Down the Only Road I’ve Ever Known

I suppose it’s always possible England will pull this one out of the fire. I suppose it’s possible that for the rest of the series they’re competitive, and even in losing, do so while having their moments. Knee-jerk responses to a Test disaster can make fools of anyone, when in the following match a team roars back and batters their opponents. It’s always possible. It doesn’t feel that way here, but if that happens this time, feel free to thumb your nose at me.

Getting walloped in Australia isn’t especially unusual either. Anyone who is reminded of their advancing years constantly by being referred to as Covid-vulnerable (who knew that was going to a signifier?) is pretty used to it, the exceptions in ’78/9, ’86/7 and 2010/11 being glorious interludes in a regular diet of being flogged and receiving gleefully abusive messages from friends and family who have unaccountably chosen to identify as Australian. But there’s always been a particular narrative around the reasons why and the happenstance that led to it. Throughout the nineties England were a moderate team, but Australia were extremely bloody good, and consolation could be found (to a degree) by the way they rampaged across the planet hammering almost everyone – which is another reason why we were all West Indies fans.

By the early years of this century, England were losing, but they were fighting – they were merely completely outclassed. We can accept that, and the way England were progressing generally meant that there was hope things might change. The 2006/7 whitewash was infuriating, but that was a good England team against a good Australian team bent on revenge, and England imploded. Sporting meltdowns happen without having wider ramifications, and in a team environment that sense of doom can spread like wildfire. 2013/14 felt like the end of an era, and it proved to be as well, and in any case the fallout from that swiftly moved off the backpages and onto the front, as the ECB embarked on a civil war with their own game’s supporters. In that, the sheer sense of anger (on both sides) left everyone engaged in the fight and what would happen next. Whatever the wrongs of what happened – and we may have said one or two things at the time – it was a body of cricket followers thoroughly invested in what was happening.

There was a degree of hangover from that four years ago too, though the fire had faded. Some of the media clung to the wreckage as though a few floating planks comprised part of the ship of English cricket, but the emperor (nothing wrong with a metaphor transition) was as naked as the day he was born, the pointing of fingers amounted to demanding to know what was going to be done about it.

This time around we know what was done about it. To make things worse. It’s not just that this is a poor England team, because God knows we’ve seen enough of those, it’s that there is no way of thinking anything other than that this is likely to be routine. The Hundred isn’t to blame for England’s Test woes, let’s put that to bed right now. But the decision-making process and strategy (loosely termed) adopted by the ECB that led to the Hundred as the culmination of their intentions is, and those behind it will be moving on soon enough leaving the trail of wreckage in their wake.

What did they expect to happen? Increasing the focus on white ball cricket was a reasonable enough aim, as English cricket had certainly undervalued it for a long time. It gave us a World Cup, sure. It’ll likely give England a shot at another one in the coming years, and maybe a T20 World Cup or two as well. Fine. But the either/or mentality of it has never made a great deal of sense when other countries have managed to create good Test and short form teams, and in any case England’s historic ability to have truly crap Test teams at the same time as truly crap 50 over teams was a notable achievement in itself.

But this team can’t bat. The best bowlers, even taking into account the loss of key personnel through injury, aren’t that far off the point where they too move into more vulnerable Covid categories, which is a damn fine tribute to their longevity and skill, and maybe it is the case that when they are gone we’ll appreciate their replacements more. But it’s the batting, stupid. The batting. We can all pile into Rory Burns for his series to date, but it’s not like there’s an 8,000 Test run replacement obviously in the wings. Sure, some will read that and say Sibley was discarded too quickly, or that Sam Robson ought to be given another go (a fair point too), but it doesn’t change the material shortage in players who might be expected to turn into Test level batsmen entirely because the structure of English cricket isn’t going to create them.

We have Joe Root, a batter who is genuinely outstanding and deserves all the praise he gets, and that’s it. Ben Stokes? In a stronger team he would be the wildcard, someone to come in and devastate the opposition, to be that special cricketer who can change a game in a session. In this team he’s the second best batsman. Stokes is wonderful. He should not be head and shoulders above all bar one of the batting line up.

The same applies to the role of spinner. We keep moving from one to the next, and the next will always be the solution and never is. They’re all ok, looked at in the right light and playing in the right conditions. None of them are going to change the world, because English cricket isn’t going to produce anyone who does. Shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic doesn’t even begin to cover it.

And then there’s their heads. We’re one and a bit Tests into this series and England look completely gone. It’s not just the clear awareness of impending collapse when they bat. The dropped catches, the disparity in no balls bowled, the frankly weird tactics (let’s bowl Joe Root as dusk falls in a pink ball Test) are not indicative necessarily of anyone in charge having odd ideas about cricket as much as evidence of a team and coaching staff whose minds are in a whirl and unable to think straight. That kind of bewildered groupthink is easy to see from the outside, but very hard to get out of on the inside, until someone yells “Let’s get back to basics”, which always goes swimmingly anyway.

All of which means the most probable outcome here is that things are going to get worse. Not just this series, though if there’s something to truly envy about Australian sporting teams it’s their manner of emulating their local sea fauna by hunting down their prey once it’s flailing in the water remorselessly. But beyond this series, indeed for the forseeable future. Many a fan in past series has considered a thrashing by our warmest enemies as the price worth paying for change. It’s not the same as wanting the team to lose, which has always been a lazy accusation when this subject comes up, but it is about wanting to see action on resolving the problems.

The ECB aren’t going to change.

