Same Game, Different Bat – 1st Test Defeat

In the build up to the series, there was little doubt that England’s batting fragility was going to be a factor in the outcome of the series.  Australia’s too for that matter, though while the quality of Smith was well known, it might not have been factored in that he’d score nearly 300 runs in this Test.  The difference between the two teams can in no small part be put down to his performance.

Coming into the final day, it might well have been the case that there was no reason England couldn’t bat the day to save the game, but that didn’t mean there was any confidence they would do so.  The batting line up of a few years back would specialise in rearguard actions, and while they didn’t always succeed, they gave it a damn good go on most occasions, and pulled it off more times than their fair share.

Not this lot.

Hardly anyone can have had confidence England could bat a full day, just based on recent history.  The number of batsmen who can be counted on to graft session after session is very few, and one of the most likely candidates can be found down at number nine in the order – and in the event was top scorer.  The moment the first wicket went down, the sense of inevitability was already there, while Jason Roy’s skip down the track and abysmal hack at the ball was indicative of the inability to play traditional Test cricket.  Four down by lunch, all out mid way through the afternoon session.  It wasn’t even close.  It didn’t threaten to be close at any stage.

While Australia (or Smith, specifically) deserve huge credit for digging themselves out of the mire at 122-8, England still had a chance to put themselves in a powerful position when they were 282-4.  Their eventual lead of 90 was useful, but not overwhelming, and it should have been more.  It only got to that many because of Woakes and Broad, and England’s collapse otherwise presaged what would happen in the second innings.

There will be the usual handwringing about what went wrong, and why it went wrong, plus the calls for selectorial changes.  Moeen Ali will likely be dropped, as much for his own good as anything else, so shorn of confidence did he look.  Denly too might be removed, but it won’t alter the fundamental problems that apply, and which can be laid squarely at the door of the ECB and their determination to sideline first class cricket to the margins of the season.  Not only is it that a focus on white ball cricket leads to a white ball cricket style of batting, it’s that those who do play red ball cricket are playing in conditions that don’t suit long innings.  That’s not to say it’s a direct cause of a collapse today, but a line can be drawn from it to a diminishing number of players who might be deemed specialists in long form cricket, and the subsequent selection of white ball cricketers to play in the Test team.  Roy and Buttler are fabulous players on the attack, not so much in today’s circumstances, or indeed the circumstances Australia found themselves in the second innings where they too needed to grind down the bowlers rather than play as many shots as possible.

Root afterwards said that England had been got out today rather it being a poor batting display, and while that’s true to a degree, England certainly didn’t sell their wickets especially dearly.  Lyon bowled well on a fifth day pitch that played as a fifth day pitch should, taking spin, and even had England batted well, it might have proved too much to resist.  But England batted only half a day here – 45 overs.  Even in challenging conditions, against a good bowler, it’s pretty poor.  And it’s not even an outlier.  Would it be expected that England would have done so even if the pitch hadn’t been taking spin?  Not really.

Root himself seems to be suffering from declining performances – from an admittedly very high level to a still good level overall – whether due to the captaincy, due to the batting fragility around him, or some other reason.  Bairstow can barely buy a run currently, nor can Moeen.  Only Stokes and Woakes appear to have the nous to bat long in the middle order.  Rory Burns at the top showed he could do it and if he manages that a couple more times this series, that at least will be one position filled.  Cook never did manage the fourth innings saviour act in his career, but at least you thought he might do.

It’s hard to be angry about a batting collapse several years in the making, and repeated on a regular basis.  This is where England are, and if they are to get back into the series at Lords, it will likely be on the back of Australia being every bit as flaky, bar one player.

Defeat is disappointing.  The entirely predictable nature of it irritates.

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37 thoughts on “Same Game, Different Bat – 1st Test Defeat

  1. metatone Aug 5, 2019 / 4:01 pm

    Really not much to add.

    I think shoehorning Roy into the opener slot is the classical Ed Smith mistake. Ed, you are no Duncan Fletcher and CC is not what it was back then.

