Crying Into Our Beer

So it’s finally all over. Thanks heavens for that. We predicted a 0-4 defeat at the start of the series and unfortunately that’s exactly what transpired. It’s all unfolded, or perhaps I should say unravelled, in the most predictable manner.

Overall it was generally a poor series, played on disappointingly slow and lifeless pitches, with soporific run rates, and very little competitive action. I’m sad to say that it wasn’t a good advert for test cricket at all.

The one-sided nature of the contest just made things worse. Although the result made it bearable (enjoyable even) for the most partisan Australian supporters, I think most observers who have test cricket’s best interests at heart will be very disappointed (not to mention concerned) at the outcome. The Ashes needs to be more competitive and watchable than this.

Although England kept trying until the very end – an improvement from the last Ashes tour – they never looked like winning a game and were completely outplayed. So called English ‘greats’ looked washed up, while our rookies, Dawid Malan aside, proved predictably inadequate. In fact, Malan, Jimmy Anderson, and possibly Craig Overton were the only players who can hold their heads up high.

Some might argue that England were competitive, and only lost because they couldn’t seize the moment at crucial times, but I completely disagree. Any team, no matter how overmatched, is likely to find themselves in half-decent positions at some point over 5 five-day tests. We occasionally got into positions during the whitewashes too. The bottom line, however, is that disaster was always lurking around the corner. Most of us sensed it. And I suspect the England players sensed it too.

Despite the comprehensive and somewhat humiliating scoreline, the quest for silver linings has inevitably begun in some quarters. The most prominent of these seems to be “all teams are rubbish away from home”. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and this argument doesn’t hold much water. Why? Because England have turned losing away from home into an art form: we’ve lost nine of our last ten tests in Australia, and four of our last 5 in India too. Nobody does capitulating abroad better (or should that be worse?) than England. At least Australia are competitive when they come to our shores.

Apart from a somewhat fortunate win in South Africa a couple of years back, when the Cricket Boks were in transition and missing key players through injury, England’s away recent away record is deplorable. We’ve all known the reasons why – a lack of pace and high quality spin bowling being the two most obvious – for years but the ECB never do anything about it. I can’t think of a single thing they’ve done since the last Ashes whitewash to improve matters, and Tom Harrison has already said that nothing will change this time either. The pursuit of T20’s low hanging fruit is apparently all that matters to our hapless administrators.

Instead of targeting this Ashes series as an opportunity to gain revenge for 2013’s humiliation, the ECB has spent most of the last 4 years blaming Kevin Pietersen, prioritising white ball cricket, and coercing the counties into their unpopular, nonsensical, and unworkable city T20 competition.

Things are going to get worse too. When Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit starts in 2020 (if indeed it goes ahead) the championship will be further marginalised. First class matches will occur exclusively (rather than mainly) in April, May and September when bowlers require little pace or skill to take wickets; they’ll merely need to utilise the green facilities. What’s more, batsmen won’t learn to play long innings because there’s always a ball with their name on it coming shortly. Let’s face it folks, the way things stand the England test team is going to get less and less competitive abroad – and eventually less effective at home in high summer too.

So what can we do about this depressing state of affairs? I guess all us humble supporters can do is intensify our dissent – not that I expect anyone to listen. What I’d like to see, however, is an ICC led initiative to make things easier for touring teams. There needs to be proper competitive matches at the start of tours – not self-serving schemes to weaken the domestic teams involved – and I’d like to see reciprocal arrangements whereby all counties, not just England (and New Zealand), invite overseas players to participate in their domestic first class competitions.

International cricket boards and clubs have been too self-serving for too long. It’s time for them to realise that things need to change, and that the health of test cricket in general is far more important than ‘getting one over’ the English or the Indians. If this means cutting down the number of ODIs and T20s at the end of tours, so that important test series can be stretched out over a longer period of time, with proper first class games between test matches, then so be it. Unfortunately, however, I doubt the authorities would consider doing this for second. Generating revenue through white ball cricket is increasingly their biggest priority. After all, it’s easier (lazier) to milk the T20 cow than actually telling the world what a great game test cricket is.

As for the England team itself – which players should be dropped and which should be retained – this is a discussion for another day. The subject needs an entire article to itself. What’s more, everyone is always a little emotional a day after an innings defeat. I imagine we’ll see a demand for wholesale changes even though no decent replacements are waiting in the wings. And we all know whose fault that is!

Having said that, I do think England need to move on from certain players now. And it’s certainly time for our selectors to do one too. Dawid Malan is the only new batsman they’ve unearthed in four long years. And they only picked him because they’d basically tried everyone else first. Indeed, they’d tried Garry Ballance three bloody times!

Although Malan might find it tougher to score runs in England (I think the pitches in Australia suited him) he’s shown more gumption and application than any newcomer for some time. He’s so obviously better than guys like Ballance and Westley that one wonders why it’s taken him so long to get his opportunity?

Malan has been on England’s radar for almost a decade (he’s captained the Lions and first got picked for the England Performance Squad back in 2008). He’s also been right under Gus Fraser’s nose at Middlesex. Yet it’s only now, at the age of 30, that he gets a gig at the highest level. The mind boggles.

English cricket has so many problems from top to bottom: from the lack of cricket in state schools, to underfunded clubs, to dwindling participation figures, to a lack of exposure on terrestrial television, to counties struggling with debt, to corporate incompetence, and a national board with entirely the wrong priorities.

These problems are all complex and it’s going to take time to put them right. Fortunately however, phoning up Jim, Mick and Gus, and telling them to sling their hook, will only take a few seconds. It’s not going to solve all England’s problems by a long shot, but it seems like the obvious place to start.

James Morgan

2018-01-08T18:09:23+00:00 January 8th, 2018|Ashes 17/18|87 Comments


  1. Silk January 8, 2018 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Whitaker must go.

    If we lose the ODI series badly, Strauss and Bayliss should go to. I’m unconvinced we are all that when it comes to ODIs.

