true faith : BALL GAMES ALLOWED

by • January 7, 2014 • tf blogsComments (3)605

So the whole sorry affair finally came to an end with England humiliated in Sydney once AshesOzagain 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. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

 

ALEX HURST TF_INITIALS_LOGO

 

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3 Responses to true faith : BALL GAMES ALLOWED

  1. Niall Fleming says:

    The major problem was planning. It still is.

    Trott’s issues were known about in the summer but the England management decided to leave him in place despite knowing what happened to Trescothick. It would have been better to “rest” him and moved Bell up to three during the summer series. Bell bats at three for Warwickshire and Trott bats four incidentally.

    An assumption was made that the pitches would be identical to the previous tour in 2011. Quite who worked that one out I don’t know but they want their brains examined. The bowling attack was selected on medium pace, back of a length, with abrasion helping both reverse swing and Swann. No notice was taken of Tremlett’s post injury drop in pace, the absence of mid tour games to get Bresnan fit and Finn’s collapse in form.

    The Australians went for pace, full length seam and overspin, indicating clearly their expectation for pitches with a bit more grass and carry.

    Despite having more than 35 players in Australia, Test Squad, Performance Squad, Big Bash players, none of the extensive coaching and management team thought about making more radical changes before the series was lost altogether.

    We will lose a world class opening batsman in Cook if we persist with him as captain. If he has to continue as captain he needs to drop down to four. I would rather see him open and lose the captaincy.

    Root and Bairstow have had their confidence and technique shattered, as with Finn on the bowling side. All three need a break from international cricket. Moxon, Gillespie and Frazer will sort them out.

    Anderson and Prior need a break to recover their “zip”.

    So I would start the summer with Cook, Robson, Bell, Ballance, Pietersen, Stokes, Buttler (or Ambrose), Borthwick, Broad, Mills and Onions, Jordan in reserve for Borthwick if the pitch won’t spin. Overton would be a longer term choice but he is unfit.

    Instructions to groundsmen should be to prepare quicker wickets but not greentops.

    Replace Flower with Giles, Saker with Pop Welch and Gooch with Thorpe. Try out Bell as captain. Move Flower and Gooch to the Performance Squad where I think they would do a good job.

    James Whitaker is too left field to be top selector. Geoff Cook, Moxon, and Gus Frazer should be invited to have an input.

  2. Stephen B says:

    Bairstow & Panesar Alex? Don’t we need some more pace in the side, what about the left armer they took out with the performance squad to replicate Mitchell Johnson in the nets?

    • Niall Fleming says:

      The left armer is Tymal Mills, started with Yorkshire (pre Gillespie I think), moved to Essex. Bowled at 90mph+ at England in a summer warm up match, added to the Performance Squad and used a couple of times, once at Perth, to give the England batsmen practice.

      His county coach says he isn’t ready for Test cricket. Herewith the problem. The coach concerned is Paul Grayson, who after a nothing career with Yorkshire and Essex became head coach at Essex where he has singularly failed to get them out of Division 2.

      Grayson also failed to develop a right arm quick called Maurice Chambers, Jamaican born, 88mph to 90mph, bowls a heavy ball rather like Gus Frazer. Came to us at Warwickshire on loan when we had an injury crisis and looked good enough indeed. We offered him a contract but as we are stocked out with seamers (including Chris Wright also ex-Essex) he opted for newly promoted Northants where he is guaranteed a first team spot.

      Other pacier bowlers to look at include Jamie Overton, he has/had a back problem and isn’t expected to be fit for a while after winter surgery, Stuart Meaker who certainly has pace but seems to have gone into the doldrums at Surrey and Chris Jordan who moved from Surrey to Sussex and can bowl pretty quick, not express, and bats middle order.

      All of the above except Chambers have been selected for Performance Squads or ODIs. All except Overton seem to have had “County” issues.

      Once a genuine quick is identified, they need to be centrally contracted, coached sensibly by experts such as Pop Welch and Gus Frazer, and placed with Div 1 counties where they will get games at the right standard.

      Wrong headed coaching nearly ruined James Anderson and is ruining Steve Finn.