PAUL NEWMAN: English Test cricket's a mess but the problems run far deeper at the ECB

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PAUL NEWMAN: English Test cricket’s a mess. The batsmen aren’t good enough, there’s no obvious new captain and the rotation policy is a shambles. Chris Silverwood will carry the can… but the problems run FAR deeper at the white ball-obsessed ECB

  • England are on the brink of Ashes humiliation, and their Test batting is broken 
  • There will be casualties and it is difficult to see how Joe Root stays on as captain 
  • Root should be left to do what he does best, but there is no standout successor 
  • Head coach Chris Silverwood has failed to justify the faith from Ashley Giles 
  • Silverwood is now set to carry the can, but the problems run deeper at the ECB 


English Test batting is broken – it took just one tumultuous hour and 12 brutal, probing and pulsating overs at the end of the second day to emphasise that – and, even more pertinently, the domestic red-ball system has been broken by a white-ball obsessed ECB.

Yet there will still have to be casualties from an away Ashes disaster that, barring any third day miracle at Melbourne from Joe Root and Ben Stokes, has been even worse than the last two series in Australia. And as they ended 5-0 and 4-0 that is quite something.

It is hard to see how Root can carry on as captain once this becomes his third Ashes series without success in charge even if there is a total absence of alternatives – and Steve Harmison made it very clear here on Christmas Eve why the job should never go to Ben Stokes.

England's Test batting is broken, and it is hard to see how Joe Root (left) continues as captain

England’s Test batting is broken, and it is hard to see how Joe Root (left) continues as captain

One horror hour at the end of the second day left England on the brink of Ashes humiliation

One horror hour at the end of the second day left England on the brink of Ashes humiliation

Apart from anything else English cricket owes it to Root to let him get on doing what he does best now, world-class batting that is ever more crucial to a line-up otherwise not fit for purpose. And if it means he joins the rush to cash in on the IPL then so be it.

Root can hardly be denied the same chances as lesser players enjoying the wealth and relative ease of the franchise world. He would never turn his back on the England team nor Test cricket but he should not have to carry the weight of the Test world on his shoulders and forego T20 cricket beyond this series.

But there is a far bigger personnel cloud hanging over the England Test team and that comes in an area where a change was not expected for some time yet.

Root should now be left to do what he does best, world-class batting crucial in a poor line-up

Root should now be left to do what he does best, world-class batting crucial in a poor line-up

There is a bigger problem, with Chris Silverwood failing to justify Ashley Giles' (above) faith

There is a bigger problem, with Chris Silverwood failing to justify Ashley Giles’ (above) faith

For Chris Silverwood, having been given unprecedented power beyond any previous coach, has failed to justify the faith Ashley Giles put in him when sacking Ed Smith in April.

Sadly it is even harder to see how he and the ubiquitous Mo Bobat, who seems to have been behind so much of the disastrous forward planning as performance director, can carry on should this series continue its destructive path towards another 5-0 humiliation.

The ECB have already said allowances will be made for the extra difficulties that have been placed on the coach and captain by Covid. But, frankly, chief executive Tom Harrison does not have the credibility left to be making judgment on others when he has overseen the complete undermining of the first-class game.

Instead Giles will have to admit he got it wrong in making the coach the national selector, just as he will have to accept Silverwood is not in the same league as England’s three foreign coaches in Duncan Fletcher, Andy Flower and Trevor Bayliss.

Silverwood's position may become untenable with the series barrelling to a 5-0 whitewash

Silverwood’s position may become untenable with the series barrelling to a 5-0 whitewash

Chief executive Tom Harrison does not have the credibility left to make judgements on others

Chief executive Tom Harrison does not have the credibility left to make judgements on others

It seems a long time ago Silverwood was taking charge as coach after the 2019 Ashes and making all the right noises about working towards this series and the need to have all the best red-ball players at their peak and firing in Australia. And the Ashes do remain the pinnacle of the game so he was right to think that way.

Yes, Silverwood has been unlucky in losing the fast bowlers in Jofra Archer and, to a lesser extent, Olly Stone that he wanted to join Mark Wood in fighting Australian fire with fire. But the bowling hasn’t been the problem in this Ashes. 

Mistake after mistake has been made in both the build-up to this series, with the ill-fated rest and rotation policy and the prioritising of Twenty20 cricket, and during it. 

As Michael Vaughan said on his belated arrival in Australia to work for Fox TV England haven’t got a single thing right other than turning up on time. 

Silverwood has been unlucky in some aspects, but too many errors were made in the build-up

Silverwood has been unlucky in some aspects, but too many errors were made in the build-up

The red-ball batters who arrive at the highest level then go backwards, such as Ollie Pope

The red-ball batters who arrive at the highest level then go backwards, such as Ollie Pope

And they didn’t even manage that because of positive Covid tests delaying their arrival at the MCG. 

Most worryingly, the domestic game is not producing red-ball batters and those that do arrive at the highest level appear to then go backwards – see Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed as evidence of that.

And for that Silverwood, a decent man and a highly successful coach at Essex, looks sure to have to carry the can.

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