A little plug – put up 10 more pictures on The Extra Bits from Lord’s on Friday. Have a look, hope you enjoy them. Part 1 is here.
It’s a few days after the disaster at Lord’s and there have been recriminations-a-plenty. So, striking while the iron is hot, and loading up my laptop without opening the piece of crap that is ITunes (which crashed my laptop TWICE last night), here are the latest Ashes Panel responses.
The drill was, as I have ten days between games, to have an immediate reaction, a considered reaction in #007 and a look-forward to Edgbaston for #008. Five questions, responded to at varying lengths by…. Andy In Brum (Andy), My fellow Friday at Lord’s man Keyser Chris (Chris), my fellow Southeastern Sufferer, The Great Bucko (Sean), Cricket Jon (Jon), and our resident Yorkie (Metatone)….
These were sent out on Sunday night and I had all responses by middle of yesterday. Gold stars, and huge thanks, to all.
1. That was an annihilation. Bad day at the office or something more deep-seated?
– If I said both, would that make sense, yes it was a bad day, we’ve proven we’re better than that at Lord v NZ & Cardiff last week. Unfortunately, the flaws that have been bailed out by the middle order & an inspired bowling performance creating a batting collapse.
Our top order is flaky & our bowlers lack penetration on flat decks. Losing Rashid was a massive blow. Even if he would have got spanked, he’d have got wickets.
Jon – I think it is a matter of sustainability. In conditions that suit ( and the evidence is overwhelming that the Lords pitch doesn’t suit our seam attack) and where we have a chance to apply some scoreboard pressure, our guys can keep up from time to time with the best of them. But even in circumstances where, for instance, Darren Bravo is on his way to a match winning knock such as he was against England just three months ago we “go for a walk” in terms of competitive intensity. The heads drop.
It isn’t surprising. One banner you can expect to get rolled out over the next few weeks is that they are halfway through a long campaign in the Test arena and it is affecting the players. Well no shit Sherlock, whose Board agreed to this schedule? I hope the MSM are reading this because if they roll the fatigue banner they will be pooing on their own doorstep ( by virtue of them being the extended media arm of the ECB). In short, it’s a bad day at the office that has a recurring theme. [ I shall now remove the splinters from my backside].
Meta – I feared a humping when I saw the weather forecast. We don’t have the bowling attack to prosper on Chief Executive pitches. We’ve been reliant on Joe Root to get big scores, he was bound to have an off day sooner or later. Aussie bowlers were bound to bowl a bit better than in Cardiff. We’re not good against real pace. Certainly not “a bad day at the office” – this defeat sits in line with the failures against a touring SA and of course the drubbing we had Down Under. Very little has actually changed since then. Surprise, surprise! Sacking KP didn’t make much difference – a cynic might wonder if actually he wasn’t the problem.
Chris – In isolation, an aberration. But it’s not in isolation, given England’s recent performances. Anyone who follows me & Dmitri on Twitter knows we were at Lord’s separately on Friday. Separately we straightaway saw the Aussie bowling in the flesh was a step above in that last Friday session compared to us, even accounting for the extra rest Rogers & Smith gave them. It was sensational. And on an allegedly duff pitch. Losing by 400+ at home, at Lord’s, with the sun mostly out? Oh my. England have a bad recent habit of collapses, and it’s under Cooks watch even when he gets (blood-soaked apparently) runs. There has to be some ministerial responsibility on that front.
Sean – It was a complete annihilation and probably one of the most embarrassing performances that England have put in for a long time; however it shows why most people on the blog didn’t embrace the musings of the national media, who had made Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss the saviours of all cricket. We are ranked number 6 in the world and that accurately reflects where we are in international cricket. We haven’t had a front line spinner since Swann retired and a reliable opener since Strauss himself retired as well as a middle order that is consistently inconsistent. The fact that the national media decided to throw eulogies around as if it was going out of fashion and had written off the Aussies, shows how far up the ECB’s backside they all are. I predicted at the beginning that the series would be a tight one and i still think it will be, but we need to sort the top 4 out as Root can’t always be there to dig us out of 40/3 hole.
2. Focus is on the batting, that undoubtedly did not do well – we’ll come to that. But that’s two deeply unimpressive test matches from James Anderson. Reason to be worried?
