Australia's first cricket since March ended with a 3-3 share of results across two white-ball series against England with each team taking a trophy apiece. Australia suffered two significant near-misses, in the first T20I and second ODI, but the tour was capped off by the spectacular stand between Glenn Maxwell and Alex Carey to inflict England's first home ODI series defeat since 2015. As a large group of players head to the IPL and the rest of the squad into two weeks of quarantine in Adelaide, here are a few things that stood out from the return to action.
A tasty rematch on the cards
Of course, not everything should revolve around the Ashes, but in reality so much does for these two teams. Will anything that happened over the last two weeks matter come late next year in Australia? Perhaps not, but England must have been delighted to keep David Warner to another low-scoring tour. He started with a half-century in the first T20I, but after that it was scores of 0, 6, 6 and 24. In four of his five innings, he fell to Jofra Archer who took over as nemesis-in-chief from Stuart Broad. It could be that both Archer and Broad line up at the Gabba, but his performances here must have pushed Archer closer to being given the new ball in Tests. Warner's record at home is formidable so he won't be much worried. Let's resume this one in November 2021.
In-form Maxwell brings new dimension
Maxwell had a disappointing World Cup and for a combination of reasons had not played an ODI since until this tour. He produced two innings that defined the series. His 77 in the opening match helped Australia recover from 123 for 5, but he more than out-did himself in the decider with a magnificent century - his second in ODIs - as he turned around a chase that looked done and dusted at 73 for 5. There has long been a debate about Maxwell's best batting position in ODIs (his other century, off just 51 balls against Sri Lanka, came at No. 5) but he certainly adds depth at No. 7 and offers a vital buffer between the top order and what is a long-ish tail. After his series-winning effort, Shane Warne suggested it should be his regular home although with a licence to float if the situation dictates.
Quality quicks, in all formats
Australia took eight pace bowlers in their enlarged 21-man squad, but in the end played only four of them. The same trio - Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins - played all three ODIs and Kane Richardson played all the T20Is. They are the main four in white-ball cricket for Australia, while the big three are hugely versatile across three formats. Although Starc ended up conceded 74 in the final ODI, his first two deliveries of the match shook England with the wickets of Jason Roy and Joe Root. Hazlewood was outstanding in the first two ODIs, conceded just 26 and 27 in his ten overs, having also impressed on his T20I return after a gap of four years. Cummins did not quite hit his usual high standards, conceding more than six-an-over in the ODIs, but delivered a beautiful slower ball to dismiss Jonny Bairstow at a vital moment in the decider.
Carey bounces back, but T20 spot may be up for grabs
Carey enjoyed an impressive World Cup in England last year, but since then things had been a little tougher with a top score of 36 in eight ODI innings ahead of the series-decider and he had also lost the vice-captaincy. In the decider, though, he turned on the style with a superb century, accompanying Maxwell in the record stand, as he made his first hundred in all List A cricket having had a previous best of 92. He has the one-day wicketkeeper role safely locked down, but it's perhaps not quite so clear cut in the T20 format. He was left out for the final game of the T20I series and there are a few questions about where he fits into the balance of the batting given his T20 runs have mostly come in the top four in domestic cricket.
Zampa flying high
Adam Zampa was twice entrusted with overs at the death in the first two T20Is and the gamble didn't pay off as they went for a combined 40 runs, but he responded with 2 for 34 in the final game before enjoying a prolific ODI series where he claimed ten wickets - his second-best return in a bilateral series, behind 11 in the five-match series against India in 2018-19. Constantly a threat in the middle overs, he removed England captain Eoin Morgan in all three innings. Despite losing his spot during the World Cup, Zampa is now the joint-leading wicket-taker in ODIs since January 2019, level with Cummins on 43, with just Mohammed Shami (50) ahead of them. Given the fact he now heads to the IPL and then there will be biosecure bubbles during the Australian season, he may have to wait a while to rekindle his first-class career after the winter move to New South Wales, but there is no doubt about his standing with the white ball.