That, in a nutshell is the despair felt by many, and the more problematic indifference and ennui felt by others. If England get the kind of tonking that looks distinctly possible, we are unlikely to see a Lord McLaurin institute a root and branch reform in order to stop this happening in future, we’ll instead have an ECB expressing disappointment along with a fair supply of platitudes about the lessons that will be learned. It’s not that the cupboard is bare, it’s that English cricket governance took an axe to the cupboard and turned it into an iced water dispenser.

It’s what happens when that reality dawns more widely than among the hardcore cricket fraternity that is the big question. And that, in itself, is the fight to come.

80 thoughts on “Down the Only Road I’ve Ever Known

  1. Mark Dec 17, 2021 / 1:39 pm

    Yup, pretty much agree with all of that. It’s depressing because it was all so predictable, and many on here were more accurate in their predictions than the media or indeed the people who are paid enormous sums to plan this fiasco. Joe Root bowling spin as dusk falls rather shows their obsession and planning for pink balls going round corners is the ravings of mad people.

    First off, they can’t blame the selectors, because they have made Silverwood a football manager type role. He is the selector, and tactician and strategist, and trainer, along with Root. In football…managers who fail badly get sacked.

    England don’t produce batsman who can bat or spinners who can bowl in test cricket. Ironically if you want to see spinners, particularly leg spinners you will find then in 20/20 cricket. But as Warne pointed out over a year ago they are now taught to bowl a different delivery every ball. A stock ball is not wanted in white ball cricket. And batsman can’t hang around wasting dot balls anyway.

    Einstein said the definition of madness is doing the same thing and hoping for a different outcome. The ECB is a mad organisation, full of mad people. Or maybe when you get paid so much money, however poorly you perform, you don’t really give a shit. So why should the fans anymore?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marek Dec 17, 2021 / 10:40 pm

    “If England get the kind of tonking that looks distinctly possible, we are unlikely to see a Lord McLaurin institute a root and branch reform in order to stop this happening in future”. Well we can be pretty damn sure it won’t, because they did four years ago and absolutely nothing happened.

    Literally in some ways. The bowling attack here features three seamers who played in the corresponding fixture last time plus a fourth who would have had he been available. Two of them (Broad and Woakes) averaged almost 50 in the 2017 series, and Woakes averages more than 50 outside England. So why are they being heralded as if they’re unknown bowlers who might put the cat amongst the pigeons? Why are they playing ahead of Wood, who we’re told is fit to play? For that matter, why are they playing ahead of Overton, who was actually one of the brighter points of the 2017 series, although it wasn’t reflected in his figures?

    One of the choruses last time was “how can we stop the bowling being so anodyne?” In the long-forgotten days of my childhood, there was a fast-bowling competition in response to a similar shellacking. It didn’t immediately turn up any candidates (it was won, if I remember, by Simon Dennis, who went on to have an unremarkable county career)–but it’s the kind of response that I’ve been dying to hear since 2017. To be fair, that was originally the plan for this year, but the unavailability of Archer is totally self-inflicted and that of Stone, although slightly unlucky, is not remotely unexpected.

    So what happens if Archer, Stone and Wood never play another test, which is not beyond the bounds of possibility? Who takes over that role? Are they thinking about it at all–is there any plan to,get, say, Dillon Pennington playing some games for the Lions to see if he might be up to it? Or is it just another four years of muddling through to 2025 and relying on Chris Woakes again and a 43-year-old James Anderson playing his 202nd test?

    And–importantly–not only are the team up to scratch, but are all those in support roles up to scratch? The brains trust this time is the same one that could quite conceivably have finished off the best seam-bowling prospect of any speed that England have had for a decade before it began. The de facto batting coach is the man who’s presided over getting on for a decade of batting collapses without once losing his role completely–although the ECB have been so mendacious about who the batting coach actually is that it doesn’t look like that. The official batting coach (for all formats) said in an interview before he started the job that he would almost certainly not go on red-ball tours–so why hasn’t the job been officially split?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marek Dec 17, 2021 / 10:45 pm

      …but just to add of course…the batting, stupid. Even an attack considerably less anodyne than this one would struggle to do much with a batting line-up that struggles to get 350 over two innings.

      And the worrying thing is that it’s diffiuclt to think of many players who would improve it.

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    • Mark Dec 17, 2021 / 11:21 pm

      I don’t believe in all these back room staff figures. Why have a so called batting coach anyway?( he hasn’t turned them into anything special) In today’s tech world you could easily have contact with your own batting coach, who you trust, back home. They could film you in the nets, and a coach could watch it on a laptop in England within hours.

      In any case A test series is not the place to change a batsman’s technique. If he ain’t good enough you shouldn’t have picked him. If he is all we have got, then he has to play as he has to get there in the first place.

      The failure to play Wood is not logical. But they thought with a pink ball Anderson and Broad would knock them over under lights. Didn’t they think the same in India? So why is Root bowling as dusk falls? There is not logic to any of it. As there was no logic to what happened in India. I seriously wonder if Silverwood is two sandwiches short of a picnic. Some of his decisions seem nuts.

      They need to stop trying to out clever themselves. Often they pick a side for the next test match using the players they should have picked for the previous test match. They don’t seem to read pitches and conditions well either.

      The whole set up reeks of arrogance, smugness and complacency.

      As always can the batsman bat all day tomorrow? As always I wouldn’t put any money on it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dArthez Dec 18, 2021 / 9:23 am

        “As always can the batsman bat all day tomorrow? As always I wouldn’t put any money on it.”

        As Australia probably won’t enforce the follow on, the answer is probably no.

