With the result of this Ashes series decided, how do people feel it compares to the 2005 Ashes in terms of the standard of the cricket played? Note that I'm not asking about the level of competetition or the quality of the matches, because it's no contest. Only one of the three tests so far comes close to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th tests last year in terms of excitement. The quality of batting, bowling and fielding has been very high from both sides though, aside perhaps from England early in the first test, and there's probably been a general improvement from last year, IMO.
This is particularly true in the most recent test. In Perth, every bowler in the match aside from Mahmood bowled very well, even Harmison and Symonds. We also saw some spectacularly good batting and a fairly sporting wicket. In 2005 England bowled amazingly well and Australia quite well, but the quality of batting was down a little bit on what you might normally expect. Australia had no answer to reverse swing, and England were pretty awful against Warne and couldn't handle McGrath on the one lively wicket they faced him on.
In this series I think England have batted far better, particularly against Warne who is currently in the middle of his poorest non-India series in more than five years, and in each test they've posted a good score. The batting from 6 down has been awful, but the top order has functioned about as well as anyone could have reasonably hoped before the series. Australia's batting has been sensational, with three players averaging over 100 and in the form of their careers, and every player in the top 7 aside from Martyn/Symonds contributing.
England's bowling is obviously down, given the loss of Jones and Harmison's poor start, but you can't fault Hoggard or Flintoff, and Panesar has done very well in his only test. Even Harmison has come good now, and the English attack in the third test was as good as you're likely to see it without Jones in the mix. Australia has added Clark instead of Gillespie or Kasprowicz, who has bowled better than anyone, and Lee and McGrath have been as good as they were in 2005. Warne's figures obviously don't match up to '05, but I don't think he's bowled poorly aside from the Brisbane test, he's just been a bit unlucky and been played very well.
The other area which has obviously improved a long way is the fielding. The 2005 Ashes had a huge number of catches put down, and while there's been a few this year, it's been pretty good throughout, particularly from Australia. The only really poor period of fielding there's been was England on day 3 in Perth.
I'm hoping that the wickets in Melbourne and Sydney are a bit more testing for batsman than Brisbane or Adelaide, because if England play like they did in Perth again I think we could see a couple more really interesting matches.