There is no point in writing reading and reading a match report for the second Test at Adelaide. England were annihilated again and look like they are going to relinquish our Ashes at the fourth time of asking to what remains an average Australian team, albeit an improving one.
If you need to know what happened in this Test, please re-read my Brisbane report to find details of good English bowling on a flat pitch on the first innings, chances not taken, Australia let off the hook and the rest is history. For the first three innings of this series England have failed to get over 200 when the pitches have suggested over 400+ totals would be par. That’s not good enough.
All the talk after the first Test by experts and fans (including me) that England are slow starters and Second Test experts away from home proved to be bluster. England have problems and have been in a different league to Australia this tour. We’re two nil down with three to play and not in 80 years has a team turned around an Ashes series in such a poor position. Not that anyone is hoping for a win, retaining the urn must now be the goal, but Australian pitches are prone to producing results so a 2 2 in this series means that winning three on the bounce is the only option.
So where has it all gone wrong? This England team is used to winning, used to beating Australia and is filled with more runs and wickets than any England team in our history? We’re not just losing we’re being humiliated so far. I’ve listed some points below to try and make sense of it all.
Much has been made of England being slow starters of away Test series. In the last 8 series played away from home England have scored less than 200 runs in one of the innings in their first test match. That is unacceptable. England’s coaching and backroom set up is one of the best in the world and England are one of the best teams in the world, but this keeps happening. If we look at this Test series so far and England haven’t got going yet. Why? If we look at the preparation and practice matches this may lead us to the conclusion they’ve been royally screwed over by the Aussies.
Each practice match had England playing on slow., low pitches facing bowlers of questionable quality. Long gone are the days where England teams would face Australian state sides brimming with international class players who couldn’t get in the superb Aussie team. The Australians have ensured we came into this series as undercooked as possible, make no mistake. To me that’s criminal.
It’s flattering that they’ve pulled out all of the stops to doctor the practice wickets and teams – they know they’ve had to do everything to beat us, but England should have wised up and done something about it. Maybe the politics of international cricket won’t allow this but it’s a bit of a disgrace. England have come into this series not having played Test cricket on bouncing rapid wickets for well over year, and the whole point of preparation is to help players acclimatise to the pitches they’ll be playing on to create an even contest.
Some people might say ‘fair play’ to the Aussies for doing everything they can to win. I see that point of view but if England were to try a similar tactic against any touring side, it’d be disappointing.
I’ve said in these blogs before that this England team has been an immense success since 2009 and although the management are bound to make mistakes – they’re entitled to a few. The decision to discard Nick Compton seems more and more ridiculous by the Test. His stats weren’t amazing. Two very handy hundreds in New Zealand and a solid start in India, he struggled at home against New Zealand but his sensational domestic form which got him the call up in the first place should have given him time to play against Australia this summer. Instead Root was tried at the top of the order and then sent back down after struggling against the new ball.
Carberry, despite an average first class record, has been rocketed into the team and certainly hasn’t let anyone down, outperforming most other batsmen on the tour so far. However, England have failed at the top of the order since that New Zealand tour. Compton does what no one else has done so far in this series – he occupies the crease. Even if he doesn’t score runs, he hangs around, allows his partner to build a partnership. Cook and Compton averaged over 50 opening together, since Compton’s omission England’s opening partnership is less than 30. I believe had Compton been playing against the Aussies in the summer and now, Alastair Cook’s form wouldn’t have plummeted like it has and England wouldn’t be in such a poor position.
The other selection issue was picking and playing Chris Tremlett in the first test. Tremlett was picked after a sensational tour to Australia in 2010. Since then he has performed poorly domestically and the crippling injuries he’s suffered have clearly affected his pace. In the first test he bowled between 74 and 78 MPH – occasionally hitting 80. That is not international class. Tremlett’s selection did not cause England to lose by 300+ runs or really have much effect on the score – but it’s emblematic of a scrambled selection policy since Andrew Strauss’ retirement. Too often are players picked and dropped again – what’s happened to Woakes and Kerrigan? Why was Steven Finn – England’s fastest bowler left out for Woakes in that Test then selected for this tour with an ageing, slow Tremlett picked ahead of him?
