What if the 2005 Ashes had been a draft?

What would happen if the 2005 Ashes series started with a draft? I ran this scenario as a way to test my upgraded Test match model. By enlisting outsiders to draft the teams, they were then eagle-eyed in reviewing the results (thanks to Rob and Pud for their contribution).

Brilliantly, the series was decided in the last hour at the Oval, with Michael Vaughan shepherding the tail against the new ball.

Model updates

Since the last iteration I’ve added matchups, refreshed ground data, added realistic spin/seam performance by innings, and had another go at lifelike bowling changes.

With this much improvement comes lots of testing, and this exercise is just one small part of that.

Rating Players

Instead of career averages, I used performances up to July 2005 to rate the players. This is how I would have rated players at the time – serving as an additional check of my ratings process.

It throws up a few oddities: Having averaged 54 over the last four years’ County Championship, Rob Key looked Kevin Pietersen’s equal.

The Draft

Squad analysis

Rob foolishly excluded Martyn and Thorpe, but we’ll let him off because England dropped Thorpe in the real world.

Gilchrist is so much better than Geriant Jones that it was a surprise Gilchrist was eighth pick: there was huge value in securing his services early.

Clever from Rob to grab Flintoff and Warne. Once he had done that, there was a premium on Collingwood as the last all rounder: he should have been earlier than 18th pick.

The Series

Rob negotiated a tricky chase of 190 at Lord’s before comfortable back-to-back wins for Pud at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston. McGrath’s match figures of 6-74 at Edgbaston exposed Rob’s tail.

Hubris set in for Pud at Headingley – winning the toss and batting, nobody made it to 30. Then all four bowlers conceded centuries as Rob amassed 504 (Strauss 235*) to set up a comfortable win.

All square two-all going to the Oval. A characteristically flat pitch, yet the pressure almost got to Rob at the toss. With Warne struggling, Rob considered fielding first before his better judgement kicked in.

Three scores in excess of 400 put the game out of Pud’s reach, leaving him 102 overs to survive to share the Ashes. Wickets fell steadily. Collingwood (23) was fifth man out just after lunch, leaving Vaughan (102*) and Gilchrist much to do.

Bizarrely, Gilchrist (52 from 68) counter-attacked. Pud’s views when Warne bagged the wicket are unbroadcastable. With ten overs to go, Vaughan and Harmison were standing firm, but two wickets in two balls for Hoggard won the match and the series, for Rob.

Batting Averages

Andrew Strauss was “Man of the Series” for his 557 runs at an average of 80.

Bowling Averages

Warne’s performance was unlucky. His average of 46 was unexpected. Subsequent testing confirmed that he should have thrived against Pud’s numerous right handers, but it didn’t happen for him.

Model upgrades required

– Bring back best bowlers when a team is seven or eight down. Collingwood shouldn’t have bowled at the tail as much as he did – this is why Collingwood bagged 19 wickets at 23.

– Build in the ability to play for the draw. Gilchrist’s five-an-over antics were unlikely on the fifth day with 300 required to win.

Conclusion

A decent hour’s entertainment and two improvements for the model. A success.

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