NASSER HUSSAIN: England being thrashed Down Under is nothing new but this series has been a SHAMBLES… from dreadful technique to poor squad selection, there will be a lot of soul-searching before they can emerge from this crisis
- England have los the Ashes after losing the third Test by an innings on Tuesday
- The tourists are used to losing Down Under but this has been a very poor tour
- The long-term planning has been a disaster, and the players have also struggled
This is no news flash or shock. With the exception of that wonderful victory by Andrew Strauss’s team England have invariably struggled in Australia.
But this Ashes has been a particular shambles and England have not given themselves the best chance to be successful. Their Test cricket has been a shambles all year.
We do have this inquest at the end of virtually every away Ashes series – I was part of the Schofield Group that was put together after the 2006-07 shemozzle – and someone always has to lose their job, whether that’s the captain or coach or whoever.
Yet this does seem worse than the two 5-0s and the 4-0 of the last 15 years because it has been coming for some time now and the point has clearly arrived for English cricket to have a good, long, hard look at itself.
That is particularly true of the batting. Look at the damning stat that extras have been England’s third highest runscorer this year. That tells you everything about the discrepancy between Joe Root and the rest and shows exactly where our red-ball batting is.
Those issues have been there for some time even for the best of them. I watched online when England had their only intra-squad game in Australia before the first Test and it was notable how Ben Stokes who, along with Root has the best technique in the England side, suddenly had massive movements back in his crease.
Then you watch Haseeb Hameed in this series and he seems to have turned into a right-handed Gary Ballance, going back and further back and nicking half volleys from Pat Cummins as a result. It’s all very odd.
The issues with technique are widespread. When I did a piece on Sky last summer questioning the trend of players to take guard on off-stump they were in uproar. Coaches seemed to agree with me but they appear too scared to pick the batters up on it.
To be fair England have picked batters who are prolific in county cricket like Rory Burns, Ollie Pope and Dom Sibley and they’ve all struggled. They have also picked players on potential like Hameed and Zak Crawley and they are struggling too. Nothing is working and there is an endemic problem in our red-ball game in scoring runs.
There are mitigating circumstances for this Ashes and, with England playing and travelling more than any other team, I can understand rest and rotation. But one week of rain in Brisbane should not put you so far behind in your preparation you have no hope.
It is no excuse for picking the wrong sides for the first and second Tests and it is no excuse for missing the chance to get their squad players at least some match practice for the Lions against Australia A. Why didn’t Crawley and Jonny Bairstow play then?
I stood in the middle with Chris Silverwood during his first tour as coach in New Zealand two years ago and he was talking about the attack he wanted in Australia. So he was unfortunate to lose Jofra Archer and to an extent Olly Stone.
But everything seemed to be about this Ashes, like not wanting to give anyone a debut in Australia, which is fine if you then win it but not when you lose the series on the third morning of the third Test. And that leaves the coach vulnerable.
We should also look at Ashley Giles decision to hand total responsibility for coaching and selection to Silverwood because it was always going to be a dangerous policy. It left one person accountable with no external voice out of the bubble to question him on some of that decision making.
Giles is a disciple of Duncan Fletcher who believed the coach should select the side. That’s fine as long as that coach has that feel for a player. Fletcher certainly had it, as he showed when he plucked Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan out of county cricket, but the selections and decisions this year suggest Silverwood hasn’t got that feel.
Ed Smith has had a bloody good Ashes series without being there. The doubts about him as national selector seemed to be that he ruffled a few feathers but that is something that has been missing from this England camp.
I look at the coaching and management team and see really good, solid guys who I played with like Silverwood, Giles, Graham Thorpe, Trescothick and Paul Collingwood. But it’s time for some hard, tough talk and questioning about what’s going on.
We have been saying we should not judge England until the end of the year and after the Ashes but that time has come and nine Test losses in 2021 tells you the whole policy and long-term planning has been a disaster.
England have over-complicated things and messed it all up at a time when they have at their disposal three of their best Test cricketers of all-time in Root, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad. Heaven forbid what will happen when Anderson and Broad go.
So in the short-term England have to somehow salvage as much pride as possible in these last two Tests. Then there will be a lot of soul-searching before they can emerge from this crisis. Where the English game goes from here with our red-ball batting is the biggest question of all.