    One can also pick a bone with the selection of out of form players (eg Bairstow, Mo) but erring on the side of consistency of selection is for me at least a lesser crime.

    Denly is just a mystery pick and while he tried hard I think giving him a run would be an extravagance, better to pick someone young with potential and give them a run.

    Med team need sacking, but that’s been true for just about the last 10 years, so not much new there.

    I was surprised to look at Statsguru and see England actually have a decent record at Lords in the last 10 years or so… so maybe their chances of turning things around are higher than I think.

    Like

  2. Gareth Aug 5, 2019 / 4:05 pm

    Ben Foakes seemed to display the qualities (of which commonsense is an important one) to bat for extended periods of time.

    Like

  3. Mark Aug 5, 2019 / 4:44 pm

    No surprise at what happened today. You hoped England might make it to the second new ball. Wasn’t even close by all accounts. I haven’t seen any of the cricket today so can’t comment on the dismissals.

    England have been hiding the truth for many years. If it doesn’t swing and seam all over the place with Anderson and Broad making hay we struggle. Four years ago on flat pitches at Lords and the Oval we got well beaten. Look at our away record in Aus and India the last five years. Avoiding a 5-0 whitewash is celebrated.

    If we can bowl the opposition out for less than 300 we are in the game because are ODI style batting can just about manage that. But if the opposition starts putting nearly 500 on the board we are toast.

    I’m not angry just resigned. The depressing part is it will only get worse with the ECB moving to an even shorter form of the game. County cricket, & ODI cricket to be sidelined, and the whole farm bet on a new format that nobody else in the world plays. Where will the spinners and the batsman capable of batting a day’s play come from? Certainly not from 16.4

    What a shame we didn’t have a good spin bowler when the Aussies were 75/3 on Saturday evening. But we play batsman who bowl a bit, and bowlers who bat a bit. We have few real specialists.

    Remember when Harrison said he wanted England to play a brand of attacking, entertaining test cricket? Probably not the day to mention it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. dArthez Aug 5, 2019 / 4:50 pm

    I mentioned it before, but it bears noting that Roy, of all the batsmen, lasted the longest (in terms of balls faced). Now, I am not advocating that he should be retained as an opener, but seriously, that only goes to highlight how poor of an effort it was by the middle order.

    Obviously Moeen needs to be dropped. Not expecting miracles from Leach, but 3/172 flatters Moeen, and his 4/2 contribution with the bat is probably not much worse than what can be expected realistically from him at the moment. If Leach can return on average something like 2/80 from 30 overs that will help England.

    Honestly, Bairstow should probably not be in the team on current form either. I’d go for Foakes (think he is fit). Again not expecting miracles, but when Foakes was given a chance he did well enough to be given another go. Don’t see the point of Denly in the side. Might make more sense to play Roy in the middle order than Denly. As for someone to bat alongside Burns (should be given the series now), pick someone who is in form in the County Championship (at least had some form before the one-day orgy in the domestic season). If none qualify, go back to someone tried and tested (even if not good enough). Unless there is an up and coming youngster, but at least then with 3 full seasons behind him (don’t want a repeat of Hameed).

    The attack is tricky. Probably pick three from Curran, Broad, Archer, and Woakes, alongside Leach.

    Some extremely silly shots by several batsmen, Roy included. Even moreso considering that the target was always going to be out of reach (RRR at the start of the innings was 4.10), so unless England had somehow raced to 180/0 in 50 overs, there was no need to play most of those attempted scoring shots to gift their wickets like they did.

    Again, my proposed changes are nothing too extreme. And I know the cupboard is pretty bare, but still I don’t think these are the best 7 batsmen England could have fielded. Not even close.

