So the whole sorry affair finally came to an end with England humiliated in Sydney once again and a quite incredible 5 0 defeat. The idea of losing the series seemed unlikely to me, (and many others) back in November so to lose 5 0 has been gut wrenching. However after Perth, with the Ashes lost, it’s become easier to stomach. The turn around since the summer has been an utter disaster and the more I think about it the more I think that England have been dealt a duff hand with these Test series being played back to back. That’s not to say England’s performances haven’t been an utter disgrace and they haven’t been outplayed in every aspect.
Similarly to a piece I did earlier in the series, below are a few over riding reasons we’ve failed as badly as they have. There are numerous other reasons for the total failure in this series but here are a select few.
- 1. The schedule
Earlier this year in the run up to the home Ashes series many people spoke of England winning all ten test matches. As it was England lost 5 Test matches to three. In hindsight, the ferocity and aggression of Australia’s backlash has been stunning. I feel sorry for Alastair Cook. An Ashes winning captain should be able to bask in the achievement for at least 18 months and build on that success. England played no cricket at all after that victory while the core of Asutralia’s team went to Inida for 7 ODIS.
I’m not excusing England’s performances, or the manner of the defeat, but in hindsight the team playing the second of the series held a huge advantage. I’m sure Australia didn’t enjoy losing the first series but they were safe in the knowledge that regardless of what happened in the summer, they could still hold the ashes come January and the summer would be largely forgotten. Factor in playing at home second and the everything very much pointed to Australia.
Of course England should have prepared better for this. Maybe more players should have been rested/blooded over the summer and competition for places have been realistic for the winter tour. Either way playing the second series at home was a major advantage for Australia. Not an advantage that would swing into a 5 0 win though.
- 2. Mitchell Johnson
The new and improved Mitchell Johnson was presented to us pre-series as Australia’s secret weapon. I scorned him and refused to believe he’d changed. Some decent ODI performances when he only had to bowl 60 balls a game wasn’t enough to convince me. Wow was I wrong. I think England were too.
I’ve actually watched a fair bit of the series live and on numerous occasions I just couldn’t understand how he was doing so much damage. In the important second test in Adelaide I watched him spray it about for 17 in a three over spell at the start of the day and get hauled off. I woke up and he’d taken another 6 wickets FOR LESS THAN TEN RUNS!!!!!
Australia had Siddle and Harris’ accuracy in the summer, but during the Lords Test match when Australia needed wickets, England dealt with both of these bowlers with ease. Their tight lines are only effective when Australia are ahead in the game. Stick Johnson into the fray with his explosive pace and we had a problem. We didn’t get to grips with Johnson. He picked up a lot of tail ender wickets but he was especially effective when England were in facing a few overs at the end of the day when he could steam in for four overs, throw 8 byes down the leg side and pick up a wicket as well. England didn’t field their quickest bowler, Steven Finn.
- 3. The end of an era for England and the beginning for Asutralia.
The limp display of many of Engalnd’s senior players has been the biggest disappointment. I don’t particularly think Carberry has a long term future in this team, but he’s playing his first serious Test cricket and he’s had no help at all from his senior colleagues. Ian Bell, savior of the summer, was poor. Trott went home, Swann retired, Prior was hideously out of form and KP has flattered to deceive. Obviously Cook’s display had a huge impact on the rest of the team and we’d seemed to return to a 1990’s scenario of needing Atherton to score runs to stave off defeat.
Too many England players places in this team were secure after a poor couple of years. Even the victory in India was the result of bowling success rather than batting prowess, apart from a couple of match winning efforts from Cook. KP and Trott. That Bresnan was picked, unfit and out of form, over Onions was a disgrace. Too many England players have one eye on the end of their careers and not on winning test matches. Brilliant player that he has been, Swann should never have toured if there was the slightest doubt in his mind he would retire mid series. I love Swann and he took England to the next level in his career, but at a time when England needed leadership from senior players, his retirement was a distraction at a time England should have been focusing on winning test matches.
This isn’t 2006/07 when an England team deprived of a number of its best players and captain took on one of the greatest teams ever assembled. This is an England team full of Ashes winners who displayed the kind of performances of a team who weren’t that fussed about losing. Most of the Australian team had never won the Ashes before. It showed.
So some mitigating factors. I’m actually looking forwards to two great test series this Summer against India and Sri Lanka. They’re good opposition to face and no douby India are after revenge after the couple of beatings we’ve given them recently. They just had a real go at South Africa over there and were unlucky to lose.
Much has been written about the 8 county championship games that are to be played before the Sri Lanka series and that all England players who want to be considered for selection will need to play. News in today’s Guardian reported by the much respected Andy Bull states that Flower will resign if KP remains part of the England set up. This is worrying news. The speculation surrounding Flower and Cook’s position was not in reality anything more than post series anger. Both men have made mistakes in this series and underperformed but they’re the best men for the job. For Andy Flower to believe that one of his players is divisive enough in the dressing room to offer his resignation if he remains part of the set up suggests there’s something deeply wrong in the English dressing room.
When such divisions between head players and coaches form, the results are never pretty.
My team for the opening Test v Sri Lanka in May:
Cook (c ), Compton, Bell, Root, Balance, Stokes, Bairstow, Broad, Panesar, Andersom, Finn