    First Class cricket should be prioritised. It’s not beyond the wit of man to go back to the old system, where First Class and ODI cricket ran all year round. Counties have decent sized squads, and can First Class matches Sunday – Wednesday, or Tuesday – Friday and shit and giggle stuff at the weekend.

    Hell, one could even imagine a system where you played FC cricket Weds, Thurs, Friday and Sunday, with ODI/T20 on the Saturday.

    • muffin January 8, 2018 at 6:02 pm - Reply

      The problem, Silk (and others), is that cricket must pay its way, and virtually no-one pays to watch first class county cricket.

      • Cricketcricketcricket January 8, 2018 at 6:18 pm - Reply

        That’s why you have hit and giggle Friday evenings and the not-quite-as-short-but-played-the-same 50over stuff should either die or be played Sunday’s.

        Monday to Thursday is for red ball. Ecb to take a big share of white ball revenue and ensure that the money is invested in red ball. Make white ball less profitable for players to specialise in

        • BobW January 9, 2018 at 10:32 pm - Reply

          I’d revert back to the old John Player league format of 40 over games on a Sunday. They used to pull in the crowds. From the spectators point of view the game started around 2pm and finished by 7pm. 50 overs take up a whole day now. It’s too long.

      • JackieL January 8, 2018 at 6:34 pm - Reply

        I think you are missing the point Muffin. It’s like this because of all the very bad decisions that have been taken since 2005. The cricket on the way has been very good at times. But we cancelled the audience who should watch it. And sold off school playing fields. These were decisions taken by governing bodies. Not by players.

    • Gav January 8, 2018 at 7:31 pm - Reply

      The ODI performances – far too much credit being given to the management, the players are just being allowed to swing the bat more and not worry about this rubbish “280 is a good score” mentality. No way can coaching make that many dramatic changes in such a short time between the WC 2015 + that summer

  2. MediaPenguin January 8, 2018 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    You’ve got an England coach who admits he doesn’t watch county cricket. What do you say to that? Another numpty in the axis of evil that is the ECB. Its like a bunch of drunken fools on the bridge of a cruise ship careering all over the show. Rudderless, direction less, hopeless.

  3. James January 8, 2018 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    Don’t know if you’ve read George Dobell, but this hits nail on head.
    The Ashes was a poor advert for test cricket (the recently concluded first test at Newlands between South Africa and India was much more exciting). As you say, there are several reasons for this. Slow pitches and run rates were one factor. The lack of any penetrative bowling from England was another (I made it 58 wickets in the series out of a possible 100, and they didn’t take 20 wickets in any of the tests). The fact that only one side could actually win.
    Even India, who invented the high profile T20 competition with Srini’s Shambolic Sloggers, seem to have decided that the test team is worth nurturing and investing in. Kohli and co seem to be improving overseas.
    Yes, there were various unfortunate and unforeseeable aspects to the tour: Stokes (but what was he doing there?), Wood’s fitness (so why didn’t they pick Plunkett?), taking Gary Ballance (I didn’t foresee that one, anyway!), Craig Overton’s injury (which was genuinely unfortunate), Broad bowling like a drain (which meant that Anderson had no proper back up). Moeen playing complete dross with bat and ball (the selectors couldn’t foresee that despite it happening on many previous tours).
    The one piece of good news about this debacle is that even the ECB (and Andrew Strauss) can’t blame Kevin Pietersen for it. Can they?

    • Mike Chaffin January 8, 2018 at 6:16 pm - Reply

      Oh I’m sure they’ll find a way. Or Ben Duckett, he’s already been thrown under the bus.

      The Indian team have performance related pay. They get a set amount per match but huge bonuses for scoring a century or taking 5 wickets. Think it’s about half a million quid for a ton.

      Which, I’m guessing, probably focusses the minds of those on 62 and thinking about an airy waft outside of off stump.

      Think it’s a marvellous idea myself.

      With more money coming into the game from the TV deals why not incentivise performance at county level too? England needs fast bowlers so give each county £50k a year if they can produce and field someone consistently over 90mph…

      • Max Sawyer January 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm - Reply

        Don’t give the £50k to the county, give it to the player – and make it £100k. We’d unearth some quicks then!

        • Mike Chaffin January 9, 2018 at 2:33 pm - Reply

          Good call…

          Something along the lines of maintain an average speed of 88mph and you get a prize…

    • James Morgan January 8, 2018 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      Wow. Strong stuff at the end there from George. Saying all Strauss has done is settle a couple of old scores by getting rid of Pietersen and Moores. Personally I hope Strauss can persuade Graves / Harrison to put more effort into test and first class cricket. As a player, Strauss was more of a traditionalist and red ball player. I’m hoping (if he stays) that he might rethink and reverse this march towards T20 hegemony. Little sign of that at the moment though 🙁

      • Silk January 8, 2018 at 7:58 pm - Reply

        Do you think Strauss is in the job for the good of cricket? Or the good of Strauss?

  4. SimonH January 8, 2018 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    This tour is being treated as a failure – but in reality, from the ECB point of view, it’s a great success. Forget on-field perfomance, that’s so old-fashioned, there are several more importamt factors at play:
    1) Test cricket has been moved a step nearer the grave which is just where the ECB want it. The cricket was both predictable and turgid – I’ve not seen a worse series in my lifetime (even ’78/79 was better). The guy on #PoliteEnquiries who compared this series to ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ was spot on. The next step is to reduce the Ashes to three-Test series. I’ve seen two UK pundits advocating this already. Some (like Dobell) are in favour of this to help Test cricket but make no mistake, this will be used as a stepping stone to killing Tests with a switch to the women’s format the final stage.
    2) Nobody higher up the payscale than Gary Ballance is going to face any sort of consequence for this result. They’ll all carry on regardless (unless the ODI series tanks and there might be a need for a sacrificial victim).
    3) BT Sport won’t (if they’ve any sense) want anything more to do with the game and the ECB can carry on joined at the hip with Sky which is just how they like it.
    4) The senior players emerged with their stats undamaged (except Broad who had to cop one for the team – but his place in the Sky comms box is assured when Surian is booted upstairs).
    5) Ben Stokes is nicely fit and rested for the IPL.

