Cut and Paste

So another Ashes tour ends in disaster.
Anyone who’s been paying attention saw it coming a mile off. Consequently, rather than howling into the wind yet again, and writing a new blog, I thought I’d simply cut and paste what I wrote three years ago after our last humiliation down under. It’s amazing how absolutely nothing has changed. In fact, this archived blog is exactly what I need to say again. What a depressing place English cricket has been since 2013. 

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 with 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, they never looked like winning a game and were completely outplayed. In fact, only Root, Malan, and Anderson can hold their heads up high.

Some might argue that England 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 prioritising white ball cricket, and coercing the counties into their unpopular, nonsensical, and unworkable franchise 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!

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 the selectors, 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


  • The problems aren’t complex atall, it’s the will of those with the necessary influence to act. Everyone knows what’s wrong except them apparently. An accident waiting to happen doesn’t cover it as it’s no accident. Cash is king everywhere in sport. There’s a direct link between investment and success, always has been.

      • poor weather, it was rainy and only 17 degrees, plus 15000 fewer English supporters will have contributed to that

    • So all the big money is being made in the IPL in India – is that what you mean Marc?
      Peter Drake
      teacher Hexham

  • James
    I think one thing that has changed is that many in the media – even Agnew – are focusing on the underlying causes of the dire state of County and Test cricket, although whether that produces any meaningful change remains to be seen.

    • We need a total clear out. We need people in charge of English cricket who put Test cricket first rather than their own vanity projects. It’s extraordinary that Harrison etc didn’t see this coming. Or maybe they did but didn’t care? Either way they’re utterly unfit to govern our game.

      • I agree, James. I think Harrison probably did see it coming but simply doesn’t care about anything other than white ball especially, of course, the hundred. You only have to look at his background to understand his actions. The ECB has effectively written off red ball cricket for years now (and don’t forget Andrew Strauss’s input to this) and this debacle is simply the culmination of years of neglect, or rather deliberate destruction of the red ball format. There will be no change without a root and branch clear out from the upper echelons of the game, starting with Harrison and Giles.

    • People have been blaming the County system for years. There was a county system when we WON the Ashes too!
      Peter Drake
      teacher Hexham

      • Who is blaming the County system? Precisely the opposite. Although Harrison says otherwise, the County system is currently the only way we stand a chance of producing Test cricketers. Maybe that’s why he wants to destroy it.

  • You don’t know where to start so I offer just one observation; how can England continue to play Test cricket for many years often using stand-in, club standard wicket-keepers? It’s been proved unsuccessful and yet is persisted with. I don’t get it.

  • We have now undergone seven years of Harrison. It all needs undoing. We also do not need batting coaches who make the players stand on one leg in the nets.

  • A few random observations:
    1) Has any corporate-state journalist called for the ECB suits to lose their bonuses? If not, why not?
    2) I watched the Sky post-match analysis (on UT). Off-the-table of course was any discussion of their role in the problem. As effective co-governors of English cricket for nearly two decades they own a goodly proportion of this. “Great question Wardy”!
    3) They knew this disaster was coming. Anyone else noticing that the true architects (Clarke, Graves, Strauss, Flower, Farbrace) aren’t around to cop the flak and they’ve left honest chumps like Giles and Silverwood in situ as the lightning rods? Atherton threw a lot of blame at Giles but never mentioned Harrison or Graves.
    4) There are some attempts to set up false dualities – was it the batting/bowling? was it players/coaches? It’s all of them. England would have lostb maximising their resources but those resources weren’t maximised either through bad tactics and coaching. When your resources are weak, good coaching/tactics matter more – the reaction shouldn’t be throwing up one’s hands and saying “we’d have lost anyway”.
    5) There is a mis-match between the talent pool and the number of f/c teams. Relying on half a dozen public schools and poached SAs isn’t a broad enough base. Be wary of those who want to bring them more in line by shrinking the f/c base. They’ve been wanting to do this for years and are seeking to exploit a crisis. Reduce the counties and then morph them into franchises is where some want to steer this. Having franchises answerable to “stakeholders” (i.e. corporate sponsors and the media) rather than counties answerable to members is their dream.
    6) Also be wary of ‘woke’ types who hitch this to the Rafiq issue. The talent pool isn’t going to be expanded much by getting more out of 5% of the population. Why are these people so unbothered about the lack of players coming from the 95%? Where are the new Bothams and Randalls? Again it’s exploiting a crisis for a pre-conceived agenda.
    7) There remains a refusal to consider that the ECB are motivated by more than money. Test cricket constitutes a large chunk of their revenue so tanking Test cricket doesn’t make sense in terms of short-term finances. However it does make sense if one realises they hate international competition and the longer game and want to shift entirely to a sport of white-ball franchises. A US-based T20 competition is the sort of thing they dream of, not high-quality Test cricket. Ultimately they probably loathe all team sports and want sport reduced to atomised activities like running and cycling (and those at home on machines – hey, no icky germs caught from teammates and so much better for the environment! People continue to treat covid and carbon as passing fads that aren’t a fundamental part of the ‘New Normal’. They are not going away – and indeed have only just begun unless people start realising ‘The Great Reset’ is very real. A Conservative junior transport minister said a fortnight ago car ownership in cities should be abolished. How does mass spectator sport have a future in this world? These things are not distant sci-fi now, they are coming this decade).