        On a related note, I am starting to get the impression England pick the bowling attack as the most effective means to deal with their own batsmen, rather than whatever qualities the opposition has. Which would at least explain the mindboggling stupidity in selection policy – both batting and bowling-wise.

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  3. dlpthomas Dec 18, 2021 / 6:31 am

    I’m not superstitious but I decided not to watch the first session to see if it brought England a change of luck. Looks like I’m never watching England pay again (which may be good for both the team and my mental health)

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    • dlpthomas Dec 18, 2021 / 6:58 am

      That wicket was my fault – I’ll stop watching now

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      • Miami Dad's Six Dec 18, 2021 / 7:27 am

        Snap, I turned on the stream as the ball ran to the boundary. After that England didn’t score for 40 balls, lost Root and just now Malan too.

        England cannot string more than 1 decent session together. Even if Root and Malan had gotten tons we’d still collapse and fall 200 short.

        The commentary is now talking about Stokes being better than his record suggests. Well, I’ve watched him for years and he averages 36 at number 5. He’s England’s second best bat.

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        • dlpthomas Dec 18, 2021 / 8:41 am

          “England cannot string more than 1 decent session together.”

          Perfect summary. And when they have a good session, I get my hopes up only to be dissapointed yet again.

          I’ve never understood how a player can be better than their record suggests – the phrase “flatters to decieve” seems more appropriate to me. Stokes has played some great innings but not as many as I would like. I’d argue its the same with his catching – he’s taken some screamers over the years but he drops a lot as well.

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          • dArthez Dec 18, 2021 / 9:32 am

            Better than their record – can happen if a player was tried for a reasonable amount of time, gets a horrific average (eg. averaging 20 over the first 20 Tests), then gets dropped works on their game for a few years, and then averages 50 in their next 20 Tests. Still will only average 35 then (more or less), but will obviously be a better bat than 35 will suggest.

            The problem is, England don’t drop players to work on their game – so improvement after being dropped are at best non-existent.

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          • dlpthomas Dec 18, 2021 / 10:24 am

            Good point. I think Carl Hooper would be a good example of that – my memory is he was a much better player when he made his comeback.

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          • dArthez Dec 18, 2021 / 11:58 am

            Dhammika Prasad is a good example for bowlers. After his first 5 Tests he averaged 60, in his last 13 Tests he averaged 26 (to end with a career average of 36). His Test career spanned just 25 Tests.

            Oh, and the opposition in those last 13 Tests did not include Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, but did include the likes of New Zealand, Pakistan, India and England. His 8/169 (for the match) played a crucial part in Sri Lanka winning the 2014-series in England.

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          • man in a barrel Dec 18, 2021 / 4:42 pm

            Ramprakash is another example. On that late 90s Ashes tour, he averaged over 40 and attracted praise from none other than Ian Chappel. I am not sure what happened when the team got back to the UK because I was working outside the UK and putting in crazy hours. I guess his face didn’t fit with Fletcher and Nasser

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          • Marek Dec 18, 2021 / 10:00 pm

            I don’t think it was his face not fitting MiaB–he played more tests under Hussain than he missed until he was finally dropped.

            I think it was a combination of not making enough big scores (even in the 1998 Ashes he managed to average 47 while never getting to 70, and he only got past 72 twice in almost 100 innings in tests); sometimes batting in a nervous, inert way which handed the psychological advantage to the oppostition on a plate (most notably during the 1998 Sri Lanka test, where his inability to score during a glacially slow innings was the difference between drawing and losing); and having a poor series against NZ the following summer, culminating in a shocker in the match which lost England the series, where if I remember he got out to a horrible shot first ball. I think they just lost patience with him.

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        • Marek Dec 18, 2021 / 12:06 pm

          Although, to be fair, in the last two or three years Stokes averages 43, and 58 at home. Whatever the problems with England’s batting, and they’re legion, Stokes’s batting isn’t generally one of them.

          I would say, although it’s a cliche, that the thing that changed him was his trial–so in a way he was dropped as d’A advocates, just not to work on his game technically nor, as it turned out, for anything directly related to that night in Bristol. In practice it was to allow him to come to the realisation that going round behaving like an arrogant drunken arsehole (let’s not forget he was on the brink of being sent to prison for an offence completely unrelated to Bristol and that he’d just been disciplined for getting drunk mid-Test) was amongst other things not compatible with getting the best out of your talents as an elite sportsperson. To his credit, he’s realised that in a big way–and frankly if he feels mentally up to it it’s about time he was made captain.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Mark Dec 18, 2021 / 12:20 pm

            Stokes is a fine all rounder. His batting is better then say Flintoffs, but Freddie’s bowling was much better better than Stokes.

            If he was coming in at number 6 or even 7 with a decent batting line up above him then he would have a platform to be a very destructive player. The problem is he is England second best batsman to Root. That says all you need to know about England’s other batsman.

            England’s problem is their lack of batting. If they could make decent scores they wouldn’t need to pick a make shift wicket keeper. They could have a specialist in that role. Plus their bowling and catching would be much better if you have 400 regularly on the board. It all stems from their batting woes.

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          • dlpthomas Dec 18, 2021 / 12:43 pm

            “let’s not forget he was on the brink of being sent to prison for an offence completely unrelated to Bristol”
            I haven’t forgoten because I never knew about it. Can you drop a hint?

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          • Marek Dec 18, 2021 / 12:53 pm

            A bench of magistrates in Yorkshire told him that they would do that if they convicted him on another speeding charge–which was become a fairly regular occurrence.