    Mission accomplished! Knighthoods all round old boy and pass the port.

    • Cricketcricketcricket January 8, 2018 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      Just waiting as well for the ‘ashes should be multi format like the women’s ashes’ tripe to start.. now, the women’s game actually used to be a good watch but the modern team is just like the men’s.. it’s a bunch of hitters who then parade in white spots but can’t axtualky bat long unless they happen to come off

  5. Gareth January 8, 2018 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    County cricket is getting a pasting just now.

    I didn’t see James Vince topping the county averages to get in the team, nor did I see Jack Leach, Jamie Porter, Sam Robson or Sam Northeast in the squad. A tad unfair I would say.

    • James Morgan January 8, 2018 at 6:18 pm - Reply

      Indeed. It’s a decent product and could be made better still. England’s attack at the SCG (after Anderson and Broad) was Curran, who averaged 31 last year I think, Moeen, who averages well over 30 in the championship, and Crane, who averages over 40. Hmmmmm.

      County cricket was delivering the goods in many ways in the early 2000s. The competition was pretty strong for a domestic competition (in division one), although this was partly due to kolpaks. Unfortunately the standard has been watered down somewhat now, and it has become something of an after thought. The structure of the season makes less and less sense too. There’s little symmetry.

      • JackieL January 8, 2018 at 6:43 pm - Reply

        What evidence have you that the County Championship has been watered down? If the ECB isn’t doing its job, the selectors aren’t doing their job, Strauss and Flower are only interested in vendettas, Bayliss not near the standard of a Test coach, what has the championship to do with anything that’s been going on? Except to be treated like badly?

      • Mike Chaffin January 8, 2018 at 9:54 pm - Reply

        Crane reminds me so much of MacGill that I had a look at his first class career stats.

        After his first full season at the age of 25 he averaged over 40. A couple of years later it was under 30 and he was picked for his first test match returning 112/2.

        Don’t knock the dude. Other than Anderson in places and Overton briefly Crane looked our most threatening bowler. I don’t recall anyone else taking Smith’s edge and if his arms were a few inches longer he could have had a few wickets. Or if he wore a slightly larger shoe size for that matter.

        A bit of investment now and we could have an attacking wrist spinner for the next 15 years. By investment I mean playing him, spinners don’t learn in the nets only in the middle. I can’t see Hampshire scoring the weight of runs to allow him to attack in April, May and September ( they rely on Vince!) and wrist spinners tend to expose the flaws in your own side as well as the oppositions. Bad fielding wise especially as there is nowhere to hide a doofus who suddenly starts costing you wickets.

        We aren’t blessed with many other options. Leach is a good bowler but very one dimensional. On the same wicket they returned 156/7 and 85/5 last year at Taunton. So Crane outbowled him.

        Would Leach have done better in 47 degree heat after carrying the drinks for months? Kerrigan and Borthwick suggest not. As for that matter do Tuffnel and Dawson, only Such ever really got much out of the SCG.

      • James January 9, 2018 at 9:01 am - Reply

        Crane is 20, so his county average is pretty meaningless (and the timing of the CC means he bowls in unhelpful conditions). I thought he bowled a lot better than 1-190 odd. Some blond bloke who used to play for Australia occasionally (I forget the name) started his test career with 1-150. Moeen, it seems, doesn’t travel, and Curran isn’t a test bowler (Overton might be). Aggers was saying last night that the counties are incentivised to play young English qualified players, which is all very laudable, but it means they don’t get to play against hardened overseas pros. I’m not sure you want to go back there fully, but I can remember the time when the Counties were allowed 2 overseas pros, and attracted the best (for example, Somerset had Viv and the Big Bird, as well as Beefy, which resulted in some one day trophies).

    • Metatone January 8, 2018 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      This is an important point. There were other options (although some of them have their own question marks) out in County Cricket that the selectors chose to ignore. I’d throw in Rashid as a spinner whose average overseas is not something to set the world on fire, but would have been a better backup choice than Crane.

    • Cricketcricketcricket January 8, 2018 at 6:24 pm - Reply

      Didn’t stoneman avg like 50?? An dhe was woefully exposed..

      The fact oldies (even if Sanga is a legend!!) ripping it apart isn’t a good thing..

      Oh, Stevens taking hat fulls of wickets..

      Hales scoring runs period
      Same with Roy
      Duckett ffs is just tonk (white ball slogger)

  6. Mike Chaffin January 8, 2018 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    “Although Malan might find it tougher to score runs in England (I think the pitches in Australia suited him) he’s shown more gumption and application than any newcomer for some time. He’s so obviously better than guys like Ballance and Westley that one wonders why it’s taken him so long to get his opportunity?”

    But how do we pick players?

    Yes we have selectors, 3 of them I believe, though how many county matches do they attend and what are they looking for?

    I think it’s well beyond time that we took cricket out of the dark ages and took the guesswork ( not to mention the gin and tonics) out of selection.

    We’ve had ball tracking in the case of Hawkeye since 2001 yet it is only used at international level. Which is bonkers. Did you know that Vince middled more balls than any other player in the Ashes? Or that the convict bowlers swung the ball twice as much as ours ( admittedly neither figure was high).

    Question is do the selectors? Did they pick Overton because he’s a big lad with an excellent bouncer, which they therefore assumed meant he was quick? Various contributors have mentioned ten or more names of quick bowlers in the county circuit but we don’t actually know how fast they are or how much they swing the ball, and neither I suspect do the selectors.

