Twenty20 internationals (3): England 2, Australia 1 One-day internationals (3): England 1 (10pts), Australia 2 (20pts)
A tour that meant all 18 men's international fixtures were fulfilled during the summer produced a gripping conclusion, with Australia becoming the first visiting team to win a one-day series in England since they had done so five years earlier. The tourists, who had collapsed chasing moderate targets in two of the first five games across the limited-overs formats, were indebted to a partnership for the ages between Alex Carey and Glenn Maxwell, as they came back from 73 for five to knock off a target of 303 in the 50-over decider at Old Trafford. Before the trip, Maxwell had not played for his country for ten months, yet his 108 during a stand of 212 with Carey, who also scored a century, made him the Player of the Series in the ODIs.
England's powerful batting was largely negated by tricky, made-to-order pitches - Eoin Morgan wanted his side to learn how to "win ugly" in preparation for the T20 World Cup in India in 2021-22 - but there was consolation in having already claimed the 20-over series. Australia had begun as the format's No. 1 team, before England ousted them with victory in the first two matches; a win for the Australians in the third returned them to the top of the rankings. Yet with the postponement of the T20 World Cup in Australia - originally scheduled to start the following month - those games lacked a wider context.
Playing behind closed doors at least spared the Australians their usual interactions with English crowds. "It was the first time I've been here and not got abuse," said David Warner after the first of the three T20s at the Rose Bowl. "It was quite nice." Instead, he had to contend with Jofra Archer, who removed him four times in five games, three times for single figures. That opening T20 match had witnessed the first of the Australian implosions, as they lost five for 24 chasing 163, and the game by two runs. England would also steal the second of the three one-day internationals in Manchester after the tourists lost seven for 32. It left Australia's coach, Justin Langer, fielding questions about his players' mental fragility, though Maxwell and Carey provided the perfect riposte.
There was no argument from Langer, though, when Michael Holding criticised both sides for not taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement - as England had done during their series with West Indies and Ireland, though not Pakistan. "To be completely honest, we could've talked more about it perhaps, leading up to that first game," said Langer. That followed pre-series comments from Australian captain Aaron Finch, who argued that "the education around it is more important than the protest". Later, Archer insisted England had not forgotten about BLM, and were working with the ECB on projects to promote equality and diversity.
With the Test summer over, England had the majority of their all-format players back. Yet they were still without Ben Stokes, whose father, Ged - based in New Zealand - had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Australia also had a significant absentee from the ODIs, after Steve Smith suffered a blow to the head from an errant throwdown in the nets on the eve of the first game. Unlike the previous summer's Ashes, when he had been felled by Archer at Lord's, there were few witnesses, since reporters were barred from practice sessions because of coronavirus protocols. Smith's absence from the first match was announced only at the toss. With Archer and Mark Wood bowling consistently above 90mph, it was perhaps no surprise he ended up missing the entire series.
Despite the heroics of Maxwell and Carey, Australia's victory in the one-dayers owed much to the excellence of their bowlers - none more so than Josh Hazlewood, who in 2019 had been rested for the World Cup in preparation for the Ashes. His haul of four wickets at 30 looked unspectacular, but an economy-rate of four - as well as five maidens in his 30 overs - told a tale. Leg-spinner Adam Zampa recovered from a mauling in the T20s, when he was the most expensive bowler on either side, to collect ten ODI wickets at 14 apiece while conceding just 4.73 an over.
For England, Chris Woakes excelled in the 50-over matches, averaging 44 with the bat and 22 with the ball. Had the pendulum swung the other way at the last, he - not Maxwell - might have been the Player of the Series. Sam Billings made a breakthrough century in the first ODI, while Jonny Bairstow followed 84 in that game with 112 in the third. But England regularly struggled against Australia's Test-hardened new-ball attack: Jason Roy, who missed the T20s because of a side injury, completed a quiet international summer with 24 runs in three innings, while Joe Root totalled 40. In the third ODI, Mitchell Starc removed both with the first two balls of the game.
Earlier, Dawid Malan had replaced Pakistan's Babar Azam at the top of the T20 rankings after scores of 66, 42 and 21. That the tour had gone ahead at all was a triumph of perseverance and planning. Australia's home one-day series against New Zealand in March, abandoned after one match, had been the last international cricket played before the pandemic was declared. Events in the interim, particularly the closure of some state borders in Australia, meant the challenge of getting a party to the UK was significant. Originally scheduled for July, the trip was signed off by the Australian government only ten days before the team's departure on August 23, with Cricket Australia receiving clearance for a final squad of 21 to assemble in Perth for a charter flight.
Different restrictions across the states meant different levels of preparation. Western Australians such as Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were able to go about their daily lives largely unrestricted; Finch and Maxwell, whose state, Victoria, had been in a strict lockdown for months, could leave their homes only to train with each other. Even then, getting out of Australia proved tricky, since Qantas's entire international fleet was grounded. In the end, CA sourced a jet from Paris through a boutique French airline, La Compagnie. Because of a small fuel load, it had to stop in Colombo and Dubai during the 19-hour journey to East Midlands Airport.
Unlike West Indies and Pakistan, Australia did not have to quarantine on arrival in the UK, thanks to the travel corridor agreed between the countries. But, with England's final Test against Pakistan at the Rose Bowl in progress when they landed, they did have to spend three nights in a Travelodge next to Derbyshire's County Ground before they were free to head to Southampton. Given the efforts made to get them into the country, and the cricket that followed, it was a small price to pay.