England have suffered a humiliating defeat in the Ashes series with Australia, surrendering the urn in just 12 days of cricket across three lost Tests.
PAUL NEWMAN looks at the key mistakes that have made Chris Silverwood’s position untenable and raise serious question marks about the leadership of English cricket.
It all started in New Zealand in late 2019 when newly appointed coach Silverwood, fresh from success at Essex and as England bowling coach, began talking a good game about planning for and peaking at this Ashes series.
But what followed has been an unmitigated disaster, culminating in one of the worst and quickest defeats of them all.
Joe Root and his England team have been left utterly humiliated by the Ashes in Australia
Australia moved into an unassailable 3-0 lead and retained the Ashes in spectacular style
Thoroughbred Archer treated like a workhorse
Alarm bells started to ring over the Joe Root-Silverwood combination in the outpost of Mount Maunganui in their very first Test together when Jofra Archer bowled a staggering 42 overs in one innings as New Zealand piled up a mammoth 615 for nine.
England were gifted a fast bowling thoroughbred, as was seen in the 2019 World Cup and against Australia in the Ashes at Lord’s, but were treating him like a workhorse.
Soon after in South Africa Archer started getting serious problems with his elbow and England were robbed of their most potent weapon for this Ashes.
A second operation has left question marks over whether his body can ever take the strains of Test cricket again and it has to be asked whether England caused the issue with their mis-use of him.
Jofra Archer was over-used, suffered an elbow fracture and ended up missing the Ashes series
Rest and rotation policy prioritised white ball game
Playing on through the pandemic has not been easy, particularly for an England side who have more international cricket than any other team, but their way of dealing with it through a well-intentioned but too clever by half rest and rotation policy hasn’t helped.
National selector Ed Smith appeared to be the architect but Silverwood, and the powerful behind the scenes figure of performance director Mo Bobat, have been complicit.
The prioritising of Twenty20 cricket at the expense of Tests, supposedly until the start of the 2021 home series against India, has been integral to this Ashes shemozzle.
England coach Chris Silverwood was complicit in an ill-judged policy of rest and rotation
Treatment of Bairstow and Moeen was shoddy
It all came to a head in India earlier this year with the pre-planned toing and froing of various players, England seeming to overlook the difficulties of international travel during the pandemic while undermining the supposed primacy of Test cricket.
Take Jonny Bairstow, who played an integral role at No 3 in the 2-0 win over Sri Lanka – England’s last Test series success – at the start of this year.
Then he was sent home for a week to frosty and snowy Yorkshire, ostensibly to keep him fresh for white-ball matches, and endured a tortuous 24-hour journey back to the sub-continent for the third Test in Ahmedabad against India. His red-ball form has never really been the same since.
Or how about Moeen Ali, who Root wrongly said ‘chose’ to go home after taking eight wickets in the second Test in Chennai, again to rest for T20 assignments.
Moeen was soon to retire from Test cricket after being mucked around once too often.
Jonny Bairstow was treated poorly during the India series and endured a 24-hour journey
‘Supremo’ Silverwood has too much power
Ashley Giles, England’s managing director, made a big mistake of his own after the departure of Smith, the intellectual outsider, ahead of last summer when he made Silverwood England’s first ‘supremo’ since Ray Illingworth.
It may work in football and it may work if you get the right man in cricket but as soon as the buck stopped with Silverwood, as Giles put it, selection became ever more erratic and again Test cricket was the loser.
There was increasing conservatism from the Root-Silverwood axis without an outside questioning voice too, as when England refused even to consider chasing 273 off 75 overs to win the first Test of the summer against New Zealand.
Managing director Ashley Giles concentrated too much power in the hands of Silverwood
IPL allowance set dangerous precedent
That early summer series saw one of the most worrying decisions of all because it set a dangerous precedent that further gnawed away at the integrity of Test cricket.
Yes, the two Tests against New Zealand were arranged late as cricket tried to claw back revenue lost through Covid, but there was no way Giles and Silverwood should have allowed top players to miss them to play in the Indian Premier League.
It is just weak to say they cannot be stopped because of the sums involved. England’s players are paid extremely well through central contracts and should never be missing Test cricket, let alone in an Ashes year.
As it was Ben Stokes suffered the broken finger in his first game for Rajasthan Royals that was to have serious repercussions for both him and England while a weakened Test side were soundly beaten at Edgbaston to lose a rare home series.
Ben Stokes (left) trudges off after being dismissed by Mitchell Starc during the third Test
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison (pictured) and other architects of The Hundred are set for a £2.1million bonus
Bonuses for Hundred architects leave a bitter taste
Pandering to the IPL was a move that summed up just how far English cricket has gone in favouring white-ball cricket since Giles predecessor Andrew Strauss understandably pressed the re-set button after the miserable 2015 World Cup.
It has gone way too far, as was seen last summer with the controversial introduction of the Hundred in peak summer.
Those who say the unnecessary new format cannot be blamed for the Test debacle forget that the Hundred was five years in the making and became an obsession for ECB chief executive Tom Harrison, former chairman Colin Graves and even broadcasters.
The whole sorry business was summed up by the emergence of a £2.1million bonus for Harrison and other architects of the Hundred at the same time as jobs were being lost at the governing body because of the repercussions of the pandemic.
Surely Harrison cannot accept it now? It would be the most morally bankrupt payment in English cricket since all 18 counties failed to give back, or even give to charity, even a penny of the money they gained from the Stanford affair in 2008 that was found to have been ill-gotten gains.
Litany of mistakes Down Under
Which brings us to the Ashes, a series that, really, should have been postponed a year because of the continuing draconian measures to combat Covid in differing states of Australia.
Money talks, of course, and the show went on so what followed was a complete lack of preparation for England and more bubble life in Queensland that left them totally exposed.
But they have made so many mistakes, from failing to pick Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad on a green top in Brisbane and then batting first.
Jimmy Anderson (left) and Stuart Broad (right) watch on helplessly in Brisbane
To then leaving out their only remaining fast bowler in Mark Wood on a flat one in Adelaide, to the confusion over when and when not to play a spinner in Jack Leach.
Above all their batting, neglected by a domestic game that has pushed first-class cricket to the margins, has not been fit for purpose and, damningly, there does not seem anyone better than those failing in Australia now.
Bring them home and sack the lot!
The problems run far deeper than the most miserable of all England’s away Ashes thrashings, of course they do, but that doesn’t mean that heads won’t roll. They have to.
This correspondent was among the very few who believed Alastair Cook should continue as captain after the 2013-14 whitewash and that proved eventually to be correct. It can’t happen now.
Root, after his third failed attempt in charge to win the Ashes, must go back to the ranks for his own good and the lack of any viable captaincy alternatives should not be a reason for him to carry on.
Joe Root has now failed to win in three Ashes series and must hand over the captaincy
Someone will have to step up even if it means England going all Chris Cowdrey and plucking someone from outside the squad.
Regrettably, because he is such a good man, Silverwood has to go too.
His post-match interview on BT on Tuesday in which he said ‘there are still positives to be taken’ emphasised that he is totally out of his depth.
The only positives from this tour are the six Covid tests in the camp that could yet jeopardise the rest of this series.
There are question marks too over Giles and certainly Harrison not to mention the ubiquitous Bobat.
Never before could it said ‘bring them home’ with such conviction. Never before has there been a more valid case for sacking the lot of them.