Being beaten in the ashes is no easy feat. It’s humiliating. What a shame. It’s about as much fun as watching The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with a hangover. However, when it happened in the 1990s and early 2000s, we had all sorts of excuses. We’re playing one of the greatest teams of all time — a team with all-time greats like Shaun Vaughn, Glenn McGrath and Steve Waugh. There’s no shame in losing to a team like that.
On the other hand, the current Australian team is good but far from finished. Their gifted bowling attack may have been a rarity in their own backyard, but they are currently fifth in the world in the Test. England, meanwhile, are third.
So I can’t agree that England just lost to a better team and therefore all the gnashing of teeth was wrong. Australia may have the edge over us at home, but are they really 10 wickets, 120 and 41 in an innings? It is acceptable to lose honorably in a competitive series. Losing the first three Tests by a huge margin and dropping the Ashes before Christmas is not.
So what’s wrong? This email I received from reader Tom Williams represents the anxiety of many:
If there has to be an autopsy, aftermath, then the attention needs to be drawn to the selectors and managers, not the players. …
I still can’t understand Vince’s decision when he was three years old. A hitter who folds a lot and hits lightly outside the stumps, a hitter who should leave. This is no surprise. Vince runs longer on the team. He took part in seven Tests and never reached 50, with a Test average of 19. He averaged 32 points in 12 games in the 2017 County Championships. These are not numbers that warrant a recall. Despite England’s dismal summer, Keaton Jennings averaged better than Vince in Tests ahead of the start of the Ashes and India has a Test century behind him. Gary Ballance averaged 67 points per game for Yorkshire over the summer and has extensive international experience.
Mark Wood could be back in Melbourne. This should happen. He is with the lion. He’s been in the Ashes series before, and he’s capable of blowing the ball off at 140km/h. However, there are reports that Tom Curran — another mid-speed right-arm seamer — will step in in his place. I don’t understand this mentality.
Moeen Ali also attracted a lot of attention. He bowls like an injured man and is one of our most expensive bowlers. English management must have had concerns, having seen him bowling over the net ahead of the Test. Perhaps he ended up playing because England’s back-up spinner was Mason Crane. A talented 20-year-old who averaged 44 years with the ball during the 2017 season.
This isn’t a dig at Mason Crane, James Vince or Moeen Ali. The error is in the decision of the English selector. This is an odd team whose fragility has been proven by a ruthless Australia. In order to avoid whitewashing, the cards must be reshuffled.
It’s hard to refute these. By picking very similar sailors, a main spinner who isn’t fully fit (and has never played well abroad) and flawed batsmen who have failed before, England have really changed themselves in terms of shots. On the flip side, however, there’s no denying that England would be far more competitive if older players were present – regardless of who the supporting cast was around them.
Aside from James Anderson and Jonny Bairstow, who have been alright, the veterans — and I’m mostly talking about Root, Cook and Broad — have been disappointing. It’s hard to argue that any of them are world-class operators when they were crushed in the biggest series on the English cricket calendar. In fact, there is an argument that England should now stay away from Cook and Broad.
Jolut’s performance is a bit mysterious. While I’m not sure his game is particularly suited to Australia’s situation – I expect him to occasionally get in trouble for getting his back foot off the stumps – I’m surprised he hasn’t scored in a game yet, in a game in which he changed the result. His captain is also terrible at times. I found Ricky Ponting’s comment yesterday very interesting. While portraying Joe as a “little boy” is a bit of a stretch, I think there are questions about his leadership.
The problem, of course, was that Root didn’t have the opportunity to hone his skills as captain before taking on one of the most stressful jobs in English cricket – an inherent flaw in the English system. Also, as captain, there is hardly anyone else who can replace Root. In fact, one could argue that Alastair Cook only stayed on the job for so long because there really weren’t any compelling options.
As for Cook and Broad, I think their legacy is a bit bleak now – especially Alastair. I’ve long thought that Cook was a bit overrated and technically not good enough for top bowling, and I think this series (plus his numerous efforts against South Africa) is proof of that. I still think he’s a good tester – unless you’re an accomplished player you don’t play 150 friendlies and do well against international opponents – but he’s clearly not many The child prodigy who wants us to believe.
As far as Stuart Broad is concerned, again I think he is a good but not world class artist. I’d probably rank him with the likes of Peter Siddle, Andre Nel, Tim Southee, and Kemar Roach, rather than top performers like Jason Gillespie, Craig McDermott,