    Like

  5. dArthez Aug 5, 2019 / 5:14 pm

    Off topic, but Dale Steyn has announced his retirement from Test cricket. Probably left it a bit late (had several horrific injuries in the last few years). Hope he can focus a bit on T20s, so that he can make a bit of cash before he retires completely from the game.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus Aug 5, 2019 / 5:30 pm

      Agreed. A brilliant, extraordinary talent.

      And he was on the end of arguably the greatest shot I have ever seen played by an England player…. (yes, I did a greatest ever).

      His face afterwards!

      Like

    • nonoxcol Aug 5, 2019 / 5:30 pm

      ☹️

      Played 5 Tests in England and averaged 31.65. Which is probably why this country has so many people (one is too many, frankly, and that’s no slight on our man) who rank him below Anderson.

      Some years ago I did a right old deep dive on fast bowlers with comparable career records (300 plus wickets at sub-25) and all had played way way more Tests in England. I was inspired to do so by the wretched fact that Shane Watson ended up playing around twice as many Tests over here as Dale Steyn. There was a period between 09 and 15 when Watson was here every summer bar two for Tests and/or ODIs.

      My favourite Test player for a very long time. One of my last memories of live cricket on Sky was him making Brad Haddin look deeply ordinary, after England had spent a winter making him look better than Gilchrist and inspiring certain journalists to put him ahead of Johnson as man of the series. God it was satisfying to be proven right by an authentic world-class bowler. It helped that Johnson’s own performance levels didn’t dip much either.

      (Still don’t know what that nearly record run chase v India was about though… they gave up prematurely and then Steyn hit a six off the last ball and looked well pissed off!)

      Like

      • thelegglance Aug 5, 2019 / 5:31 pm

        I’ve always had the feeling that had he been English, the coaching staff would have spent all their time stressing about his (relatively) poor economy rate.

        Like

        • nonoxcol Aug 5, 2019 / 5:46 pm

          When (as I’m sure you know) he literally has the best strike rate of any bowler with 200 Test wickets. You actually have to go down to SF Barnes (189) to find a better one.

          This Tests in England thing will always bug me. This is exactly why the messing with the Ashes schedule, shafting SA in 2012 *and* making them wait 5 years to come again (in which time Aus, NZ and SL came twice), was so dispiriting. It was entirely foreseeable that he’d be in decline or injured come 2017.

          Like

        • dannycricket Aug 6, 2019 / 7:05 am

          He would also have been injured even more often, with various bowling coaches changing his action until he was about the same speed as Sam Curran.

          Like

      • dArthez Aug 5, 2019 / 6:31 pm

        Think it was a decision by the team leadership, due to an injury to Morkel and Tahir not being much better than Chris Martin with the bat. Not entirely without justification, as it was just a 2-Test series, and South Africa obviously wanted to win the series.

        Also, if I am not mistaken there was no DRS that series, so you don’t want to have the result decided by a howler (Kallis for instance was sawn off).

        Can’t say I am completely happy with that, but at least it was understandable to close up shop.

        That 2014 series of South Africa against Australia was probably the last great series in Test cricket. Not saying there have not been good series since (New Zealand’s win in the UAE springs to mind for example), but I don’t think anything has surpassed that in the 5 years since.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Distinct Aug 5, 2019 / 7:07 pm

    Agree 100% . Its simple really – follow the money.
    Any player with a modicum of talent coming into the game is going to tailor their game to T20 and 50overs.
    Foolish to do otherwise.
    This more the anything is the threat to Long game cricket.
    Certainly an argument that Cooks game never recovered from trying to adapt to 50over cricket. Much of Bairstows and Roots decline can , arguably, be lain in the same direction.
    Alarm bells ringing

    Liked by 1 person

    • riverman21 Aug 5, 2019 / 8:51 pm

      I agree with you 100 % the money is in the white ball so players tailor their game to that.
      It’s a brilliant analysis,

      The changing structure of the game is drying up red ball batting talent at an alarming rate.

      There are still talented red ball batsman (just) but they spend the main part of the summer performing secondary roles in t20 teams or kicking about in 2nd XI cricket. Their growth and importance in the game is now severely neglected.

