England avoid horror in nonsense Ashes series

Bairstow, Carey, haircuts, body control, Stokes' buggered buttocks and everything that's happened this series.

The ball is in the air, and it should be caught, we are at Headingley, the home ground of Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow. And the person under the ball is Alex Carey. You can tell by how nice his hair looks.

This Ashes has been a snail on a razor’s edge if that blade was earlier used to cut a line of cocaine.

Every single Test has been close, tight, fought, sloppy, gripping and utterly full of nonsense.

The entire series has been full of cricket moments that would feel stupid in a made-for-TV movie on the Ashes. I mean, the first ball was some kind of fever dream where Zak Crawley was suddenly the world’s most dangerous man. It showed that Australia and England had swapped places. England were now the reckless beautiful idiots and Australia the careful pragmatic worriers.

That day ended with England declaring like someone pressed the wrong button on a computer game. Old heads cried and new kids rolled around naked in the jelly pool of Bazball ooze.

It was that level of weird shit happening almost every day of this series. The first day had Harry Brook essentially bowled off his own arse, the second day had him at first change delivering to Steve Smith.

Moeen’s finger became an issue at one point. After Jack Leach broke down, England brought the IPL star in to bowl a ginormous first-innings spell and he did it until he was bone on ball. A country with basically no spinners was finding new ways to lose the ones they did.

But the Test was won by one of the worst tails Australia has had in generations. Led by a Pat Cummins innings so extraordinary that England just put everyone out on the boundary and hoped it would all work.

In between the matches stupid just amped up. Ollie Robinson started his writing career for Wisden where he shared secrets from the change room  - with approval from the ECB - like the immortal “feels like we won, lads” line from Brendon McCullum. Crawley played his second biggest shot from the Ashes when he declared England would win by 150 runs in the second Test. Apparently unaware of how cricket works.

England kept up with the wackiness when they selected Joe Root as a frontline spinner. Well, not frontline, but only tweaker. And of course, he was largely not that important except for one over when Australia lost their collective shit and gifted him two wickets.

That wasn’t even the weirdest bowling from England, as their military medium militia went on the greatest short slow bowling blitzkrieg cricket has ever seen. Australia were more than happy to join in as well, and we had the most bouncers ever in a Test match.

So much so, that suddenly Jimmy Anderson looked like a piece of pepperoni at a vegan restaurant. Like is this how it ends for the grand old man of the wobbleball, with Bairstow keeping up at the stumps while Jimmy lets the even slower bowlers rest for their next bouncer spell?

Talking about bouncers, what about when Nathan Lyon’s last actual work this Ashes was hobbling out to bat in fear of a time out, and England bounced him? Almost entirely without care that if they hit him on the head and he was concussed Australia would get another bowler.

But then the umpires took the main stage, not content enough to call every third delivery a no-ball, they were now looking over the finer points of Mitchell Starc’s body control. Australian fans were very mad to find out you cannot put the ball on the ground during a catch.

Then Alex Carey gave the umpires more fun. At first, with his down-the-leg-keeping stance, that was the sort of thing that looks like it isn’t ok, but actually is and then by stumping Jonny Bairstow. Do you remember that?

England fans were very mad to find out you can be stumped when the ball is live.

But it didn’t stop there, cricket’s troller in chief - Stuart Broad - then entered the match to let Carey know that he may be remembered forever for this one thing.

But the words didn’t stay on the field. Some men in the Long Room were very upset that they, their father, their father’s father, their father’s father’s father and all the landed gentry that originally made up Lord’s spent 200 years stopping women from entering the club but forgot to fix the laws that they are in charge of. Many of these members would have entered the ground via the Grace gates - a bloke who more or less did exactly what Alex Carey did.

Instead of seeing any rationality the members got as red in the face as their trousers and heckled the Australians. They were so upset at the Aussies not doing the right thing they abused the Australians in the true spirit of cricket style.

At this point, we should have been talking about what Stokes was doing on the field. Which was some of the best hitting - and one of the greatest knocks - in Tests. Or even laughing as Anderson ran down the wicket to get hit in the face by a bouncer. No one even stopped to point out that Zaktradamus was off by 193 runs in his prediction, or that he was wrong once the toss was done.

Instead, the next few days were about the spirit of cricket. A concept so important to us that the lawmakers had to make it double-spaced to fill an entire page.

Jimmy Anderson got dropped in the middle of this, rotated, or rested, but no one noticed as Alex Carey was roasted and the Australians had to find new drinking buddies.

The English media lost their collective minds over a stumping. I turned up on TV a few times, and in one interview the host chastised me for not taking the legal stumping seriously enough. The story before me was the French Riots.

The prime ministers got involved as well. If anyone would be an expert in as nebulous a concept as the spirit of cricket it would be a politician. Well done to these beacons of honesty and respectability for bringing these cricketers to heel.

It was hardly worth Australia playing on in this series at all, after losing the first team on the Baz McCullum rules and then losing the second Test morally.

Both teams headed up to Headingley regardless and the Ashes were about to get more exciting by the addition of Mitch Marsh. Never thought that I would write that sentence. But the first-class cricket avoider crushed the life out of England and saved Australia from the sort of collapse you don’t come back from at Headingley without Stokes, Mathews or Botham.

England then completely stumbled as Steve Smith took more catches in one innings than he has runs in this series. This may not be completely accurate. But Mark Wood’s bowling and batting was a bit like he stuck a lit firecracker up his arse just to see what they would do. And then again Stokes bashed Australia when all other options were done. That he did this with a buggered buttock just added to the legend.

Australia looked like getting a tasty lead until they had to come out and bat in the clouds and England bowled very well to everyone not named Travis Head. We even saw the nine fielders on the boundary come back in. In fact, at the end of any sentence I’ve written about this series, you can add the phrase ‘the entire field was on the boundary’ and you’re probably making it more accurate.

England made the tricky but gettable chase look easy, hard and weird.  Simultaneously. Moeen Ali’s second comeback this Ashes finishing with him batting at number three was probably exactly how it should have started. But by not promoting the NightHawk, England lose seven banter points.

Australia fought back as Mitchell Starc seemed to unleash and perfect the three-quarter seam wobble balls as England’s best batters kept getting caught down the leg side. He even took a wicket while running into his captain, because we needed to tick that off the Ashes bingo.

But he also got Jonny Bairstow out. I could have mentioned him at any time. He is the story of this Ashes. He’s been everywhere.

He was glorious on day one of this Ashes. He had the top down on his convertible driving through the mountains on a sunny day, blasting his favourite tunes with the love of his life at his side. But sadly, the car broke down and then fell off a cliff. He ran out of food, his partner was eaten by a bear, and the only cabin in the woods he found was possessed by an ancient vampire sect who hate wicketkeepers.

It has been a horrific Ashes for him. And it looked like it might continue after he was dismissed, Brook eventually followed and then Wood got a top edge.

The ball flies high, the man tracking the ball that will put England eight down, and maybe also three down, if he takes the catch. And it is only the other keeper who has out-batted, caught and stumped Jonny Bairstow - all with a better hair do.

It would have made sense if Carey took the catch running directly at the Headingley faithful and laughed at their pain. Instead, he dropped it and not only that, took it from Boland who should have gone for it.

Johnny Bairstow and England ran screaming naked from the cabin in the middle of the night to survive for one more act.