With the Ashes series under way, we wanted to know which players are likely to be the key to England coming out on top in Australia. By examining the scorecards of every Test since the last Ashes, we can see who has been stepping up their game when England win.

We have restricted the field to the current squad but included Ben Stokes to see how much truth there is to the argument that England’s progress will be severely hampered by not having him at their disposal.

Is he really England’s main man? The good news for the tourists is that the performances of Moeen Ali could instead be the deciding factor in whether they return home with the famous urn.

Batting: Change in batting average when England win

Not only does Joe Root have the best batting average of any England batsman to have played at least 20 innings since the last Ashes, he also ups his game the most to inspire the team to victory.

More interestingly the stats show that, in terms of batting, Ali may be a more important all-rounder than Stokes. Stokes has an almost identical batting average when England win or lose, chipping in with an extremely respectable 38 runs per wicket lost.

Ali provides slightly less runs than Stokes but averages an impressive 45.2 runs when England win, only 1.2 runs short of opener and former captain Alastair Cook.

Bowling: Change in bowling average when England win

James Anderson has been getting better with age and, while his career bowling average is around 27.4 runs per wicket, he has only allowed 16.2 runs per wicket since the 2015 Ashes.

Whilst he doesn’t up his batting game in England victories, Stokes is far more clinical with the ball in his hand when England win. His bowling average of 12.8 in England victories is even better than James Anderson’s overall average (although Anderson himself bowls better in victories with 11.6 runs per wicket).

Percentage of wickets taken in wins

Another way to view a bowler’s contribution to England wins is the percentage of their wickets that are taken in victories.

It comes as no surprise that James Anderson takes the most wickets in England wins but the fact that 59.1% of his wickets come in victories, compared to only 45.5% of Stokes’s, show that he is key to England’s attack.

Ali and Stuart Broad have both been providing good support to Anderson, with an identical tally of 46 wickets – over half their tally – taken in England wins since the last Ashes.

Top-order wickets as percentage of total

Finally we thought it was important to look at which bowlers deal with their opponents’ key men. It’s all very well cleaning up the tail but who is going to deal with the top-order batsmen?

England will be looking to Anderson and Broad to deal with Australia’s main threats, as nearly half of their wickets are made up of the top four batsmen in the opposition line-up.

Stokes is less of a miss in this regard, as only slightly more than a third of the wickets he takes are those of the big hitters. Chris Woakes takes slightly more top-order wickets and, while he doesn’t up his game in wins, England know what they are going to get from him and his bowling and batting averages are more than respectable.

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