      Like

    • Quebecer Aug 5, 2019 / 9:41 pm

      Absolutely right about the influence on Bairstow and Root’s batting. Hameed fell apart when he tried to expand his game too.

      Like

    • dannycricket Aug 6, 2019 / 7:03 am

      I would also say that clubs will probably favour T20 players as well. Given the choice of two junior batsmen, where one has immense concentration ideal for the Championship whilst another has a strike rate of 250, I know which one most counties would sign.

      Like

  7. Quebecer Aug 5, 2019 / 7:14 pm

    Obviously you have to cut captains a little slack when they’re talking to the press, but two things leap out at me and make so sooooo angry…
    Root on Moeen:
    “I’m sure he’ll dust himself down and make sure he’s in a good head space going into Lord’s,”
    Better than the head space he was bowling in at Edgbaston? Because the head space he was bowling in by the end of this test was literally the Australian batsmen’s head space. Well, above it sometimes. Good for a quickie getting bounce, not so good for an office not bouncing it at all.

    On jimmy:
    “He passed every medical test.” If that’s true and he broke down within 30 mins of a 5 day game, Do we look at the tests he passed and the people conducting them and drawing conclusions? Oh no. They weren’t wrong. Just unlucky.

    It’s not losing that annoys me (well, of course it does) but rather not giving ourselves the best chance to win.
    I’m a bit done with joe as captain, a bit done with Bairstow’s failures and special case treatment, bit done with no explanation as to why Woakes disappeared in their second dig, joe Denly getting a free ride…
    But mostly I’m done with shit bag decision making that hinders rather than helps. Watching the Aussies squeeze every last drop from hardly their best team ever while we fail to do the same just grinds my gears something fierce.

    Well played Aus.

    Liked by 5 people

    • jennyah46 Aug 7, 2019 / 7:37 am

      Well said.

      Like

  8. quebecer Aug 5, 2019 / 8:24 pm

    Can we also learn from how dangerous short term and selective stats are? Moeen Ali taking more wickets than anyone in the last year is a prime example. He was bowling at batsmen’s heads without meaning it. Sometimes you have to look beyond stats and use your eyes to see reality.

    Like

  9. Deep Purple Fred Aug 5, 2019 / 9:27 pm

    There was a bit of chat here last night about how Lyon has barely done this 5th day spinners victory thing, and I made the point he doesn’t have to, there are other good bowling options. Well, he put paid to that discussion.

    England seem a bit lost. Root damn well better stand up and lead by example, because he’s the one who can, and his team needs him. They need someone to rally around. Aus is not that much better on paper than England, but they’re streets ahead on the field.

    I saw a little of Wade batting, he looked magnificent. If he can keep that up, and maybe Warner or Khawaja get into the groove, it could start to look like a half decent line up.

    I don’t know why England’s best living bowler was declared fit but lasted only 9 overs, and the ECB headquarters is not being burnt to the ground. Root called it a freak accident, which is plainly a lie, it was a failed gamble, and it’s cost them the match and maybe the series.

    Anyway, although I can understand English fan frustration, it was a decent test match, both teams had their chances, and Smith, Siddle, Wade and Burns provided some batting inspiration. I’d call this Siddle’s test match, his partnership with Smith turned it around.

    Like

    • Pontiac Aug 5, 2019 / 10:13 pm

      One thing about Lyon is that he is a very reliable stock bowler. Going at 3 when he is not getting anywhere is way different from going at 5.

      Now as opposed to earlier he is getting more time. Quite often Clarke would take him off way too soon. Or, infuriatingly, right after a wicket.

      I think a 5 is worth more than a hundred because basically only one bowler can get five…

      I would not be surprised if Lyon’s average when he retires is below 30.

      Like

      • dArthez Aug 6, 2019 / 6:00 am

        Lest we forget, bowling offspin in Australia is not the best way to get a sub-30 average. He averages 33.57 in Australia. And 30.39 outside of Australia. With metrics such as SR, and wickets per Test better away from home. There is basically no difference between economy rates at home and away.