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          • Marek Dec 18, 2021 / 1:03 pm

            I think my point is Mark, that in the last couple of years that doesn’t really say everything we need to know about England’s other batters–it says that Stokes has been a very good batter by most standards (only three England batters averaged anything other than a fraction more than that during Andy Flower’s tenure as coach for example).

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    • dArthez Dec 18, 2021 / 7:22 am

      Switch the damn tv off Thomas!

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      • dlpthomas Dec 18, 2021 / 8:34 am

        It’s like watching a car crash – I know I should stop looking but I just can’t.

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  4. dArthez Dec 18, 2021 / 7:45 am

    On the bright side, England are poised to be bowling under the lights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dannycricket Dec 18, 2021 / 7:52 am

      Your optimism that they won’t have to follow on is inspiring.

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  5. dArthez Dec 18, 2021 / 8:42 am

    Richardson allowing some run scoring by England. Not really sure why he is (still bowling though).

    31/4 from 21 overs or so has now become slightly more respectable 57/4 from 30 overs.

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  6. dArthez Dec 18, 2021 / 9:45 am

    If England had batted a run-a ball since the start of the innings, they now would have been 477/9, 4 runs ahead. That is probably the thinking of management, so expect more gung-ho stupidity going forward.

    Obviously, they did not and are still 253 runs behind. And if it had not been for the Malan / Root partnership (138 runs out of a total of 220 at the moment), England fans would be sighing in relief that England could only be asked to follow on once this Test.

    Really poor, and really more or less along expected lines.

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  7. man in a barrel Dec 18, 2021 / 11:37 am

    Buttler’s duck was horrible. At no point did he even look as if he might score a run. In fact he struggled to get bat on ball at all. And Stokes’s tactics were odd. Yes, wickets were tumbling at the other end but he hardly played a shot in anger while there was a reasonable batter at the other end. He waited till Broad was in before trying a few shots. But this time the Aussie captain didn’t panic. He was hitting hard and getting no runs.

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    • Marek Dec 18, 2021 / 12:12 pm

      Foakes really has to come in for the WI series if not sooner. Amongst other things, I’m not sure he’d be a worse test batter than Buttler overall (and clearly he won’t be than post-2018 Bairstow although I’d keep Bairstow as reserve keeper for the moment)–he’s a mighty underrated county batter and he seems to be a very level-headed one.

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      • LordCanisLupus Dec 18, 2021 / 9:59 pm

        The knock on Foakes is he’s hopeless against anything higher than fast-medium. That’s the word on the street. Not saying I agree….

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        • dArthez Dec 19, 2021 / 4:45 am

          Suited for the England attack then.

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      • Marek Dec 18, 2021 / 10:18 pm

        “Good journalism” rears its ugly head again…:-) I was reading this week that that idea emerged from an England net session in SA, presumably against Archer and Wood….in which case I guess the opiners would also remove Steve Smith from this series! And God knows where that leaves his county captain….

        I could understand that argument, even though it doesn’t seem to have much matchday basis, if Buttler and/or Bairstow was batting OK. But they’re not. If Foakes spends eighteen months averaging 20 and gets taken apart by Rabada and Afridi in doing so, then maybe it will be time to rethink that. But at the moment I’d say, there’s only one way to find that out and that’s to pick him.

        Btw, as a Surrey follower and talking of batter-keepers, how do you rate Smith? I saw that amazing white-ball innings he played at Guildford last summer where he scored at 300 without really slogging and was well impressed.

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      • Mark Dec 18, 2021 / 10:29 pm

        I doubt Butler is going anywhere to be honest. He fits into the management ethos. He does press conferences and they like him in the dressing room. (That’s more important in this England team than on the field performance.) He will have to fail a lot before they replace him.

        Bairstow is a player who I think has not fulfilled his potential. I think he is a better batsman than he is given credit for. He also has been played in various roles. Batsman only or wicketkeeper batsman.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Mark Dec 18, 2021 / 12:09 pm

    So far England have had 3 innings and failed to better 300 in all of them. 147,297,236.

    In both first innings they have failed to make 250. Pretty pointless bothering to show up frankly.

    Add in the poor catching, lack of any spin bowler of note and I’m not sure how they can charge money to watch this? England have all these grand theories of rotation and weird tactics to hide a simple fact. Their batsman can’t do the basics. Their catchers, including the wicket keeper can’t do the basics, and their bowlers often can’t bowl at the top of off stump.

    Might as well of sent the fifty over side.

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    • dlpthomas Dec 18, 2021 / 12:42 pm

      I can just about put up with the shitty batting but the poor fielding is doing my head in. And its not like it is a new problem.

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      • Mark Dec 18, 2021 / 10:38 pm

        There is no excuse for the fielding. Sure, catches are dropped but the large number is not professional. It’s the one part of the game that you can improve. You may not be or ever be a great batsman or bowler but you take catches, and improve your percentage.

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  9. dArthez Dec 19, 2021 / 4:46 am

    Why get Steven Smith out caught wicketkeeper for a golden duck, if the upside is that you can have Buttlerfingers keep wicket?

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    • dlpthomas Dec 19, 2021 / 4:55 am

      That was a nice catch by Buttler (and he seemed to move his feet in the right direction for a change.) But he’s had enough chances and I’d drop him.

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  10. Pontiac. Dec 19, 2021 / 5:04 am

    I suspect there is another over rate violation brewing.

