Gray series usually marks the end of a cycle. One team scratches its head; the other triumphs and plans for world domination.
However, this Ashes series is a little different. Australia went through a biblical catastrophe and had to build a whole new team. But is England ready to take on the world? Frankly, Mr. Shankly.
As sweet as the Ashes’ victory was (insert your own metaphor here or leave blank like the Australians), England’s future is almost as uncertain as Australia’s. While it would be wrong to say we’re still sick, I think Ash’s win raises more questions than answers.
England’s main problem ahead of the series is consistency. Our inability to back up a good performance with another win has become a joke that is no longer funny.
After Lyth’s century against a fine New Zealand team and Ballance’s emergency as ICC’s Young Tester of the Year (Heaven, that seemed like a long time ago), our batting looked relatively quiet. Joss Butler is also expected to be high.
Bell is five, Root is four, and the bats look solid. There was no room for players like Bairstow, Taylor, Vince or even the triple Centurion that Surrey beat. We knew Ashes would be a test, but the future looks relatively bright.
In bowling we still rely heavily on Anderson and Broad, but Wood looks like a promising young player, Stokes is developing well, and while he hasn’t played well in West Indies coming back from injury, Mo N’Ali’s Test average is on par with Graeme Swann and a higher hit rate (strange but true).
Basically, England have a young squad that we want to be competitive. Most of us expected we would lose the Ashes — some were very vocal about it — but we hope we can build a team for the upcoming series.
We were all wrong. Big Mouth strikes again. England did win the ballot box – an absolutely stunning feat – but at the same time, strangely enough, some of our players were found to be underperforming. In fact, there are more question marks over England personally now than there were a few months ago.
To prove my point, I would like to ask you two questions: (a) Why did England win the Ashes? (b) Which players gave us ashes? In case you need a reminder, I’ve posted below the Ember averages so far:
Root 443 runs on 74
Bairstow 79 scored 39.5
Moeen 228 runs at 38
Bell 192 runs at 32
Cook 223 run to 31
Stokes 186 runs to 31
Balance 98 in 24 runs
Butler 79 runs to 13
Lyth 86 runs on 12
21 wickets wide for 18
Finn 9 wickets 20
Anderson made 10 of 28 shots
Stokes 29 for 8
Wood 9 wickets 37
Moeen 9 wickets 49
Basically, as you can see, it was Joe Root (who fought a solo battle between the batsmen) and our Seam bowler to send the Aussies home. Others were disappointed in various ways.
Some might even argue that the Aussies hit the moving ball because of their poor technique – though I personally think that’s too harsh.
What worries me the most is that England’s bowlers are not up to the task for Lord. Our sewers require the introduction of typical English wickets to function.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but guys like Jimmy and Stu have been great in family conditions. It’s hard for England to take 20 wickets when we’re out of the country and the wickets are flat.
I don’t think anyone should panic! But distance yourself from the euphoria of Ashes for a second. Are England now in a better position to win overseas friendlies? I would say the latter. The Ashes’ win, brilliant as it was, exposed our shortcomings in some ways.
On top of that, the England sailors still need some help off the pitch to be effective, and we’re nowhere near finding a top spinner. Moeen’s batting was more impressive than his bowling. You can feel our young team in the UAE will be like a thorn in the side of the boy.
Then we come to the hitters. I’m afraid Lyth, Buttler and Ballance look overwhelmed. Meanwhile, Baistow survived early in the innings despite scoring on Trent Bridge. He’s still a little down to earth in my opinion. At this point, I think Bairstow could do a useful test with a 6 or 7, but 5 seems too high.
I don’t want to criticize Butler because he’s such a special talent and such a charismatic guy, but if he doesn’t improve his game, I can imagine him becoming a daytime specialist. Maybe Bairstow will have a test glove in the near future?
Ian Bell also struggled and Cook continued to bat against the best of Seam bowling and the batting looked porous to say the least. Let’s not forget that Australia’s bowlers have not come close to their best form in the series so far.
With Bell’s imminent retirement, we may need to find three new professional hitters before the next Ashes. Where would we be without the heroic Joe Root? At the gate of the cemetery, there it is.
I don’t want to sound overly pessimistic here. I’m in danger of becoming another Bob, “God knows I’m miserable right now” Willis; so, I stress, there are positive signs too.
For example, Steve Finn’s reappearance is an absolute delight. I still don’t believe he can bowl consistently fast with his weird new move and he’s slowed down again at Trent Bridge, but he’s still a Mo