydney, putting the visitors immediately on the defensive.
Warner’s run scoring is quite unique in the world. Among batsmen who have scored more than 3000 runs since the last Ashes series in Australia, he has the highest boundary percentage and he scores the most runs of the balls he does not score a boundary off. His mind-set of looking to score off every ball is an asset and more so in conditions where the ball does not do much.
David Warner tops the list of highest boundary percentage
Warner averages 67.63 runs per dismissal at home, scoring runs at 5.38 runs per over. During the same period other openers have scored 42.52 runs per dismissal at 2.95 runs per over. Warner offers you stability at the top as well as quick scoring. He might not last long at the crease but he makes sure he scores as many runs as he can in the limited time he is at the crease.
Among batsmen having scored more than 2000 runs since the last Ashes in Australia, it’s Steve Smith who has the highest average. His average of 71.30 is the best in the world, with these runs coming at just over 3.5 RPO. Warner is known for his flashy strokeplay and quick scoring, but Steve Smith on the other hand is the batsman who scores a bucket load of runs.
Steve Smith loves centuries and that is evident in the fact that he has 17 centuries and 16 half centuries. He has the 5th best 50 to 100 conversion rate since the last Ashes in Australia, but another thing to note is his habit of scoring “daddy hundreds” - scoring 6 scores of 150+, the most along with Virat Kohli and one more ahead of his opposite number Joe Root.
Smith’s ability to play long innings is a huge asset to the Australian side. It has gotten to the point where him scoring 40s is also a failure.
Smith has been Australia’s leading scorer in this period and his consistency is evident by the fact that 33 of his 71 innings have seen him score 50+ runs. Such consistency is an asset to any side and when your captain is leading from the front it is something, which the rest of the team can look up to and contribute in their own way.
Australian bowlers have picked 661 test wickets in the 39 tests Nathan Lyon has played, and Lyon himself has picked 165 of these wickets, which is just under a quarter of all the wickets. . While his numbers are largely the same as the other bowlers seen together, Lyon offers reliability as a spinner, which Australia’s pace heavy attack often lacks.
Comparison of Lyon with remaining Australian bolwers
But there is something which gives Lyon an edge in this Ashes series and that his ability to bowl well in Australia, something which more capable spinners haven’t managed to do Down Under.
Comparison of Lyon with an average spinner
Lyon is more economical than other spinners playing in Australia, picking up wickets almost 5 and half overs quicker than the average spinner. He also concedes fewer runs picking those wickets. This means that Australia’s attack often has an advantage at home that teams with better spinners can’t compete with. In evenly matched competitions, such advantages can be crucial.
The trio of Steve Smith, David Warner and Nathan Lyon could possibly play all 5 Ashes tests and let’s not be surprised if there is a chance that any of the trio will change the game in a session or a day.