After an imperfect two years for Aussie men’s cricket, it took less than 12 days to retain the Ashes

After not even 12 full days of play, Australia's trophy cabinet can be locked back up with the Ashes urn safe inside.

The first Test in Brisbane made it to four days but ended just after lunch, Jos Buttler showed some fight, dragging  out the inevitable on day five in Adelaide in the second Test, but then the Boxing Day Test turned into the most complete victory imaginable on the biggest stage at the MCG.

A victory by an innings and 14 runs was wrapped up midway through the first session on day three.

Like the concept of this series being an actual contest, the third game couldn't make it past halfway.

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It's nothing short of remarkable, considering the months leading up to this Ashes series for an Australian Test side that has not always carried themselves as world-beaters.

Justin Langer's team was supposed to be hopelessly out of practice for this Ashes series.

The Aussie men's side did not play Test cricket for almost all of 2020 and 2021, with last summer's loss to a injury-riddled Indian side their last outing in white clothes.

Then, through the middle of the year, smack bang in footy seasons, cricket stories emerged out of nowhere but it wasn't the sort of off-season cut-through Cricket Australia would have hoped for.

After shocking limited-overs tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh, tales were told of an Australian men's locker room that had lost faith or fallen out of love with the coach.

Justin Langer faced questions over his position before the T20 World Cup and Ashes.(Getty Images: Chris Hyde)

Players, administrators and Langer himself came out to play down the storylines, but not in particularly convincing fashion.

Cricket Australia stated — in cold, hard, factual language — Langer's contract ran until after the Ashes and that he would see it out, but wasn't exactly effusive in backing him to hang on to the role any longer than that.

"His contract finishes in the middle of next year, so we've got ample time after the end of the Ashes to run a proper process about what the leadership looks like, going forward," CA chief executive Nick Hockley said in October.

The comments came in the days leading up to the start of Australia's Twenty20 World Cup campaign, another tournament in which Australia was supposed to struggle.

Kicking things off with narrow wins over South Africa and Sri Lanka, and following it up with a thumping at the hands of the English seemed to confirm perceptions of a side in turmoil, but it all turned around and ended in glory.

Who had Mitch Marsh leading Australia to a T20 world title on their 2021 bingo card?(Getty Images: ICC/Gareth Copley)

Suddenly Australian cricket was back on top — even Mitch Marsh and David Warner were hailed as heroes — but they crashed back to Earth like Joe Root after being hit in the "abdomen" when the Tim Paine sexting story broke.

The wunderkind-turned-gritty-veteran could no longer remain captain of the side he had led out of the depths of Sandpaper-gate and it eventually became clear to him that he had to step away from the game entirely for the sake of his own mental health.

So Australia would head into the first Ashes Test with a new captain, a new wicketkeeper and few definitive answers as to what their best Test XI even was.

Tim Paine stood down as Test captain before the Ashes and is taking time away from the game.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

By the end of day two in Brisbane, Travis Head had a century at better than a run a ball, and by the end of the first Test, Alex Carey had set a new record for catches on debut and Pat Cummins had seven wickets as the first bowling Aussie captain in decades.

Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon — the most experienced bowlers in the line-up and the two who copped the most punishment last summer — have taken the most wickets in the series.

Cameron Green has taken his first … second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh Test wickets, a feat seventh-choice bowler Scott Boland managed in his first game.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows though, as England's abject performance has disguised a lot of Australia's own deficiencies.

Marcus Harris remains unproven at the top of the order. Green seems completely out of sorts with bat in hand, and no-one else in the batting line-up has managed as many runs as Joe Root in the series.

However, when you've just secured the Ashes in less time than one COVID-19 isolation period, we'll let it slide.


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