        Admittedly, 2018 was not great for him (tough tours to South Africa and the UAE, his second worst and worst bowling venues), but his economy figures were still good and it was still good enough to pick up 49 wickets at 34 from 10 Tests.

        At the moment his average in England is better than Swann’s (26.94 vs 28.94). Not saying that he will maintain that, let alone that batting standards have not declined (even Joel Wilson can see that / see to that), but the numbers are very impressive. And it well could be the case that the only reason he is not averaging less than 30 at the moment is because he plays a lot in Australia.

        Barring a couple of players who played before WW1, only Geoff Miller and NS Yadav managed sub-30 averages among visiting bowlers over more than 1 tour among right arm spin bowlers). If you drop the more than 1 tour requirement Laker and Tayfield also managed that.

        Even among the Australians the list is rather short (right arm spin bowling). Iversen, Cowper, Grimmett, O’Reilly, Ian Johnson, Higgs, Warne, MacGill, and Hauritz (minimum of just 10 wickets, which is obviously a relaxed qualification criterion to allow Cowper on the list). Quite a few of those right arm spin bowlers were leggies, so if you filter those out, you are not left with many.

        If anything some of Lyon’s stats are harsh on him because he is Australian.

        Like

        • thelegglance Aug 6, 2019 / 7:46 am

          For a conventional off spinner, Lyon is up there with anyone in decades. I do often think that for some reason they are judged by the same statistical standards as a fast and nasty, and it’s never been reasonable, given their additional defensive role. If you average around 30 you’re bloody good. Seriously good.

          Like

          • Mark Aug 6, 2019 / 12:24 pm

            I rate Lyon highly. No, he is not Warne or Murali. But he is a specialist spin bowler. He knows his craft and is consistent. I thought he was a little unlucky not to have picked up more wickets in the 1st innings.

            He was turning the ball a lot on day two, and I feared what would happen in the forth innings. Particularly against an ODI attacking batting line up such as we have. If England had, had him on day four when Aus started at effectively 30 odd for three I believe he would bowled them out on Sunday cheaply

            Australia pick him purely as a spin bowler. They are prepared to have him bat at number 11. Most spin bowlers are required to bat about 8 or nine. Warne was a useful number eight batsman, but I always wondered if he was English and was a complete rabbit if England would not play him to strengthen the batting line up.LOL (surely even England wouldn’t be that stupid?)

            Ali on the other hand is a decent off spinner, but not a specialist. Yes he can bowl some good balls.The one he got to turn through the gate and get Bancroft showed what he can do. But he is not a specialist in my view, and is not consistent. He is picked for both his batting and bowling.

            Sure he can take some wickets against lesser teams on helpfull conditions, but England put too much faith in him in Aus for the first few tests, and then we leaned he had a hand injury.

            He should be dropped because his confidence is shot to pieces.I wouldn’t necessarily drop a player if he was just a little out of form. But I if the confidence is in tatters it’s pointless picking him, and you are not helping him get sorted. He needs to return to county cricket and improve his batting as well.

            It would have been interesting to see what Rashid would have done on Sunday?

            Like

          • Sophie Aug 6, 2019 / 1:12 pm

            Last I heard, Rashid still has shoulder issues.

            Like

  10. riverman21 Aug 6, 2019 / 6:46 am

    The Analyst on BBC Breakfast, England are suffering a hangover from the WC and Australia have an advantage because they “didn’t go far in the competition” and this allowed them to focus on the Ashes.

    Then the presenters are fawning over him for explaining so brilliantly.

    Like

    • nonoxcol Aug 6, 2019 / 7:21 am

      Semi-finals is not going far? They played 10 games versus England’s 11. Even if they’d missed the knockout they’d have played 9. Am I missing something?

      Or is it just more excuses to cover the arses of those people off the field who receive all the credit when things go right?