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    • dlpthomas Dec 19, 2021 / 5:23 am

      Maybe thats why Robinson is bowling offies? (actually that was quite a tidy over)

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  11. dlpthomas Dec 19, 2021 / 7:47 am

    451 ahead – not sure why they haven’t declared.

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  12. dlpthomas Dec 19, 2021 / 7:54 am

    So 467 ahead is the magic number.

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  13. dArthez Dec 20, 2021 / 3:48 am

    Will England surprise us, by batting out two sessions (fort he loss of 5 or fewer wickets)?

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    • dlpthomas Dec 20, 2021 / 9:44 am

      Nope, no surprises.

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    • dArthez Dec 20, 2021 / 11:14 am

      They did. Got into the final session, and Buttler actually played a proper rear guard. If only he batted like that (or at least with similar resolve) in the first innings …

      The problem is that this was a Test innings from Buttler, that England actually did not need – may sound cruel, but England would be far better served by picking a real wicketkeeper. This will just delay such a selectorial decision. Again.

      A decent attempt by the tail to save the Test (last 4 wickets lasted 54.3 overs; first 6 lasted 56.4), but again, the top order let England down.

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      • Mark Dec 20, 2021 / 12:47 pm

        The rear guard effort by the tail today only reinforces two things.

        1 This was a good batting pitch (as they always tend to be at Adelaide) So England’s obsession with the pink ball under lights with Broad and Anderson was misplaced. I seriously think the England brains trust is missing any brains.

        2 England’s top order can’t bat in the first innings of test matches. And until they do they are wasting everybody’s time and money. Including their own.

        An honourable defeat after a battling effort in England’s current situation is not as positive as it seems……because it allows the management to continue on with their half baked theories. The media will talk it up as well.

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    • Marek Dec 20, 2021 / 12:47 pm

      I’ll be positive and say that it won’t necessarily delay the selectorial decision. he’ll know as well as you do that a 26 in a losing cause isn’t going to keep him in the team long-term.

      But it will keep him in the side for the series–which is probably a bonus. The nightmare scenario for me would be dropping Buttler, then having Bairstow come in for two or three tests where he produces one of those not-quite-anything contributions that both he and Buttler do so well (average 32.7, pretty little 71 somewhere…) so the selectors don’t feel they can drop him but he’s still not doing anything especially useful.

      It would be different if Foakes was the reserve keeper but…he’s not.

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  14. Marek Dec 20, 2021 / 12:55 pm

    …tears hair out at Root saying that Anderson and Broad’s lengths were too short…because this was EXACTLY what the same bowlers were criticised for on the same tour four years ago. That says everything we need to know about this England team’s sloppiness about detail and inability to learn.. They’ve played 320 tests between them ffs.

    Anderson was at least very economical but why exactly is everyone still so sure that 2021-version Broad will necessarily be better than Overton…who averaged over ten runs less than Broad even last time?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Dec 20, 2021 / 3:23 pm

      Broad and Anderson, despite their large number of wickets often bowl too short. And nobody, including the coaches or the captain is able or willing to anything about it. . For all their success, or maybe because of it they have been untouchable for years.

      It’s a bit like the ECB. After the KP business the ECB and certain players in the squad became above reproach. They have almost God like status.

      Which is why the ECB won’t change anything because they are under no pressure to do so. Those of who did criticise them were portrayed as weirdos or Piers Morgan mouthpieces. England cricket supporters are amazingly loyal to the very people who treat them like crap.

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  15. Metatone Dec 21, 2021 / 11:29 am

    The last coach who really improved our batting was Duncan Fletcher. Someone at the ECB needs to sit down and think about that.

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  16. StaffordshireKnot Dec 21, 2021 / 5:57 pm

    Yes, pretty much concur with the assessment, diagnosis and prognosis. Depressing. One thing is certain, English test cricket can only be solved by radical action.

    ECB is stuck between a rock and a hard place……white ball cricket earns big money in high summer. Yet so does Test cricket – especially if ENG are doing well…….the 2005 Ashes brought millions of people to the game.

    However, ENG are never going to produce good Test batsmen and bowlers – especially spin bowlers – if 4-day cricket is confined to spring and autumn.

    There’s two games cricket – essentially like 7s and 15s rugby – and it is an unequivocal fact that 7s does not develop the good forwards, that are essential in 15s. Similarly, 20-over cricket cannot possibly produce classy Test cricketers.

    Sadly, really sadly, the ECB have utterly failed to balance the national game, and the invention of the Hundred was completely crass – why invent another format of the game? Just a vanity project, and, I guess, a ‘royalty’ issue.

    There are two solutions.

    1. Split the game in two, and tell players – you’re a ‘7s’ player, or you’re a ‘15s’, and structure a parallel season.

    2. Cut the counties down to regions or franchises – like Murdoch did to Aussie RL in 1996. Then right through the season every Monday to Thursday would be a 4-day game, whilst white-ball games – spring 50-over and summer 20-over – would be spread on Friday to Sunday.

    At least there would be some certainty and routine, and by playing 50-over cricket earlier, at least players would spend more time at the crease or with the ball.

    Like

    • maggiej Dec 22, 2021 / 5:48 pm

      Agree with your part 1 solution. I have thought for a long time that given we don’t seem very good at producing players that can compete in both long and short format (Stokes probably the exception and he sadly may now be past his best), we should do exactly as you suggest – identify the players who have the right temperament for tests and give them all the help and coaching that they need to get there. That would include paying them enough to make it worth while rather than wanting to blind off to India or Aus or anywhere else to play in T20 leagues. Also getting them out to different countries to play under the local conditions, not sure if that’s possible but given that Aus and Indian players come over here to play in county cricket it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man to make it possible for ours to go there.

