England and Australia have the longest running rivalry in Test cricket and they just completed one of the strangest series in living memory. England won the five-match series 3-2 and thus won back the symbolic Ashes that they lost due to a 5-0 drubbing in Australia just 18 months ago. Given that, Australia were favored to retain the Ashes so the result was undoubtedly a surprise.
But what was more of a surprise was the fact that every one of the five Tests ended in a decision. This is itself unusual for cricket and the fact that it has happened in two consecutive series may reflect the fact that attacking cricket is now the norm and teams find it hard to muster the mental attitude and skills to play defensively and run out the clock for a no-decision (known as a ‘draw’ in cricket), even when they get off to a bad start and a win is out of the question.
But more than that was that the individual games were not even remotely close and none of the games even extended to the fifth day and two of them ended on day three. In any individual game, one team just trounced the other but the team that won overwhelmingly one game would then lose overwhelmingly in the next. This was really weird, since the teams were pretty much unchanged through the series and injuries were not a major factor.
It is true that temperature, humidity, and pitch conditions are quite variable in England and favor swing bowling but I find it hard to imagine that that could have been such a major factor in producing this level of unpredictability from game to game.