    Other than county batsmen saying that such and such bowls a heavy ball or jars the bat no-one really knows. Other than batsmen scoring 100s or happening to perform well when a selector is present we only have subjective opinion to base selection on. Did the selectors know that Broad’s pace was down, or that Tremlett’s was last tour? I doubt it.

    I can go to my local county ground and hire a net with a bowling machine for £20 an hour. Turning it up to 99 is fun for a few balls but sticking it on 82 and whacking a few is an interesting experience. Not because it is death defyingly difficult, quite the opposite. I’ve faced many bowlers at that pace and higher in the various leagues around the country, and not necessarily in the higher leagues either. They have a Merlyn too which you can hire, and it simulates a smallish selection of bowlers.

    How many people though would pay a few quid to find out how fast they bowl? How many spinners would like to know how they compare to the best? It wouldn’t take much for every club to have an indoor net once a season. Who knows, maybe there’s a young Larwood or an Appleyard turning out for Little piddle on the Wold. Personally I think there’s lots. Who wouldn’t want a video of themselves batting in the nets or stats saying how many you middled or which bowlers you struggled most against? How many club cricketers would quite like to know how their bowling compares to the county players?

    It would cost money. The Premier league football sides had to fork out £12 million for 5 years worth of Hawkeye coverage. Tom Harrison meanwhile will cost us over £3 million for the next five years. It would however generate many more stats ( yum) and plenty more to argue about. Which is all good. It would also mean that we might identify players like Jimmy earlier. And possibly generate new revenue streams too.

    In 2018 this is hardly a revolutionary idea. In fact it’s so obvious as to make you wonder what we are paying the ECB management for.

    • Metatone January 8, 2018 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      This is an excellent point. Deserves much more prominence.

    • Cricketcricketcricket January 8, 2018 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      So, I personally own my own indoor lane in which I have a normal bola pro, a Merlin and I now have something called pitchvision (google it).

      I’m not going into stuff here but going forwards when family land sells I’ll be hitting my county hard with facilities where people will get pitchvision feedback on every ball they bowl or face.. they’ll spend many hours facing machines where you can groove technique and higher speeds etc

      It’ll be interesting in 10-15 years if the local level is raised or not

      • Mike Chaffin January 8, 2018 at 8:10 pm - Reply

        Fools rarely differ. 🙂

        One lane in each county, charge enough to cover costs ( electricity and stuff wearing out?) and you quickly have a database of all available talent. Could even make it 24hr so long as the identity of customers was established and any wilful damage corrected..

        Didn’t realise it was quite that cheap to do but out of interest which county? If I’m close then you’ll have two new customers. 🙂

        The idea that no-one in the leagues can bowl at 90 is disproved by Jimmy being plucked straight from the Lancashire league. He was pretty rapid before Bluffborough messed with him.

        • Cricketcricketcricket January 8, 2018 at 10:23 pm - Reply

          It’s not expensive for the kit, it’s the hall really. So a six lane building I have planning permission for is 2.3m All in.. ECB Couod build loads of them and run it at cost etc. It’s just not interested

          • Mike Chaffin January 8, 2018 at 11:13 pm - Reply

            Peculiar isn’t it?

            I mean everyone complains about the gap between first class and the leagues. If anything I’d say the thing most age group or second XI players have in common is a toffee nosed school rather than obvious ability.

            First class teams never play league sides that I know of and only the minor counties seem to pick league players no matter how many runs they score or wickets they take.

            Interesting to look back upon the year that Viv Richards spent in the Lancashire league. Indisputably the best batsman in the world at the time he scored almost 900 runs at 64.

            Mike Ingham, who probably never played first class, managed 724 at 55, a whisker away from scoring more than a 22 year old Steve Waugh.

            Jimmy Anderson was 32nd in the averages for the Lancashire league’s bowling in 2002 and 20th in 2001. Some of those above him were pros, but some weren’t. Did any or many of them play first class?

    • Cricketcricketcricket January 8, 2018 at 6:30 pm - Reply

      Ps.. the ecb could easily send a pitchvision (basic one is 3k) to all clubs in the top 6 divs of ecb premier league systems

  7. Colin Mehigan January 8, 2018 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    England are at their most hopeless and hapless state for many a year. Losing the Ashes in England is the only variable which will initiate change

  8. SimonH January 8, 2018 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    I’ve seen Anderson described as “magnificent” and “a paragon” in press series’ summaries before they award him 8/10 in their player rankings. He’s been the best of a terrible bunch – but really?….

    I had a look at England seamer stats in away Ashes in the last half century (min 3 matches):
    1) ER – Anderson’s ER in this series of 2.1 is the third best (behind Hendrick in 78/79 and Dolly in 70/71).
    2) SR – Anderson’s SR of 79 is 30th best (Headley, Tremlett and Gough are the top three – and Anderson himself was much better in ’10/11). 30th!

    Anderson’s figures would be excellent for a stock bowler – the guy who has to bowl with the old ball or into the wind. However he gets the new ball and the choice of ends. People say he’s had to carry the attack alone – but he’s also often compared to Richard Hadlee and Hadlee carried a weak attack and could still pitch the ball up and attack the stumps when it was the right thing to do. The first innings in Adelaide was the crucial moment and it was not only flunked but then blamed on the coaching staff.

    It’s been very like the UAE series a couple of years back. Pakistan sat on Anderson knowing they’d time and opportunity to score runs elsewhere. Anderson didn’t adjust by attacking more. Anderson ended up with 13 wickets at 16 but the team lost. Wahab Riaz was much more expensive but bowled the spell that won the Second Test. They are incapable of learning because the ‘bowling dry’ culture is so deeply ingrained in the set-up.

    • James Morgan January 8, 2018 at 6:30 pm - Reply

      I think there’s truth in this, Simon, but it’s somewhat harsh. I thought Jimmy bowled pretty well and the lowish strike rate could be attributed to the horribly slow wickets. There was a lot more life in the MCG pitch when Headley / Gough bowled us to victory in 1998 than there was this time (for example).