      It isn’t just that we don’t produce the players, we also play so much international cricket that it’s just not feasible to have the same players trying to do all formats. Fitness and mental fatigue are bound to play a role. The rotation policy which was an attempt to rest the players who have all these commitments has not been a success.

      However, given the apparent lack of interest in test cricket at the ECB, none of this will happen.

      Like

      • Mark Dec 22, 2021 / 6:02 pm

        The irony of the huge schedule of international fixtures makes the whole concept of central contracts pointless.

        Central contracts were supposed to lessen the work load of test players. Which they did. But now the central contractors, the ECB themselves, have over worked the very players they have under contract.

        Like

        • StaffordshireKnot Dec 23, 2021 / 12:28 pm

          Yes, and England cricketer is pretty much an England cricketer for 10 months of the year.

          Central contracts have actually benefited those who are given one immensely. They get the big bucks from ECB, and quite a few also get big bucks in the IPL.

          Like

      • StaffordshireKnot Dec 23, 2021 / 12:35 pm

        Because of its history and contribution to our culture, it would be deeply depressing to restructure County Cricket – but I see no alternative.

        The public just do not want to watch it, certainly they don’t want to pay to watch it. Yet 4-day cricket is essential for the good of the game at Test level.

        It’s why it must be played Monday to Thursday right through from April to September, with the 50 & 20 over stuff on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sunday afternoons.

        Like

  17. Miami Dad's Six Dec 22, 2021 / 10:23 am

    I’d suggest that we need our best slip fielders in place in order to have even a slim chance of winning a Test. Giving Smith, Warner, Labuschagne second and third chances would kill even a really good England Test side, so a crap one likes this needs your best men behind the bat snaffling the chances.

    Enter Craig “go back to yer own effing country” Overton.

    Like

  18. Mark Dec 22, 2021 / 11:58 am

    It’s interesting seeing how many people are now criticising the ECB and Silverwood for the planning of this tour and execution of selection and tactics. Some have even managed to realise that creating a white ball bias to the domestic calendar will make it difficult to impossible to produce good batsman and spin bowlers going forward who can play test cricket on decent pitches.

    It’s lucky for the ECB they have been able to portray those of us who have been warning of these problems as KP fanatics and deplorable’s. Perhaps it might be time for those who have been siding with the ECB for the last six years to realise we might have a point.

    Cook and KP are gone for good so maybe time to realise the governing body is not quite as wonderful as you perhaps thought? Unless you wake up and demand change you better get used to Test cricket humiliation.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Marek Dec 22, 2021 / 8:11 pm

    The “if it’s any consolation to Jack Leach” award of the day goes to Ajaz Patel. Don’t worry Jack, you might have got test cricket’s third ten-for ever and still have been left out for the next test because the part-timer would be good for a few overs…:-)

    Like

    • StaffordshireKnot Dec 23, 2021 / 12:37 pm

      Thing is Marek – in Adelaide, the combined figures of Root and Malan were – I think – 32-2-132-5.

      would Leach, or Bess, have produced better?

      Like

  20. Marek Dec 22, 2021 / 10:26 pm

    Is it only me for whom warning bells are ringing reading that England are seriously considering replacing Hameed with Crawley for Melbourne?

    Partly because I don’t see any evidence that Crawley will do better: his f-c average is lower, his test average is lower, and if you take out his one highest f-c score (from 112 innings of which 26 have been in tests) his f-c average is lower than Hameed’s test average and his test average is under 19.

    Partly because I don’t see what he’s done to be recalled. Hameed was probably–although i think understandably–recalled too soon, but since Crawley was dropped he’s played seven f-c innings and averaged 38, which is good but not great. That is, UNTIL you notice that most of his runs came against two of the weakest attacks in county cricket, who realistically are barely f-c standard. Take these out and he averages 24. So they’re essentially asking us to believe that playing against Leicestershire’s bowling in a meaningless match in England somehow prepares him to go into a high-pressure test in front of 80,000 people to face one of the best attacks in the world on their home turf. Over the whole season in 2021, including the more pressured matches against better teams, he averaged 33 in the Championship without a hundred–that is, give or take, his career average.

    Partly also because of the subtle messages it would send about race, which might be worth considering in these post-Gale days. Brown player who averages 22 this year gets five tests to show what he can do. White player who went to a very posh public school and averages 11 this year gets seven. Hmmm…

    It also makes me wonder what England are really learning about selection, because this is a classic of the James Vince school–lovely cover drive, looks wonderful in the nets, stylish…but ultimately averages less than crablike Rory Burns. That has the potential to impact more than just Hameed, because the one uncapped batter who you’d think from his record is remotely ready to play test cricket is Josh Bohannon (f-c average four runs better than any of his contemporaries bar Pope)–but I suspect they undervalue him because he’s a sort of anti-Vince scrapper and street fighter kind of player…or exactly the profile of player they need!They certainly didn’t seem overly keen to play him in the tour games.

    Like

    • thelegglance Dec 22, 2021 / 10:31 pm

      I’m considering writing a piece about the idea shifting personnel, captains, coaches is going to make a material difference. Jeez, this is fringes stuff surely? Not wrong, just not the major issue.

      Like

      • dannycricket Dec 23, 2021 / 8:32 am

        When you’re the second-best team, fringes stuff arguably becomes more important, not less. Any coach or captain can win with McGrath and Warne in their side, after all. The worse a team gets, the more important it becomes that they get every decision ‘right’ because they don’t have the ability to come back from behind.