We’re a long way off from ‘the bad old days’ when we chopped and changed our team regularly but the management seem to be gambling on too many selections – it’s very ‘un-England like’ and it could be harming our performances in the short term and the long term.
Playing Badly but Winning
Remember this from late October 2012. United hadn’t started firing but a win against West Brom and a draw at Liverpool moved us up to 8th in a tight table. We’d stunk out the place against Norwich at home as well and played rank at Everton and Reading, picking up points in the process – 9 in fact plus another 3 against Spurs on the opening day. We were not the better team in any game but picked up 12 points. We convinced ourselves that playing badly and picking up wins was something to be pleased about, that all the big teams do it and we’d come good.
Well no they don’t. The teams who titles and other trophies play badly every so often and they scrape through then get back to playing well. Teams that play badly all the time eventually get relegated/finish well down the table. Their good fortune disappears and the opposition realise they are eminently beatable.
I don’t want to exaggerate but the same could be true of this England Team. England were smashed by Pakistan, relied on a genius KP innings to draw in Sri Lanka, lost to South Africa, beat a beatable Indian team, drew and then struggled against New Zealand at home. We beat Australia, deservedly but Australia were a rabble.
Maybe this team need a reminder they’re not as good as they think. The lack of competition for places amongst batsmen is an example of it. Each of England’s top batsmen has struggled for consistency for a while. Safe places, safe minds & poor performances. England’s ability to play badly and win against the Aussie’s has come back to haunt us.
Maybe losing at Trent Bridge or Old Trafford wouldn’t have been such a bad thing in the long run as England would have realised they needed everyone firing on all cylinders to win in Australia.
It sounds like sour grapes but England have had no luck. It’s worse than that, the Australian’s had a fair bit of luck. You may ask how England could have 10 days of cricket against Australia so far to make their own luck and I wouldn’t disagree with that. However losing both tosses has been brutal on this team. It may not have changed the results, but I think there’s a good chance it could have. Both teams are equally as brittle. Playing two spinners and an all-rounder was a bold selection for Adelaide and the right one. Losing the toss was a kick in the teeth after Brisbane – but it’s part of cricket.
You make your own luck. Some of the ‘worldy’ catches the Aussie’s have taken have been as a result of England’s own batting. However there have been several occasions where the Australian batsmen have played mindless cricket and got away with it. At Brisbane and Adelaide chances have been put down, run outs missed or catches have been tantalisingly out of reach. It just hasn’t happened for England and everything that could go right, has gone right, for the Aussies. David Warner’s car crash batting should see him not pass ten in each innings as he comes and wildly swings the bat in the hope of hitting a boundary. Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin should have both been gone on day 1 of the Adelaide test but they allowed Australia to make 590. Small margins for England have led to big defeats.
There are lots of things England have to change to miraculously get anything out of the series, but if their luck changes it’ll be made all the easier.
I’m an optimist. I’ve talked up England’s success and revelled in victory against Australia. A 2 0 deficit in the series gives England the chance to make history and win the series or at least retain the urn. I think this team has the quality to do that. Whether they do it will be another question.
I’ll always remember the second Test in this series, for the wrong reasons. I stayed up all night watching England collapse. With Man United and Old Trafford the following day I planned some for sleep on the train down and aided by a few drinks pre-match – 4 hours of kip on the way home. So when my mate turned up saying he’d forgotten to book train tickets, he couldn’t drive down the only option was for me to do the 6-7 hours’ worth of driving, having not slept in over a day and the trip becoming alcohol free. Needless to say, after watching England throw away the Ashes on a blameless pitch, I immediately suggested we forget about it and watch the defeat on television. After some gentle persuasion from him – 7 hours later we were in Old Trafford 20 minutes after the final whistle still singing with 3,000 other Mags.
What a day and the perfect tonic to this shambles being offered up by England. Thank god I’m not a mackem.