      • Cricketcricketcricket January 8, 2018 at 6:32 pm - Reply

        Anderson did well. He was so far ahead of any other England bowler. However, he didn’t look really like taking wickets and as stated.. would have been more at home as the lad who Just bowls dry for the rapid but wild quick at the other.. sadly we don’t have said quick so we were left with broad, woakes and even worse bowlers in Curran/Overton

        • SimonH January 8, 2018 at 7:25 pm - Reply

          James – I’m not saying he wasn’t good, just that the press is as usual somewhat overdone and blinkered.

          CCC – I’d agree with you but for one thing…. when England had a decent tearaway quick did Anderson seem to welcome him or undermine him? Was Finn supported – or did stories start appearing that he wasn’t looking after the ball enough, or was too expensive, or was mentally not up to it somehow? Tremlett wasn’t treated much better. Anderson seems to want the whole attack to be like himself (you could say this came more from Flower and Saker than Anderson but I suspect they all sang from the same hymn sheet).

    • Silk January 8, 2018 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      It was clearly a 7/10 performance. He did well, but he lacked a bit of penetration and let his captain down at Adelaide.

    • Mike Chaffin January 8, 2018 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      I’d add that a lot of Anderson’s wickets came after the matches themselves were already lost. You want your new ball bowlers to strike early but neither Jimmy nor Broad ever seemed to get more than a wicket or two between them with the new ball.

      Not that I’m decrying him as a bowler. He was magnificent in the Sydney heat even though he didn’t get wickets. I don’t think anyone is going to say he bowled badly but his figures don’t tell the whole story.

    • Nigel January 9, 2018 at 11:24 pm - Reply

      Dobell gave him 7.5, and Moeen 0.5.
      I quite like his assessments:

  9. john January 8, 2018 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    If the worlds cricket authorities have any interest in making test cricket interesting to the masses it should start by making Duke the mandatory red ball. On poor slow wickets this will at least give the bowlers a chance and make batsmen earn the plaudits. The Aussies experimented with the Duke and I have heard nothing but positive feedback from the Aussie pundits and players.

    As for England, this was predictable from several years back. The lack of any nous amongst the selectors is palpable. The stupidity of the board in taking the easy Sky cash and forsaking generations of viewers/players when coupled with the marginalisation of the Count game and prioritisation of the ‘doomed to fail’ City T20 beggars belief.

  10. hellespont January 8, 2018 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    NZ interdistrict cricket is first class?

    • Pete Cresswell January 9, 2018 at 9:51 am - Reply

      Plunket Shield is first class (6 teams: Auckland, Canterbury, Central Districts, Northern Districts, Otago, Wellington), while Hawke Cup features ~ 20-30 amateur teams representing provinces as a rough equivalent to Minor Counties playing 2-day matches.

      Plunket Shield sides are allowed a couple of overseas players – Jonathan Trott spent a couple of years at Otago before his test career started for instance. Technically (given their status in County Cricket) Hamish Marshall, Jeetan Patel & Jessie Ryder have all been classed as “overseas” players in recent times

  11. Vashtar January 8, 2018 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    That George Dobell piece is spot on and it articulates what many who play club cricket think. The club i play for is ridiculously dependent on the posh kids being available week in week out. Club cricket is on its knees.

    Also Kids play alot ofl this ‘pot noodle’ cricket and it makes them ill equiped to cope with ‘time’ games, although these seem to be under threat in the League i play in.The push towards an exclusively limited over game in club cricket seems unstoppable.

    This i’m sure has impacted on the first class game and not for the better.

  12. Marc Evans January 8, 2018 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    I am a great believer in clubs getting involved with their local schools to recruit youngsters. Schools cricket as I remember was always a farce, as there was rarely a PE teacher who gave a shit, no properly competitive matches, crap kit and dire pitches. A few of us in my year only got involved when a local club decided it was going to run an under 15 team, along with a number of its neighbour’s, so there were enough local teams to make up a small league, with 2 over age players permitted in each side. From these beginnings youngsters were introduced into competitive sport, something which is not actively encouraged in the PC world we live in today, where no one is allowed to lose and the insurance payouts for games involving a hard ball discourage schools from participating atall.
    Another problem these days is fewer people are prepared to give up free time to any leisure activity, so the volunteers that made this scheme possible then would be more difficult to attract now. However most clubs have facilities that are underused, so why not co concentrate on membership recruitment by running additional teams for newcomers. Another thing that was happening a while ago was local soccer teams encouraged their players to participate in summer sports to stay fit, so many of those were introduced to cricket as a means to that end became regulars.
    All this may not raise the standard of test cricket, but the higher profile the game has the harder it is to gloss over failure. Test cricket will only improve if we increase the pool of talent available to the counties.
    The main problem with the counties I still see as the lack of scouts at club games. You will always see them at the ‘proper schools’ and top league clubs, but not at the second and third tiers, where so many more people play. I came accross incredible elitism during my time playing for Warwickshire junior teams where many of those selected were the easy choice from regularly watched sources, very few new faces appeared from under 13’s to under 19’s. The ‘probables’ played the ‘possibles’ each year, each pair of batsman being given 6 overs and each bowler 3. This was deemed enough as most players were welll known to the selectors anyway. This lazy system I fear is still in operation.
    The more egalitarian we can make this great game the better for all of us.

    • AB January 10, 2018 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      County age group cricket is a huge, huge problem. In many counties, the route for non-privately educated pupils to make it into the age group set-up is so incredibly difficult as to be effectively impossible.

      State school kids have to be outrageously talented to even get a look in. Turn up to trial and crush ever ball from the fastest bowler in the squad for six, and they’d still moan about some minor technical problem with the angle of the back foot.