        Regarding the coach (and selector), there is also the issue of development. Part of the role is to help produce quality players in the future by picking batters with high potential and having them improve within the England camp. I can’t say I’ve noticed this in the last two years, and so the question needs to be asked about whether someone else might perform the job better. I also think that England’s T20 team has taken a step backwards recently, so it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t be sad to see Silverwood go.

        Like

      • Mark Dec 23, 2021 / 1:17 pm

        What have England learned from the Ashes 8 years ago or 4 years ago? Nothing it seems! As Danny says, the lower down the rankings you go the more important it is to make the right decisions.

        England are making the majority of wrong decisions. Which makes the results and the nature of the defeats even worse.

        But I suspect the ECB don’t really care because they want to move to ODI cricket only. Problem is they can’t hide the fact anymore that if you don’t produce test cricketers there in not much point playing test cricket.

        Like

      • Marek Dec 23, 2021 / 10:47 pm

        The interplay between the major and minor issues is quite an interesting one to my mind TLG.

        I’m not so sure. One thing is that failing to take care of the minor issues—as well as being essential, as Danny says, when you’re a weaker team anyway–shows a sloppiness and lack of attention to detail without which it’s difficult to do anything well, let alone at an elite level;. As Matt Prior pointed out this week, it can also very easily slide from not taking care of the 1%ers to not taking care of the 20%ers: England’s appalling fielding, their most experienced bowlers not being able to bowl the right length even on their fourth and fifth Ashes tours, and so on.

        But also, without wanting to get too metaphysical, you can’t have a fringe without a centre. So I think i would say that the “fringe” issues are not minor ones precisely because they’re symptoms of the major ones. So yes, replacing one opener with another who seems less deserving is small stuff–but behind it is a whole wrong attitude to selection, from the apparent bowing to those who went to certain public schools to an obsession with style over substance to a devaluing of real results in favour of abstract ideas and looking good in the nets (Mo Bobat was at that one today, casually dismissing county cricket in the process–but if you can’t score runs in the Championship, you’re relatively unlikely to score them in tests). Which is interesting, because the Hundred too is a triumph of style over substance: it gets everywhere.

        The choice of bowlers may be a relatively small thing, but behind it all is an overly cosy and conservative approach to selection which has been costing England for years. It’s been on display again today in the T20 squad for West Indies. Dawson over Parkinson (again!). Billings over Smith. Vince over Duckett or Clarke or Hain…and sure he’s in good form but how much are they going to learn about him compared to a less experienced player–it’s a meaningless series against weak opposition with most of the first-choice players absent anyway: that is, the ideal time to experiment. I can’t see the Indian selectors, who are wonderfully experimental in this kind of situation, doing that.

        Changing the coach and captaIn might be a small thing (although I’m not so sure–one of the things about poor coaching and captaincy is that you completely fail to get the best out of the resources you do have). But behind it all is the process–the one that appointed a rather ho-hum, ponderous coach because he was English and gave good Powerpoint over one of the best international coaches this century, and two consecutive ho-hum ponderous captains (Root was even nicknamed Craptain by his own county fans) because they had been the annointed golden boys since year dot on the basis of almost no evidence. So yes, there are bigger issues–but would an England coached by Kirsten and led by Stokes or Ali have been this ponderous?

        And what does that mean the big issues are? The one everyone complains about–or at least all us middle-aged codgers on sites like this!–is the favouring of white ball cricket. But that’s just an economic fact of cricket life these days. The key is how to work with it, surely: NZ do, India do, Pakistan do, Australia do. In passing, some of the issues are not only affecting the red-ball team: for all the deification of Morgan and to a lesser extent Bayliss, England haven’t been as successful in white-ball as they should have been given their dominance of bilateral games: four tournaments, one win, one loss in a final that was arguably down to tactical naivety, and two semi-final losses having been the dominant team in the tournament in the group stages.

        And to be positive, the one person who REALLY needs to go–Harrison–probably will soon!

        Liked by 3 people

        • dlpthomas Dec 25, 2021 / 1:21 am

          The decision to not give the coaching job to Kirsten looks crazier with every passing series. I’m not saying he could have turned this team into one that could win the Ashes in Australia but I think he could have turned them into a side that was competitive (and one that could catch)

          Like

    • dArthez Dec 23, 2021 / 6:18 am

      Exactly. Biff would not have won any prizes for elegance. But that guy could bat – and tough it out. Not saying that Bohannon is the real deal (I have not seen him bat), but getting a few more people in the team who have not everything handed to them on a silver platter might be a good idea.

      With some of these posh school boys you wonder if they ask someone unfashionable to fetch them their runs, since they are utterly incapable of scoring them themselves. Which, actually they have been doing for quite some time (ie. the bowlers having to bail the batsmen out a billion times in the last few years),

      England are not in the position to really care how the runs come. Just that they need to come. Their thinking is so myopic, that they’d rather have a bowling attack full of ‘allrounders’ than, actually pick batsmen who can score runs, because they don’t get the in-jokes that must be rife in these posh schools.

      Sure Hameed has not set the world ablaze since his recall. But Crawley, Buttler, Bairstow and the like have done the square root of 0 to suggest that they are actually Test quality players, even after being dropped a dozen times between them. No working on their game, no big scores against credible opposition, etc. And also no evidence whatsoever that technical flaws have been resolved. But let’s give the same failed players another 10 Tests, because their face fits.

