The ICC has breathed fresh life into the sport with the introduction of the Test Championship. The inaugural competition will see its finale take place on June 2021 at Lord's. All Test-playing nations have their eyes set on the big prize in their bid to be reckoned as the champions of the longest and most prestigious format of the game.
Every match will count going forward, and wins achieved away from home will be worth their weight in gold. The 2019 Ashes was the first mega-series in the Test championship, and it won't be wrong to say that England and Australia delivered one of the most enthralling Test series of all time.
The Aussies drew the series and gained some valuable points. They now head back home full of confidence, having retained the Ashes.
While the recently-concluded series was evenly-matched, the 2017-18 series was less so, ending 4-0 in favour of Australia. That said, there were quite a few striking similarities between the two series; here is a look at four of them:
#1 Major absentees for England
Ben Stokes' infamous brawl in Bristol caused him to miss the tour of Australia in 2017. His absence was severely felt by the English camp, who lost 4-0 to the hosts.
While they were by no means the favourites in that series, it is fair to say that the English unit looked like severely depleted without Stokes.
All cricket fans will agree that the only way to defeat the Aussies in Australia is to take the fight to them, which is why England truly missed their talisman Down Under. Stokes is one of the fiercest competitors around, and his presence would've made a big difference to how England approached the series.
Things were a bit different in 2019 as Joe Root embraced the challenge of winning back the urn, but his plans were hit when James Anderson was taken off after bowling just four overs. England's all-time leading wicket-taker played no further part in the series as the home team failed to regain the Ashes.
Root and Co missed their swing bowling messiah, and it won't be far-fetched to say that the story could've been different had Anderson been fit.
Also see – World Test Championship Schedule
#2 Pat Cummins' fiery spells
Pat Cummins is the No. 1 ranked bowler in the ICC Test rankings, and is at the peak of his powers right now. The pace sensation was at his absolute best in the recently-concluded Ashes series in England as he scalped 29 wickets to help Australia retain the Ashes.
Cummins was utterly brilliant with the new ball and his form played a big part in Australia's successful Ashes campaign.
The Aussies got to keep the urn this time courtesy of their stunning win Down Under in 2017 when they thrashed England 4-0 on home soil. Cummins was the leading wicket-taker back then too, as he took 23 in the series.
Another notable similarity in both the campaigns is that Cummins failed to grab a five-wicket haul in either series despite finishing as the leading wicket-taker in both. Cummins' total of 52 wickets in the last 10 Ashes Tests has earned him a lot of deserved praise, and the fact that he didn't register a single five-wicket haul in any innings further reinforces his consistency.
#3 Joe Root's conversion woes
Joe Root would have been relieved after England tied the series at the Kennington Oval, but that doesn't hide the fact that he became the first English skipper to have drawn or lost an Ashes series at home in the last 18 years.
Captaincy is a tricky task and it seems to have gotten the better of Root. The England skipper is facing a great dilemma with the bat right now - a crippling inability to convert 50s into big scores. Root's lack of centuries has hurt the English team considerably over the last few years.
There's no denying that Root is one of the finest players of his generation, but he needs to do more to convert those 50s. In the 2017-18 Ashes series, Root scored five half-centuries but failed to convert even one into a 100. It was the same story this time around as well as he scored 50+ four times but ended the series without a hundred.
#4 Steve Smith's masterful batting
But even when the urn was in England's possession as they toured Australia, it was Smith who had led from the front. In 2017, Smith scored a whopping 687 runs and ended the series as the highest run-getter, just like in 2019.
One thing that truly sets Smith apart from his contemporaries is the way he pursues big scores. He scored a total of seven 100s across both the series, which includes two massive double centuries.
The Ashes is where every Australian and English cricketer dreams to achieve big things. To be the leading run-scorer in two consecutive Ashes series is something that makes Smith truly special.
The Australian has scored 2800 runs against England and ranks fourth on the list of highest run-getters against England for Australia.