    • I really can’t be bothered to engage with a lot of this unfocused, speculative work of fiction (the ECB “probably loathe all team sports”–got any evidence for that other than your own fevered, paranoid imagination, Simon? Morphing counties into franchises?–it’s possible but who wants it and where have they suggested that?)

      But one or two: in answer to 1), yes–Paul Newman did it the other day. Tim Wigmore referred to it rather sarcastically although he didn’t call for it to be reversed. Not enough others have, true–as to why, you’d have to ask them!

      to 6)–another misrepresentation of statistics in order to justify a tedious, divisive “white people’s lives are so difficult in a white-majority society, boo hoo” agenda. The issue is not that 5% of the population are being ignored (it’s not 5% anyway in most areas umless you’re using very old census data: it’s getting on for half in London according to the government), but that we’re told that 30% of club cricketers nationwide are non-white. Your argument is simply irrelevant as well as being statistically inaccurate on its own merits–it’s like saying “why aren’t we doing more to make professional cricket attractive to astrophysics graduates?” The issue is that we’re putting unnecessary barriers in the way of precisely one of the groups that seems most keen to engage practically with cricket (and no, before you start bleating again, it’s not the only group–the cost and attitiudes involved in age-group coaching also sound like they need a good look at, to avoid putting barriers in the way of financially poorer people of all races).

      And we can’t afford to do that if we want to have the best chance of maximising England’s talent pool–without even mentioning why it’s not such a good idea anyway to build parts of the professional cricket on the bedrock of racism, although you seem to try repeatedly to defend those attitudes on here by making unfounded attacks on people who are trying to change them. So yes, it has everything to do with the Rafiq case, albeit maybe in a less direct way than seems apparent at first.

      And if you’re going to witter on about setting up false dualities, it might be worth not setting up a white people/non-white people false duality oif your own!

      • God we don’t half make things complicated. No wonder cricket and other sports are in such a mess.

  • Best comment I’ve seen from trawling round various outlets:

    In answer to a comment that if Chris Silverwood is the answer, what’s the question….

    “Who’s cheap and won’t rock the boat?”

    BTW I can’t remember if it was Atherton or Dobell but I’ve heard someone recently say the reason Ed Smith was sacked was that some of the senior players didn’t like him (for rotating them out of the team presumably). I’m no fan of Smith but that’s a ridiculous way to run a railroad.

    • Yes, I think the question with Smith is not WHETHER people liked him (and he does seem like a pretty difficult person to get on with, nit that that’s necessarily very relevant to anything), but WHY they didn’t.

      If it’s because they didn’t like being left out of the team, then it absolutely isn’t a reason to sack him per se–the question is, was it a reasonable decision? Personally I wonder how much of this came about because of one player (Broad) making a huge amount of fairly public noise about being left out–and it’s not entirely clear that that was all Smith’s decision anyway: it’s possible that it’s relevant that it came in Stokes’s only match as captain–rather than anything more general.

      But as you imply, if you got rid of everyone in English cricket over the years who was an obstreperous, arrogant pain in the arse, the quality of England teams might well go down markedly!

  • You are as most are.. missing entirely the point.

    The entire system is flawed and broken. It has been for 15 years so this isn’t to do with the 100 really (although, that is a symptom), it isn’t that Root isn’t a good capt.. it isn’t even silverwood or Harrison (although, both the later two should have been fired on the spot after the loss of the 3rd test).

