* Prices may differ from that shown
Held in 5 Australian cities, during the Australian summer (or English winter), the England boys were set to defend the Ashes in a country where they last won an Ashes series almost 25 years prior to this series. Coming in to the Ashes, both teams preparations could not have been more awful. Despite hammering Pakistan in an infamous series 3-1 in tests, 2-0 in Twenty20's and 3-2 in ODI's, the cloud always lingered whether the Pakistani tourists gave a 100% effort. Even then, the English batting was prone to the odd collapse (excluding Trott) and the England bowlers looked ineffective at times (excluding Swann). On the other extreme, Australia had come off a 2-0 test series loss and 1-0 ODI loss against India in India. Hoping to find some form back home, the Sri Lankans held off the Aussies in a one-off Twenty20 and won the ODI series 2-1 in spectacular fashion. With no clear favourites, the Ashes was set to be either a one-sided or closely fought battle.
Each disc (there are 5 of them) have highlights of one test match. The first disc has the 1st test at the 'Gabba (Brisbane), the second disc has the 2nd test at Adelaide and so on. The commentary team is the Channel 9 Australian set-up (which UK could hear from with 1 hour highlights on ITV4), not the Sky Sports set-up. While the Sky Sports set-up showed clear favouritsm to England, we have the Channel 9 box showing it to the Aussies. Even former English captain Tony Greig seemed to be rooting for the Aussies. What is good is that they utilise 3 men at a time instead of the traditional 2, so the viewer feels they are part of a conversation instead of listening to 2 drones. And any commentary team with Richie Benaud is always worth listening to.
Probably the best test of the series to a neutral was 1st test, an honours even draw at the 'Gabba. Featuring a red hot crowd (hence the name Gabbatoir), a first over and third ball wicket, a marvelous hat-trick and some controlled bowling and marathon batting efforts (culminating with a fine Alastair Cook double ton), going by this match, the series promised to be closely fought.
The second test began in fine style with Andrew Strauss almost immediately getting bowled by Doug Bollinger. Yet England somehow dominated the test, with a sterling performance by Kevin Pietersen. Graeme Swann's last day bowling is beautiful too, although credit be given to Mike Hussey, who really was the lone ranger for the Aussies.
With Australia's unconvincing performance in the 2nd test, they had to silence the media and prove to themselves that they could fight at the WACA, a ground notorious for bouncy tracks, thus favouring the quicker bowlers (although this pitch wasn't as lively as previous WACA test matches have seen). While Australia's batting performances are okay at best, the man who gave the Aussie's first innings total some respectability, Mitchell Johnson, blew away the English top order with some fine swing bowling. Ryan Harris six wicket demolition job in the second English innings gave the Aussies a good win and some momentum to boot, while pressure was back on England.
However, as the 4th test at Melbourne showed, looks can be deceiving. Australia's first innings was clearly the best bowling performance of the series, as the England quickies skittled the Aussies for 98. After yet another marathon batting performance, highlighted by Trott's 168, the bowlers cleaned up Australia for the innings win, England's second of the series and therefore retaining the Ashes.
While England retained the Ashes, they still needed to prove they could win the series in Australia. Australia took a chance to test some new blood, but it made England's job a lot easier. After yet another top notch bowling performance, primarily from Anderson, and more marathon batting, with Cook shining yet again, England had not only retained the Ashes but won in Australia. The wild celebrations cued by the English boys tell the story better than words could.
So with 5 DVD's, you would say that they are loaded with extras. Stats, interviews, reactions etc. are probably a given with massive compilations like these. Well besides a few stats, this DVD set has nothing. For some reason, a 7 DVD set was released with a documentary. Certainly not a good move buy the distributors, as this set isn't cheap to begin with. However the cover of the DVD is very good, with the Ashes urn in a sea of English flags and although they are weaker compared to normal cases, the DVDs are placed in a fold out cardboard pack, giving it a stylish look.
So while the extras are virtually non-existent and some of the cricket is one sided, this is a must buy for any England fan. There is still plenty of quality cricket from both sides and the commentary is loud and obnoxious in an enjoyable way when Australia are on top. Seeing the rise of Bresnan, return of Tremlett, mastery from Anderson, stamina and discipline from Cook and Trott, athleticism of Prior and the class of Bell should spell out that this is a must.