      As for dropping Hameed for Crawley, that is almost asking the Aussies to provide England appropriate cricket attire. Something along these lines:


      England marching to the venue in their new attire for the Hobart Test:

      Like

      • Marek Dec 23, 2021 / 9:36 am

        Don’t give the image and marketing people ideas for next year’s 2020 strip!

        Like

  21. Mark Dec 23, 2021 / 8:53 am

    I respect Mike Atherton’s opinion usually, and he is rightly damming of the England’s selection at Adelaide. . But I watched on you tube his Sky vlog and he suggested England should employ a consultant type figure to help Root make better decisions in Aus. He suggested someone like Mark Taylor.

    Fist off, I can’t imagine Mark Taylor would want to help England. And secondly, England don’t need anymore back room staff. They already have an army of stats people and coaches for everything from batting to bungee jumping.(probably) And anyway, even if Mark Taylor suggested what to do the England brains trust would likely reject the advice so it would be another pointless waste of money.

    What they need is a better decision making. That comes down to the coach and the captain. Root is not a novice captain now in terms of matches played. If he can’t read a pitch then perhaps he shouldn’t be captain. But the biggest issue is if you going to appoint a manager/coach/ supremo/ selector, then pick one who know what he is doing, Otherwise it looks like pure incompetence.

    There is nothing wrong with losing to a better side, but are you getting the best out of your own resources? England are a joke in the field, off the field, in selection, tactics, and in producing new players. When you can’t even sensibly organise your own domestic cricket then it doesn’t say much. But they do pay people very well for such idiocy. There is a group think at the ECB of face fitting and jobs for the boys which reaches into every part of the game. Until you purge that, nothing will change.

    Like

  22. Marek Dec 25, 2021 / 1:00 pm

    Four changes then. Looking forward to a 21-ball 7 from Crawley (one glorious four) and a match-changing, solid-looking 34 from Jonny B…:-)

    Happy Christmas!

    Like

    • Rooto Dec 25, 2021 / 7:32 pm

      Optimism!
      Season’s Greetings to everyone here, and best wishes to the England team as they’ll need it.

      Just a question, am I overly suspicious or do I detect the classic “good journalism” in all this talk that has suddenly appeared in the papers saying how well Crawley’s game is suited to Australian bouncing conditions? So well suited, apparently, that he has no need of any warm-up innings to prepare before facing a fresh Cummings in front of 70,000 fans. So well suited that his terrible 2021 form means nothing against Burns’ learnt experience and gradual improvements over the first two tests.

      Like

    • dlpthomas Dec 26, 2021 / 5:37 am

      Good call, dude – a good 35 and out to (yet another) dumb shot

      Like

  23. dlpthomas Dec 26, 2021 / 12:32 am

    I suspect that was a very bad toss to loose – very friendly bowling conditions.

    Like

    • dArthez Dec 26, 2021 / 5:52 am

      Root would have batted anyway.

      Like

      • dlpthomas Dec 26, 2021 / 9:55 am

        Did Duanne Olivier miss out for purely cricketing reasons or are they sending a message to the kolpak players?

        Like

      • dArthez Dec 26, 2021 / 10:58 am

        I really can’t think of cricketing reasons as to why to leave out a guy who averages 11 with the ball in the domestic season.

        Like

  24. dlpthomas Dec 26, 2021 / 4:13 am

    A “nothing” shot by Root and a stupid shot by Stokes. The wicket had a bit in it early on but it has settled right down and this is looking like being a very disappointing score.

    Like

  25. dlpthomas Dec 26, 2021 / 4:39 am

    And now Buttler thows it away. 6 for 128 – this is fucking woefull.

    Like

  26. Pontiac Dec 26, 2021 / 5:41 am

    They’re going to have trouble fielding a team for the last two.

    Like

  27. dArthez Dec 26, 2021 / 6:06 am

    Does the presence of any travelling England supporter in Australia for this come with a certificate of insanity? Seriously, if this is what is being served up as standard fare, why bother?

    185 all out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dArthez Dec 26, 2021 / 6:43 am

      I hope that Leach can remain economical. He might be brought on only AFTER Australia have overtaken England’s score for the loss of just a couple of wickets (if that).

      Like

  28. Mark Dec 26, 2021 / 9:03 am

    Just got up and looked at the score & read the match report. The words “stock” and “laughing” come to mind. Then again maybe it’s the players laughing at the poor paying fans? I ask again, how can anyone charge money for this? Governing bodies? tv companies? It’s legalised theft.

    My advice is stop telling the media you have “debriefs”, and heart to heart chats after each match. Because there really isn’t much point is there?

    To think there was a time when an Ashes down under was like a football World Cup to me. It came around every 4 years, it felt special. Sitting up late on Christmas Day to catch the first session with a few drinks. Now I don’t even bother to check who won the toss before going to bed. To achieve this state of affairs the ECB pay out millions in salaries and bonus payments to themselves. I guess they deserve it really. To be able to serve up this shite, and still get suckers to pay for it does deserve some kind of weird business admiration.

    Like

  29. dlpthomas Dec 26, 2021 / 9:15 am

    The only consolation I can take from that days play is that I am almost certain this will be the last time an Ashes series in Australia goes for 5 tests – no one is going to pay to watch this crap.

    Silverwood needs to be sacked. Root needs to be replaced as captain. And Buttler needs to be dropped and his file marker “Never to play test cricket again”. Will it make much difference? Probably not as the problems in English cricket run deep. But it will give the pretence that the powers-that-be care about test cricket and that will make me feel a bit better.

    Like

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