    Swapping a few players or coaches out won’t make a blind bit of difference. YOu say x can play both formats.. No they can’t!! there is a reason all these players avg 30’s or less in test cricket.. they are capable of wonder innings and flash in teh pan purple patches (bairstow, stokes, even Buttler) but they can’t bat consistently well across different styles of grounds, wickets and with longevity.

    The problems are massive and would take a total over haul of all the system from the lowest league in the land to the highest. There is no doubt it won’t happen at all and many of you are perfectly happy to go along with the narrative the ECB and media push out on white ball and how great the likes of Bairstow, Buttler, Curran, Stokes et all are.. The fact remains.. we have 4 test class players currently and that’s it.. We have Root, Broad, Anderson and Wood.. The rest, simply aren’t good enough to command a spot if we were in any way in decent shape. You will all shout ‘Stokes’.. sure, he had a good purple patch but he avg’s 36!!! 36….. that isn’t good.. certainly isn’t good for someone lauded as a test class , sorry WORLD CLASS test batsmen.. jesus, we had someone avg’ing 40 at 7 not too long ago!!! sure, stokes is a decent 7 or 8 but he’s not in all seriousness a top 6 batter.. that’s just the weakness of our game.

    We have too much white ball cricket , too many people involved in every amateur club, amateur league, county patheways, county anything all the way up to the ecb… ALL of you are to blame as you are part of the problem. Are you vocally arguing to produce red ball players over white ball??? you won’t be… are you saying amateurs should be playing AT A BARE MINIMUM draw cricket but ideally 2 day games… YOU WON’T BE… you will be saying ‘oh but kids love white ball… Kids don’t lvoe white ball.. they get bored of it and leave the game!! participation is down, and it’s not due to formats.. it’s simply due to less people playing and people have different things they choose to do at weekends now.. Can’t help or stop that! Skill levels are certainly down in amateur (andn Pro!!) level cricket.. just look at the very very very bang average players getting paid at local level now.. look at hte bang average ‘county’ players playing for glamorgan, northants, derbyshire, leicestershire, gloucestershire et all… very very very average players who are all white ball focused stealing a living..

    Formats.. to many.. IF we all accept that 100/2020 (don’t care which) has to stay because it is good at getting crowds in for beers, really young kids do have short attention spans and it is very good for friday evenings… then we simply MUST get rid of 50 over cricket.. Before you all cry… what does 50 Over cricket achieve now?? It’s a glorified 2020 slog fest now isn’t it?? (answer is yes btw)… it’s a bunch of 2020 players (roy, hales, bairstow, buttler!!) playing 2020 innings .. the ONLY difference… you can afford ONE.. yes just one… root type.. apart from that.. it’s just a 2020.. so, to free up space.. lets just knock that format on it’s head..


    Amateur Leagues
    Play 2 day games in the top 5 divisions of whatever structure you are in. Start time 11 max 110 overs in a day. Bat twice, massive points for winning if you bat first… a lot less for batting second and a good points haul for drawing. This will raise the quality of players playing cricket for sure and produce batsmen able to adapt to different situatoins and it also forces bowling units to TAKE wickets .. not just wait for gifts.. anything lowe than that, goes to one day games.. 50 overs a side, draw cricket… similar pts as above.. you get loads for batting first and winning, a lot less for batting second and winning.. from say 9th division down just play 45 over win lose ..

    AT THE SAME TIME, run a 2020 comp on saturdays based around astro at schools, leisure centres . You don’t need expensive subs, ground maintensance then… just rock up, couple of spring stumps out… white ball.. go. keep it quick, fast and cheap. this can be run by local leagues too as a more casual competition for clubs to enter a side for their more casual players or players who really do want to play 2020/100 only.

    You’ve just created a format for everyone whilst not compromising hte main aim of raising standards and improving red ball… 2020/100 on astro is fine as it’s flat.. easy to slog on and most of all.. cheap to put on.. no grounds are needed which removes costs!

    Pro level..

    Play a 4 day game every week.. Monday to Friday and it MUST all be Streamed live for free. These feeds are watched by a lot of people . have 3 divisions and the 3rd division has relegation! yes.. those minor counties can actually get promoted from their leagues (these sides MUST demonstrate All their players play saturday league cricket week in week out in their domestic structure to qualify).. that way, you force counties to not want to lose! .. TV rights for test cricket are sold and then split between all the counties equally with bounties for those winning the leagues.