      I have done a bit of county age-group coaching, and it is a challenging place to coach. Most of the kids there already have three coaches all giving them technical advice – the school coach, their club coach and their private coach, and the last thing they need is yet another coach telling them 20 different things.

      My observation of county age group kids was that they were fantastic in the nets. In the nets, they looked better than me. Textbook techniques, textbook bowling actions.

      Out on the pitch, it was a different story. Zero game sense. Zero mental strength. Absolutely no ability to work as a team or to adjust to conditions. The slightest bit of pressure or hint of movement in the pitch, and they collapsed.

      I’ve decided that if I ever go back to county coaching, I’m going to do things very differently, and focus on the things that they’re clearly not being taught by the school/club/private coaches.

  13. Tom January 9, 2018 at 12:13 am - Reply

    It goes without saying that Australia were excellent.

    • dlpthomas January 9, 2018 at 6:17 am - Reply

      I think that has ben said quite a lot and rightfully so. The series against South Africa should be a ripper (though maybe not for the batsmen)

      • Tom January 9, 2018 at 7:32 am - Reply

        Well, as we know, England are totally gracious in defeat. So I can only assume it was an oversight that in James’ post-mortem, he neglected to acknowledge the performance of the victorious team as a factor.

        Sure, it’s absolutely vital to lay out the grievances with the ECB for the 10 millionth time. But England are famously gracious in defeat so you’d expect the more complete performance of the Australians would also get a run. That’s why its complete omission was presumably an oversight. Because everyone knows how gracious the English are in defeat.

        So, just in case James missed it, England got cracked like an egg by a more powerful, more ruthless Australian side. That was also a big part of why England lost, along with England’s senior players not performing when it mattered. I know that probably won’t count for much around here because it doesn’t directly implicate the ECB. But hey ho, variety is the spice of life innit?

        I hope Joe Root had a good nap while his team was sinking to defeat in Sydney. The Bulldog Spirit! Not exactly Steve Waugh making a century on one leg in 2001, is it?

        • Marc Evans January 9, 2018 at 10:32 am - Reply

          The reason people here are so frustrated is that this is a pretty ordinary Aussie side, far from excellent and certainly nowhere near the Steve Waugh group, yet we were still unable to compete.
          Oz have their own problems and they are not our concern, what concerns us if that test cricket is going backwards here at a rate of knots, hence the relatively dismissive attitude to Aussie victory.

          • Doug January 9, 2018 at 11:29 am - Reply

            No not Steve Waugh and co. but hardly ordinary or average. We’ve just been thrashed into the ground. I reckon their bowlers could beat us on our pitches.

            • Marc Evans January 10, 2018 at 3:30 am - Reply

              Take away Smith and include Stokes and would the Aussies have won 4-0. NO

          • Tom January 10, 2018 at 1:13 am - Reply

            So gracious in defeat!

            • Marc Evans January 10, 2018 at 3:33 am - Reply

              What’s so good about being gracious in defeat. It accomplishes nothing. It should hurt and frustrate like hell!!

              • Tom January 10, 2018 at 3:37 am

                Well, being “gracious in defeat” is one of the lies English fans tell themselves to feel better. Like how they’re ‘self-deprecating” when they’re in fact making their excuses in advance.

          • Steve January 10, 2018 at 2:42 am - Reply

            I am not sure why a team that lost a home test to the West Indies expected to compete in Aus. If the WI can beat you anywhere at the moment least of all at home you need a long hard look at yourself.

            Australia put in the field a 4 man bowling attack that was one of the most consistenly dangerous they have ever fielded. On current stats, the average of the bowling averages is 27.5, which compares to the McGrath, Warne, Gillespie Lee attack average of 26. So a touch worse but far more even – all quicks are at least the equal of Gillespie and significantly better than Lee. A strike rate though that is almost identical (a wicket every 54.4/54.5 balls)

            The batting is obviously more mixed but it includes two top ten batsmen, one of which is, potentially, the best batsman anyone has faced in the last 70 years playing on his home turf.

            It’s not the best side Australia has fielded particularly with regard batting quality over all, but there is some key parts of it which were also exceptional.

            Certainly if the bowling group can remain uninjured and Smith doesn’t undergo a career ending form slump I think they would be odds on to win in 2019 in England.

            • Tom January 10, 2018 at 3:58 am - Reply

              Australia’s plan is to bully the shit out of England for the next five years. The mental disintegration has already begun.

              Do England have anyone with the talent and toughness to turn the tide? I can’t see Sleepy Joe Root doing it.

        • Tom January 10, 2018 at 1:22 am - Reply

          Is that you, Joe Root?

          Maybe take a nap in the dressing room while your team is being spanked. That’s what great captains do.

    • Silk January 9, 2018 at 10:51 am - Reply

      Australia have 5 excellent bowlers (I’d put Pattinson in there).

      However, it seems to me that there are serious concerns over the batting, a lack of batting depth and particular questions over Bancroft and Khwaja. A better team than England may be able to exploit these issues.

      Of course, to some degree the Marsh brothers may render these statements incorrect. I’d hold my fire until I see them bat against the Saffers, whoever.

  14. jennyah46 January 9, 2018 at 7:18 am - Reply

    An excellent post with wonderfully informative comments. As an ex back garden cricketer and long term spectator, I’ve learned a lot from this. Thanks to all.

  15. Lord Ted January 9, 2018 at 8:34 am - Reply

    This debacle & post event rationalisation process are no more than we should have expected. The ECB continue to be arrogant & inward looking, possessed of a “Nanny knows best” & “Keep it in the family” mentality. They are supported in this by the English cricket mainstream media, who very often simply parrot the views fed to them by the wider Establishment of which the ECB is a part.
    ECB are poor stewards of a game that needs an enlightened & inclusive leadership capable of bringing together all interests not simply those they agree with. It is an organisation stuffed with time servers & frankly, failures; nowhere is this more apparent than in the “Elite Player Development” process, which since David Graveney landed there, has been Inadequate to say the very least.
    Sports administration at the National level is a notoriously difficult thing to get right, but the ECB have made an art form out of incompetence & failure. The sad thing is there appears to be neither the will or the strength to reform it.

