With much on the agenda, the get-together lasted longer than usual, meaning that when Australia’s players knocked on the dressing room door to mingle with their opponents, as they did at the end of the 2019 series, they were not immediately invited in. By the time England had finished and went to extend an invitation, the Australians had already left the ground.
However, Stokes took to social media at 4.11am to clarify that the players did toast a hard-fought series.
Our wrap took longer than expected because of multiple last time event’s.
We decided to meet up in the night club rather than the dressing room
— Ben Stokes (@benstokes38)^(
An anonymous source from the Australian dressing room, however, told Fox Sports: “We don’t really care, we’ve got the urn, but after a hard-fought series it is pretty pathetic. Talk about the spirit of cricket.”
“Yeah, we’ll have a beer,” answered McCullum when asked if drinks were back on the table. He also clarified his reaction, stating he held no ill will towards Australia, particularly Cummins.
“I definitely don’t think less of Pat,” McCullum said. “I’ve had the pleasure of being able to coach Pat over in the IPL and he’s an absolute champion fella. He’s done an amazing job with the captaincy and the Australian team. I consider him one of my mates as well.
“I think if we look back to after that Test match, I don’t necessarily think what I said was construed in the right way. What I said was I’ve made mistakes in the past and there’s times when you look back. Maybe when you’re a little bit younger you don’t quite understand some of those decisions you make. I look back with regret at some of them and I put my hand up to say that. I guess that’s what I was challenging but in the end everyone’s entitled to do what they want.
“There’s no right or wrong in that and that’s the grey area around the spirit of cricket. I just I guess I know with the benefit of time what I’d have done in that situation. But they’re more than entitled to do what they want. I guess Ashes series have all these twists and turns and moments people talk about and what people are remembered by. That was certainly one of those as was some of the spells from both sets of bowlers and some of the innings from both sets of batsmen.”
Despite the flashpoint at Lord’s, both sets of players were largely congenial with one another. Stokes reasoned franchise cricket played a part in improved relations between the bitter rivals.
“You can spend nine weeks with someone who you’ll play against, like I’d spend two or three years at Rajasthan with Steve Smith. You get to know each other,” he said. “I think it’s just the natural progression of how, where franchise cricket has taken players from all across the world to actually be able to spend time together and understand each other more is a reason as to why you’re probably not going see the sort of aggression and stuff out in the middle that you might have seen from previous Ashes series.”
McCullum also reflected with pride at how his charges had acquitted themselves this series, especially after Lord’s, to win two of the final three Tests. Had rains not intervened at Emirates Old Trafford, they could have become only the second team in Ashes history to overhaul a 2-0 deficit. Since taking the reins at the start of the 2022 summer, McCullum has overseen a run of 13 victories in 18 Test matches, with just one draw – the rained-out fourth Test, which confirmed Australia’s retention of the urn.
“I looked from afar at this series and to now be a part of it and witness how special it is something quite incredible,” McCullum said about his first experience of Ashes cricket. “I don’t want it to end actually, I think we should go round again and have another five Tests and keep doing what we’re doing. But it’s been an incredible six weeks and I’m really proud to be sharing a dressing-room with the England boys.
“You’re sharing this series with the Aussie boys too, who have certainly… they walk away with the urn and both teams walk away with two victories under their belt, but I think both sides have stayed true to their styles and that’s what makes a great heavyweight fight. It’s two different styles and total conviction in them.”
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo