NASSER HUSSAIN: I want to see a lot of bottle, a lot of fight and a lot of runs! With the pressure on for the third Test, England must channel their anger, aggression and calmness, as Australia would love to see in-fighting
- England’s coaches have taken a tougher approach with their below-par players
- The outcome of the Ashes now depends on how they respond for the third Test
- I want to see plenty of bottle and a lot of fight to help them restore some pride
- Australia would love to see factions break out in England’s team in Melbourne
England’s coaches have clearly decided to take a tougher approach with their underperforming players and the outcome of the Ashes depends on how they respond.
The backroom staff’s style has been largely to put an arm round the shoulder of the batters, to cajole them into subtle changes of technique, but it hasn’t worked.
Now it looks like they have had enough and are reaching for the stick rather than the carrot to try to get more from their squad, as we have seen with reports in Melbourne of batters being sat down and made to watch footage of their mistakes.
England’s coaches have taken a tougher approach with their underperforming Ashes stars
Who could blame them? Those coaches have tried the softly-softly approach but the runs haven’t come, so they have said, ‘Right, we’re going to change this’.
The problem with batting is that it’s such an individual game. You only have to look at all the different techniques we have seen from England’s batters to demonstrate that.
England’s issue is they have players like Rory Burns, who has an unusual and idiosyncratic technique but is tough mentally, and then someone like Ollie Pope, who has a lovely technique but has been far too frenetic. They need to marry the two.
Batters were made to sit down after their Adelaide defeat to watch back footage of mistakes
What they need are players with decent techniques who are calm at the crease, as we have seen in their best two batters in the series so far in Joe Root and Dawid Malan. They have to realise the two are linked.
The issue now is if England are going to make changes for the third Test, starting in Melbourne on Saturday night, they will be bringing in people like Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow who have not had any time in the middle.
That’s why I found it ridiculous that both of them and Dan Lawrence didn’t take the opportunity to play in the one Lions game against Australia A. Now they could well be asked to go into the MCG in front of 70,000 people against a world-class attack without any rhythm of batting under their belt.
If Pope plays or not, I would tell him to go on to YouTube or get the England analyst to put together a little package of Jacques Kallis at the crease. Just the tempo and his body language. At times you thought he was asleep at the crease because his heartbeat was so low and he was so in the zone. But that made his technique and temperament so good.
Jonny Bairstow may be brought in for the third Test, but has little batting rhythm under his belt
It’s about England’s mental toughness now. They are 2-0 down and they are going to one of the great cricket coliseums in the MCG. They will know now, with the pressure being turned up on Joe Root on and off the field, that the whole of Australia is very much against them.
What I don’t want to see is it becoming a batters against bowlers or players against coaches mood in the England camp. The batters must not think ‘why are we sitting in the dressing room being shown footage of our dismissals?’ Don’t do that.
Instead, think, ‘We are a unit, we are England and we are sticking together. We are going to go out there at the MCG and show them’.
They should channel their anger, aggression and even their calmness on the pitch because Australia would love to see factions within the England team.
The pressure has been turned up on Joe Root both on and off the field ahead of the third Test
The players will also know, however much they try to ignore it, that people in England are saying, ‘Here we go again, it’s going to be 4-0 or 5-0’. But they will be far better off if they do not think about all that and get in the right mental space.
History tells you that it is very unlikely England can come back from here to win or even draw in this Ashes series, but I want to see a lot of bottle, fight and character – and a lot of runs!
I keep on saying it but Australia really is a good place to bat. I can cut England some slack for struggling in India on those spinning pitches, but these have been pretty decent surfaces so far, as Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and David Warner have all shown.
There could not be a better stage than the MCG for England to restore some pride.