  16. Mark D January 9, 2018 at 9:11 am - Reply

    Hi James,

    I remember one comment maker asking if you could do an article on who are the next in line to come into the test match fold? Can you do any prediction on who will be the 11 who starts the first test in Australia in 4 years time? Will it be made up of these players or are there others who we can think of to cling on to some sort of optimism after the last 2 months of utter rubbish!

    C Overton
    J Overton

    Secondly. It is very speculative given their long time away from the international set up but does anyone else feel that we would have been better positioned had we still had Pieterson and Bell in our line up? Two experienced players who knew what it was like to play in Oz and had 10 times more talent than some of the rubbish we have selected. Also a huge miss not taking Plunkett who has more pace than anyone else we took and would have added a little with the bat.

    ECB have failed England cricket supporters. Strauss was a good captain but obviously not strong enough to make tough decisions nor control his players (makes scapegoats instead – Duckett). Selectors, we clearly know what to do with them. The 11 on the field, you cannot blame anyone of them, they did not select themselves and they tried hard but were clearly not good enough. If we do not have better then we have to look at management. I hope we are better positioned in 4 years time – see above and good to hear others views…

    • Doug January 9, 2018 at 9:26 am - Reply

      Agree with most of the points here, but I do wish people would stop suggesting Peterson is good enough to play. He isn’t, and if you’d send him at Surrey last year he managed to play just one t20 p. He’s not up to it and has no place in the future England set up. A once great player who was dropped far to early by that idiot Strauss, buy his time had passed.
      Bell? Well he was dropped by Warwick’s last year. So no again.

      • Pete Cresswell January 9, 2018 at 9:54 am - Reply

        KP can hardly buy a run in BBL, hardly an advert for him being up to tests at 37 years old. He’s retiring pretty soon anyway

        • Mark D January 9, 2018 at 11:21 am - Reply

          I am not saying that they should have played based on recent form, I am suggesting that had they may have been dropped too early and had they still been playing tests over last few years they might have been better motivated and prepared to play a tough Aussie team than the rabbits in headlights that we decided to take…?

          • Pete Cresswell January 9, 2018 at 11:29 am - Reply

            You may have a point in Bell’s case (I wouldn’t have the foggiest).

            But KP’s had a lot of injuries the past couple of years. While he was discarded too soon I very much doubt he’d have made it through to this year.

    • cricketcricketcricket January 9, 2018 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      Duckett.. lol…

    • James Morgan January 10, 2018 at 11:00 am - Reply

      We’re going to get to this I promise.

  17. SimonH January 9, 2018 at 10:20 am - Reply

    Just listened to The Analyst’s Ashes post mortem and apparently what we need is for the coaches to have more power! The English obsession with coaches is bizarre (if not as bizarre as the adverts on the podcast) and makes it all the more embarrassing that the ECB can’t produce its own decent coaches and has to keep poaching them from smaller, poorer nations.

    Meanwhile, I’ve read and listened to every Ashes’ debriefing I can find not hidden behind a paywall and I can’t a single one that thinks Flower’s control of the Lions worth mentioning as a factor in England’s troubles. Flower’s ability to stifle any critical media analysis continues to be the most remarkable thing I’ve seen in nearly fifty years of watching the English media cover sport.

    • Silk January 9, 2018 at 10:54 am - Reply


    • Tom January 10, 2018 at 3:34 am - Reply

      Why do England let people who aren’t English run their cricket team?

  18. Comte January 9, 2018 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Fish rots from the head. This phrase may be of Chinese or Turkish origin but applies to English cricket.
    George Dobell’s piece is excellent and Lord Ted’s complements it well.
    I am utterly sick of people from the England set-up, be they players, coaches or management trotting out
    platitudes on the box. Gentlemen the phrase you are looking for is ‘we were crap’. I’m also utterly sick of the writers and pundits who dare not speak the truth for fear of losing privileged access to The Inner Sanctum. I would wield the axe so ferociously that I would make Beeching look like a garden prunner.
    Apart from Harrigraves the first victims would include Ramprakash and Flower and the selectors.
    I’m angry.

    • Tom January 10, 2018 at 4:06 am - Reply

      Wield the axe if you like. Presumably you’re willing to get smashed at home next year?

  19. Silk January 9, 2018 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    “England were closer than the scorecard suggests to one of their greatest victories”

    WTF does this even mean?

    • Tom January 10, 2018 at 1:19 am - Reply

      It doesn’t “feel like” 4-0.

  20. Doug January 9, 2018 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    A few thoughts:
    About time the ECB gave some sort of statement. An apology would be nice but they’ll no doubt talk about the positives!
    Bayliss should be sacked now to start with. God knows what he coaches but its not cricket technique. But of course the old boys club gravy train and central contracts allow him to keep his job. If I had performed or rather not performed at work like that I’d be out on my ear. Too many bosses and hangers on not doing anything.
    By 2019 most of the Aussie batters will have had a stint in county cricket and know how to play the moving ball here. Their bowlers will get wickets here because they’re twice ad goodf as ours. So Aussie win.
    2021: Will it be any different?

    • Mike Chaffin January 9, 2018 at 4:40 pm - Reply

      And how many of the counties, do we predict, will allow the convict top order some practice ahead of the next series?

      • cricketcricketcricket January 9, 2018 at 9:31 pm - Reply

        Why wouldn’t they ?? Counties couldn’t give a crap as long as they win, they don’t exactly have many genuinely decent red ball players and .. well… like they’ll care..