Andy – Yes, he doesn’t appear to get the ball to move anymore, either normal or reverse swing. That’s very worrying.
Jon – It is understandable that as he gets older Anderson will become less effective on these types of pitches. So yes we have reason to be worried. For this is not a time for change in Planet ECB. This is all about maximising inflow of funds for the Paymasters so my delight at a 180 plays 210 plays 210 seeking 180 shootout, the best type of a Test you could ever see, is something of a sporting fantasy and flies in the face of the modus oppo of these dreadful people who run our game. (Mind you I thought he bowled well in the 2nd inns at Cardiff).
Meta – Post 2011 (where he was excellent) Anderson has been neutered when the pitch doesn’t swing. I’ve gone all the way to saying England should have looked at the pitch at Lords and the weather forecast and not picked him. That’s probably a bit of 20/20 hindsight because you couldn’t know it would never swing across the 5 days. Yet at the very least he shouldn’t be using the new ball if there’s no swing… Worried? Yes I am, because if we get 2 more flat pitches, well hard to see how that’s not the series lost…
Chris – Lyth needs more time. We all know that, rightly or wrongly. Bairstow is in sensational county form, and has to play especially given the way he’s been messed around on previous tours. Every stat backs that up. It’ll be for Ballance, because you can’t drop 3 & 4 at the same time, plus Root has to stay at 5. Apropos of nowt, Cook opening but not facing the first ball & leaving it to Lyth is just wrong, hiding behind the captaincy pressure thing to avoid it – just wrong. Cook primarily is an opener. Open.
Sean – It’s a concern and has been for a while. Anderson now seems to only be able to perform on those pitches that suit his bowling and provide him with some swing and seam movement. Granted the two pitches we just played on offered nothing for the quicks (unless you happen to be tearing it down at 90+ MPH) but it was a horribly toothless display from our attack (Broad excepted) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Finn given a go at Edgbaston, though as a Middlesex fan who has watched a lot of him this season, I’m not sure it’s the right call. I think we have to understand that we have bowled Jimmy into the ground over the past few years and it looks like he has lost his nip (or that it has been blunted from years of bowling on flat pitches) and that Father Time may be catching up with him. He may come back, if Edgbaston and/or Trent Bridge offer some sideways movement replicating what happened against India last year, but unfortunately i think we are seeing the gradual winding down of a top drawer test bowler.
3. I confess, I saw none of the 337 for 1 first day. What went wrong?
Andy – Shit dead pitch, good batting, bowling not that penetrative, but it wasn’t bad.
Jon – Nothing much. Australia just applied themselves.
Meta – I didn’t see the whole day. From what I saw we had a bit of bad luck in the morning session, and shelled a couple of chances. And good players on a reasonable batting pitch took advantage. And yet… Jimmy didn’t threaten and Wood looked a bit tired. And Ali was bowling with an injury. Stokes didn’t get it together. Basically we didn’t have enough threat on this kind of pitch. It’s the usual story – real pace or mystery spin takes wickets when the going is tough – and we have neither. As I say above, this is an issue going back to 2012 at least.
Chris – Primarily, 337-1 happened (from what I saw on telly whilst, erm, working) because Rogers & Smith batted really really well. They earnt it. Ignore the bad pitch guff – those runs still had to be scored. Anderson going wicket less is a real worry this early in a series. 4 Tests ago I would have Broad dropped for his terrible scared batting; he bowled terrifically this Test. Anderson needs a question or two raised about him so he ups his game. It’s been a while since that was necessary, but needs must. We may need to think about Mark Wood alternatives later this series as well (not necessarily for the alleged fitness issue – more him slowly being found out? Unless he digs out an imaginary alpaca!)
Sean – I worked from home that day and watched some of it on the TV. The main thing that went wrong was we lost the toss on a flat, flat wicket. Australia batted very well and i thought Rodgers and Smith batted very intelligently (and Davie Warner showed us again why his score outweighs his IQ); however It wasn’t our performance on day 1 that lost us this test, it was the batting on the evening of day 2.
4. What changes would you make to the batting line-up, if any?
Andy – I’m a massive bell fan, but he’s so far out of form, he’s down with Downton looking up at those fishes with lights. So Bairstow for him & Root to 4.