      Liked by 1 person

      • thelegglance Aug 6, 2019 / 7:42 am

        I think the appropriate term was “complete bollocks”.

        You’re spot on about the off the field credit though. So quick to give it to them, so slow to criticise when it goes wrong.

        Like

        • nonoxcol Aug 6, 2019 / 8:05 am

          I’m genuinely amazed at their collective ability to keep it up. Not least because I was brought up on writers like Martin Johnson, who were not slow to criticise the TCCB and people like Dexter.

          There are probably many reasons for this culture change, but no-one will ever convince me it doesn’t have something to do with the preponderance of ex-pros in the media (and their many connections) as opposed to journalists with more old-school backgrounds. No wonder Benaud stood out back then – he was truly both. These days Vic Marks really is an exception, and somehow achieves it without ever being a raving firebrand. I’m sure Harrison’s first-class background (however unspectacular) helps win him a pass from plenty of them as well, and the response to Downton was of course Exhibit A.

          Like

          • thelegglance Aug 6, 2019 / 8:08 am

            I think I’d say the younger generation are more prepared to be critical. Hoult, Liew, Morshead and so on. They’ve been the ones coming out hard against things like The Hundred for a start. I wouldn’t say they’ve gone to war with the ECB, but there’s a marked difference between them and the older ones. Which suggests a nice cosy club they don’t want to be slung out from.

            Like

          • nonoxcol Aug 6, 2019 / 8:23 am

            Oh I’d completely agree with that, and I retain admiration for those who judiciously strike a balance (Lawrence Booth and George Dobell being the first names to come to mind). Nor are the old guard above criticism: virtually everyone genuflected before Flower, for instance, and exonerated him and his set-up without question in 2013/14.

            Still, I always come back to the ECB’s shortlist for chief selector in 2018. There’s on the nose, and then there’s that… I could so easily believe they had #39 in there originally but replaced him with Newell just because someone wanted to throw the then-current selectors a meaningless bone.

            Like

          • thelegglance Aug 6, 2019 / 8:27 am

            A few of those younger ones will admit that it wasn’t the media’s finest hour back then. But they barely ever criticise each other publicly, and I suppose that’s true of us all in our work – though if they were the guardians of truth that they believe themselves to be, that shouldn’t matter.

            By the way, I hear that will be another Cricketer Power List later this year. Though they’re intending to have a panel to make it less hilarious this time, which would be a pity given how much fun we had with it last time.

            Like

          • LordCanisLupus Aug 6, 2019 / 10:28 am

            Pretty sure it was a panel back then, by the way. Can they leak it to us in advance so we have the opportunity to prepare a proper response? Only fair….

            Like

          • Mark Aug 6, 2019 / 12:03 pm

            It’s all down to access,and freebies.The likes of the so called “analyst” (has there ever been a bigger oxymoron? ) need to have access to the players, coaches and senior ECB executives. How do you think they get their exclusives?

            Also, the value of sports rights has made broadcasters become cheerleaders rather than journalists , If you don’t…..to use Harrison’s phrase…..”partner” the sport there will be repercussions. It’s like advertising. If you are taking all those car adds in Car magazines are you going to be a little more on the pro side of a manufacturer?

            Sport is now big business and is covered in that way. The only people who have more independence are those that don’t buy the rights, and don’t need access to the players. Which is mostly non commercial outlets. Even fanzines are regarded with distance by many sporting clubs and teams these days.

            They would never admit it, but I bet some of the more honest cricket journalists envy you guys having the freedom to write exactly what you think and feel. But you are not making a living doing it. It’s a sad reflection on the modern world that most of the best advice and opinion on sport, news, pretty much most topics comes from non profit making blogs.

            Liked by 1 person

      • riverman21 Aug 6, 2019 / 5:46 pm

        I don’t think we’re missing anything.

        This is how bollocks becomes “received wisdom” in 2019.

        See also Cook was the best English batsman of all time, KP was inconsistent.

        Like

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