        Counties are jut as culpable as anyone in prioritising white ball mentality and techniques.. let alone dodgy spin bowling actions that are done purely for 2020/ODI

        • Doug January 9, 2018 at 9:55 pm - Reply

          Until County Cricket is played in the summer months we won’t develop any fast or spin bowlers any more. A diet of endless T20 rubbish doesn’t do anything for building proper technique does it. Any one can slog buffet bowling out the ground in front of a drunken crowd. But that’s the ECB’s priority above all else. I’ve been involved in sport most of my life but I’ve never seen a supposed ‘governing body’ actively trying to destroy the game in the pursuit of money until now.

  21. Mike Chaffin January 10, 2018 at 12:34 am - Reply

    That Pitchvision whatnot is… rather interesting.

    There may well be other systems and technologies out there but the capabilities of these open up some rather interesting avenues.

    Would you watch your local league side live off t’interweb? Well when there’s no other cricket free to air why not? The market might be a bit limited at first but hosting through youtube etc is free, it even pays small amounts in ad revenue. Could have the batting side commenting / taking the piss / bragging about their epic sledging..

    What if one of your mates posted his 5 wicket haul to Facebook? Or highlights of his 50 to twitter? What would the local Taxi firm or whoever sponsors the local team think of getting their wares advertised on social media?

    Don’t get me wrong I doubt many would even know this was happening at first, might get the equivalent of three men, an anxious mother and a dog watching. All it takes is a bit of epicness, something with viral potential about it, and all of a sudden the 3rd XI bus conductor for Little Piddle on the Wold is seen wafting the willow by thousands who would all think… Hmm… I always had an unfulfilled ambition to get a ton and this league stuff isn’t bad… Especially when there’s no cricket on the telly.

    Cameras are relatively cheap, everyone has an inner 12th man they’d like to set loose or a Boycott impression that needs airing and the individual nature of the game is maybe even uniquely suited to social media highlights.

    Maybe the ECB’s mismanagement of the first class game might actually be an opportunity in disguise? The TV deal runs for 5 years, if local clubs embrace the technology which will be more relevant at the end of it?

    • cricketcricketcricket January 10, 2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

      The online highlights from a live video feed is something I’m looking to do with my club. This season is my first ‘test’ season to see how it goes.

      I am sad though and most clubs probably couldn’t care less. Our scorer does a lot of englsnd,lions, county games so our club stars are literally a good as international stats..

      It’s bad in a way and having video and stats opens all players up to scrutiny but it’s also amazing to have stats on all the stuff int players get

  22. lesa January 10, 2018 at 1:49 am - Reply

    “Overall it was generally a poor series, played on disappointingly slow and lifeless pitches, with soporific run rates, and very little competitive action. I’m sad to say that it wasn’t a good advert for test cricket at all.”

    What a load of BS James. You are guilty of the very thing you accues the ECB of namely fabricating scape goats and white ball obsession. Despite Englands tactics of slowing up runs (OMG 7-2 fields!) Australia still scored at just under 3 runs per over which is perfectly acceptable in the red ball game. If you want white ball run rates stick to wacthing T20. The Melbourne pitch was a dog no doubt and they have been sanctioned for it. They also now have a new curator. As for competitive action it takes 2 to Tango.

    As far as the health of test cricket goes in Oz with sell out crowds and great ratings on free to air TV it is in robust health indeed.
    Could the Brisbane pitch have been faster – yes but a wet pre season made that difficult. Sydney spun as expected which is hardly lifeless. Adelaide always is flat but with a night test that is desirable. Perth was bouncy but has been slower since they screwed the centre square with new soil. Melbourne was a fail agreed.

    Why did England lose?

    Well the real reasons were

    Too many left handers
    Bowled too short
    Key players underperformed
    too many rash shots resulting in starts becoming just starts
    too many kack handers
    didnt bring a proper spinner aka the curse of the all rounder obsession
    bowling lacked variation
    too many lefties
    no genuine pace bowlers
    too many cant play short balls
    way too many south paws

    • Tom January 10, 2018 at 2:21 am - Reply

      And Australia were actually pretty damn good when it mattered.

      But that can’t be blamed on the ECB so who cares?

  23. Tom January 10, 2018 at 2:58 am - Reply

    What will be England’s XI to face the sheep-rooters in March?

    Sleepy Joe Root
    Gary ‘Fat Tom Hardy’ Ballance
    Angry Ranga 1
    Angry Ranga 2
    Overton – winner of the ‘my face resembles a piece of misshapen amateur pottery’ award
    Ichabod Crane

    • lesa January 10, 2018 at 3:12 am - Reply

      11 lefties is my tip

      • Tom January 10, 2018 at 3:21 am - Reply

        Does that include Mooen Ali?

        Aka the new Daryll Cullinan.

  24. Tom January 10, 2018 at 4:15 am - Reply

    Did you guys see Ben Stokes’ video message to his teammates after the fifth Test?

  25. lesa January 10, 2018 at 4:35 am - Reply

    Lyon V Right- And Left-Hand Batsmen
    Batsman type Runs Balls Wkts Ave
    Left-handers 332 878 18 18.44
    Right-handers 281 684 3 93.66

  26. Hungerpang January 10, 2018 at 9:47 am - Reply

    After the first couple of Tests, I honestly think England would have done better playing Paul Collingwood instead of Vince.

  27. SimonH January 10, 2018 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    Some UK viewing figures (quoted by the Guardian who aren’t of course happy to wheel out evidence damning BT after spening years acting as apologists for Sky and ignoring their declining audiences):

    “The first Test clocked an average of 92,000 viewers a day. By the third, with England 2-0 down, the figure had dropped to 82,000. The peak audience in those first three Tests was 340,000, which is less than half the figure for England’s victory in 2010-11, and over 200,000 down on the 2013-14 series”.

    The media (especially the Australian media) have been crowing the series has been a great success because of the crowd attendances (second highest for a series ever). Unfortunately, crowd attendances only account for about 10% of revenue with the rest coming from TV. This audience decline is the ticking timebomb under Test cricket.

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