There Goes The Ashes
Okay, we lost The Ashes after the boxing day test in Melbourne but I wanted to wait till all the games were played and, considering the results, time to sit and reflect before jumping on the bandwagon and posting my own thoughts on England’s performances. While it’s not all doom and gloom what has happened over the past month and a bit to English cricket has been nothing short of devastating. Quietly I felt this series was going to be a close one with the victorious side winning 2-1 but I was going to be very, very wrong. In the end Australia won the series and did so by a whitewash taking all five games making it only the third time this has happened in Ashes history though, most worryingly, the second time in the last ten years.
Australia thoroughly outplayed England and played some exciting cricket whilst doing so. I was lucky enough to be at days 2 & 3 at the SCG when they sealed the whitewash and the atmosphere was fantastic. Whilst not the result one hoped for at the start I do think it has breathed new life in to the series and test cricket as a whole.
Very few England players can walk away from this series with their heads held high and say with a straight face they gave it everything. Whilst Cook and the rest of the team talk of trying their best but coming up short you need only to look at the abject fielding and some crazy batting to know that really, many could have and should have done better. Kevin Pietersen is being made out to be the villain of the tour but given he had one of the better averages of the tour I think he’s just the easy option. Truth be told only Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad can walk away from this one without a black mark. Both tried their damnedest to drag England to a result of some sort even if it was a draw; anything to avoid 5-0. Ultimately their efforts were in vain but personally I can’t fault either of them. As for the rest of the England team I think many will need to have a good long look at themselves and wonder whether they actually did give it their all. Cook’s issues with the bat also seemed to affect his captaincy often bereft of any ideas on how to get Australia out. The top order batsmen could hardly score between them with only one batsmen (Stokes) getting a century all tour!
Australia on the other hand were magnificent and, unlike some, I wasn’t surprised except by Mitchell Johnson’s revitalisation. In the previous Ashes tour in England, Australia improved game on game and while they lost the series 3-0 they could’ve won one or two of the test had weather not intervened. Their batting looked good which was why I predicted a tight 2-1 scoreline here in Australia. Whilst I got that part wrong I wasn’t when it came to how Australia batted. Whilst Australia’s top order did suffer a few collapses they could always count on Brad Haddin to bat them out of trouble. He was simply magnificent all tour and played some very important innings when it seemed England might just be able to take a lead in a game. Equally Clarke was fantastic as the skipper who, along with Lehmann, tactically out-thought England and their plans for England’s batsmen worked like a charm; a stark contrast to Cook and Flower.
Where Did It All Go Wrong?
Probably the toughest question to answer and one I don’t have but I do think many missed or simply ignored the warning signs that were evident in England when the sides last met. England’s top order then couldn’t must many runs and pitches that catered to England’s bowlers help massively. We should have played more warm up games in Australia to allow our batsmen time to adjust to the different pitches and to try to get some form going before the first test in Adelaide. Many will say that the warm-up was the same as last time when England won the series and batted Australia out of most of the games. However the telling difference was that our batsmen were in form and scoring for fun. Most cricket pundits will tell you that, when batsmen are out of form, they need time in the middle to sort things out and that’s what they didn’t have; time.
Our bowling attack is a bit different as I think we bowled fairly well and at times had Australia on the ropes and would’ve done more damage were it not for Haddin and his heroics. However with Swann disappearing mid-tour (which I think was a poor decision) we had no spinner who could be a real threat. I have never believed Panesar would make it at test level and still don’t so it seems we’ll be looking for quite a while for someone to fill that void. Anderson has often struggled when the conditions don’t suit his bowling so that wasn’t a surprise either but I was surprised by how toothless we sometime seemed with no purpose to the bowling. In the past England have had plans on how to bowl at batsmen but Australia were more prepared and, when the plans didn’t work we had no idea what to do. This is part our bowlers but also our captain and coach who didn’t seem to know what to do when ‘plan A’ failed to conjure up a wicket.
Where To From Here?
England need to go away and re-think their entire game plan. Bowling teams to boredom and waiting for a mistake to happen clearly isn’t working, Australia showed that if you attack with aggression and guile wickets will tumble. We do have good pace bowlers like Steve Finn (though I’ve heard his accuracy is way off at the moment), Boyd Ranking and Stuart Broad. I think given time to find a new spinner our bowling attack will do just fine I honestly don’t have much of a concern there. Our batting, however, needs a serious investigation. I lost count of how many times an English batsmen got out playing a loose shot when what we needed was someone to come in and bat for a session or two to steady the ship. With Trott on indefinite leave we need to look at number 3 and I can’t see Carberry playing much more test cricket for England. He started off well but by the end of the series you could see Australia had already got the better of him. I don’t watch enough County cricket to know who should be having a shot at an England place but I’m sure there’s more than one. This team will need to be rebuilt and our tactics revised. We need to go in to matches with plans A,B & C and if they don’t work an ability to come up with D, E & F and keep plugging away. I still believe Cook is the right person to have as a captain; he’s still learning his trade and I think he’ll improve even more in the years to come. I also think Flower should be given a chance too but that’s up to the ECB.
As for Australia I think we’ll know exactly where they are with their revitalisation when they go on tour against South Africa. If they can win the series there then the process will be complete and it’s great to see too. I was annoyed at pundits and ex-England players poking fun at Australia and calling for a whitewash before a ball was bowled and it was rather interesting to see them humbled. I for one was surprised by Mitchell Johnson but I’m looking forward to seeing more of him because my word he is a scary bowler! It seems that for now Australia have a stable side with the first XI looking very settled.
With any luck England will sort themselves out in time for the next Ashes series and we’ll have more of a competition. Whilst I was disappointed we lost the Ashes I can accept losing. What annoyed and frustrated me was the manner in which we lost. England rarely competed and the resignation was plain to see at the SCG when Broad start hitting out for fits and giggles. We’re in to the one-day series now (and we’ve lost one already) and then a few T20s. I’m hoping that in there somewhere England can get at least one win to walk away with because if we don’t, I think the path back will be even more difficult than many fear.