Jon -Remove GB, his runs against poor attacks such as SL, India and WI count for little once you face NZ and Australia. I wouldn’t make any other changes. These are the guys the Paymasters want in the team so let’s lie on the pillows we spent two years plumping. However to not remove GB would be stubborn and I think his replacement should be Compton ( although it won’t be).
Meta – It is still 1-1 and we actually lost this match bowling, long before the batting f!cked up. Hence, I’d give Lyth another chance – also I’m having trouble saying that Carberry or Compton would do better – yet they are the prime candidates in CC at the moment. I’d send Ballance back to CC and pick either Taylor at 3, or promote Bell to 3 and pick KP. Ballance has clearly been worked out and is all over the place. It’s kind of odd as a Yorkshire fan to not pick Bairstow, but he’s not cut out to come in at 3 or 4 – and he’s not clearly better as a package than Root, Buttler or Stokes.
Chris – I think move Bell to 3 & play Bairstow at 4. It keeps the changes relatively minimal. Hales should be looked at as well, but maybe not for a Test or two. Firefighting is the order of the day right now. Post-Ashes then we look at the longer term, even considering the third straight potential “difficult winter”… It really is all too predictable this situation. Honestly Dmitri, bet you regret not “piping down” now!
Sean – It’s a difficult one, because a) i don’t think chopping and changing the batting works and b) there is no one (Bairstow excepted) who looks like they could fill one of the problem child spots. I think they will make one change and that will be Bairstow for Ballance (who if he tried to bat any deeper in his crease, would be standing at first slip) with Bell at 3, Root at 4 and Bairstow at 5 – now whether i agree with that decision is a mute point, i just can’t see the management dropping Bell. On a side note, I still believe that we have to give Lyth the whole series before we decide whether he is good enough (I think Bob Willis giving him a 0/10 and calling him out of his depth, was an extraordinary statement for a batsman who has played 4 tests and scored one hundred). I also couldn’t name another opener in the county game at the moment that isn’t out of form or could do a better job again the Mitchells.
5. 103 all out on a featherbed. Can you think of a worse England Ashes batting performance. Go let it out……. pick one. (Not allowed to pick Adelaide 2006).
Andy – Sydney 2013
Jon – There was one in the Boxing Day 1990 Test at MCG where we were 100ish for 1 on top of a lead of 50 and from nowhere 9 wickets fell for 50 runs meaning they within the space of a session only had to chase 200 in a day (which they did). A bit like Melbourne 2013 but without the team meeting.
Meta – Worse batting performance? Hard to choose in my lifetime – Headingley 1989 probably hurt me the most, because it feels in retrospect like a precursor to so many more. Melbourne 1990 being the obvious next one. But in the end, surely the one I have to tag, because it so represents how this team is still Cooky’s is Brisbane 2013…
Chris – Damn you. You knew I would go for the 2006 “Scottish play”… Score-wise, these don’t really compare, but Melbourne & Sydney in 2013/14 and Headingley 2009 spring to the top of my head. Most of those were rescued by an individual or twos scores (“him” twice in Melbourne, Swann & Broads humpty at Headingley ’09); but mostly abject. There have surely been worse – I just can’t bring myself to statsguru those dark places in my soul!
Sean – I’ve been watching English cricket for the past 20 years and unfortunately have seen more English collapses than i’ve eaten hot meals; however the one that sticks with me is the 51 all out at Sabina Park in 2009 in part 1 of the glorious Peter Moore’s reigns. This again was no minefield off a pitch and the West Indies attack was hardly a mirror of the one from 15 years previous led by Walsh and Ambrose (I remember the 46 all out debacle as well), yet we succumbed in such a weak and gutless fashion, so much so that my partner at the time decided to go for a long walk to get away from all of the expletives that I was hurling at the TV (I was in a mood for about a week after that performance). Salt was then rubbed in the wound by the fact that we couldn’t beat a mediocre West Indies side in the remaining games of the series and went down to a 1-0 series defeat, which i still believe should have cost Peter Moores his job first time around. Mind you, England’s collapse against the short ball last Summer in the second innings at Lords against india was pretty rage inducing too. (er…..Ashes, Sean…. still this was too good to leave out.)
As always, some terrific responses, and some decent insight from these outside cricket muppets! Keep an eye out for #007 (no James Bond question) in the next few days!