    Friday and Saturday Evenings are 2020/100 evenings (btw, all this should have a female equivalent comp too at pro level.. local level everyone can play together).. Sunday’s are a day off to rest but I expect counties to end up with pretty much a squad for red ball and a few 2020 specialists.

    The Money for int cricket shouldn’t be split with counties for 2020/100, that’s for red ball only. The local counties though get to keep gate receipts, beer takings and so can make the money there for their 2020/100 specialists.

    England wise.. again.. just accept 2020/100 is different to tests and split the whole thing.. training, coaching, management and players. Pay the red ballers the most by a mile and make 2020 a living but not a golden goose.

    at County level… don’t be picking kids for county until they are 15. Make counties have to work with clubs to produce internal pathways and get these good kids playing saturday league cricket in the highest leagues and proving themselves… Only then should they be even allowed to play for county squads or 2xi cricket… Make playing saturday local 2 day games HOW you get selected for county teams.. make the pro’s play these two (especially those not in the 1xi red ball teams!!)..

    Will it work.. probably not as it won’t make white ball lovers happy but it will ensure that there is a format for red ball, format for white ball and both systems are replicated at pro and amateur levels.. that way, you actually can choose to be a red ball player or white ball.

    • You can’t play both formats without averaging 30 in tests? Kohli, Williamson, de Villiers, Smith, Babar Azam and a few others might want to have a word about that one….:-)

    • “You will be….”, “you won’t be”

      Will YOU be applying for one of the top jobs at the ECB (there’ll be plenty going soon!) given that you’re clearly one of the very few people, if not the only one, who’s intelligent and perspicacious enough to understand the issues properly?!

    • Re Stokes: you’re entitled to your opinion, but I suspect that to whatever extent you’re right (and if I recall correctly you’re pretty obsessed with this, which may say more about you than Stokes’s batting!) it also says more about the level of test batting in general than it does about Stokes specifically. In the last five yeasr only 32 players average more than Stokes and in the last three or so only 20–which suggests that he’d have got into a top six in pretty much any team. In the last three Kohli, Pujara, Rahane, du Plessis,and Ross Taylor are all below him–are they not proper test batters or does three years still constitute a purple patch?! If so, how long doesn’t…:-) Asking for a statistician friend….

  • It’s alright, according teo Silverwood they re ‘taking the postives’ from this. Goddamn insane magement speak.

    • Agreed.
      There aren’t any positives.
      At least we don’t hear that the bowlers need “to put it the right places” anymore. In our case they are often bowling on another strip.

      • I think Silverwood is right. There are positives.
        1 He will go.
        2 Root will give up the captaincy.
        and, with any luck
        3 Giles will go
        4 Harrison will go
        5 Even if the 100 doesn’t go – which it may – it’s position as the ECB’s golden calf must be under threat and it may not be the thing around which the summer is built – even at the expense of sacrificing the last Test against India.

        • Hope you are right John! I’m not sure the ECB is going to brush this one under the carpet like they usually do.

  • It’s easy to blame the dominance of white ball cricket for the demise of the Test side but that doesn’t seem to have hurt Australia, India or New Zealand unduly. In my opinion, the buck stops with the English coaching system which seems incapable of producing batters with the technique to play all forms of the game.

    • Yes. I’d add though that no other country I am aware of play 3 white ball competitions in a domestic season: 50 over, Blast and the dreaded 100. This schedule means that batsmen get virtually no red ball cricket, as the Championship is relegated to the bookends of the season, when they are usually “rested”.

    • I wonder if the scheduling point risks being a little overegged. Australia’s players–especially the multi-format ones–often play few or no Sheffield Shield matches (which has fewer games than the Championship anyway), and the middle two months of the season are always cannibalised for the BBL.

      And India haven’t had a domestic first-class competition since the start of Coronavirus and their test team is playing perfectly well. (In passing, India also have three domestic white-ball competitions although they have an eight-month season to play them in).

  • We all predicted an Australia dominated ashes but nobody expected such dominance from the home side. Ashes has NEVER been this boring. Thank God for the ind vs sa series!!

    • I’m afraid I did, Abishek, and I was by no means alone here. I simply couldn’t see how a batting side which, Root apart, had failed so badly in England, was going to be able to do any better in Australia, and I similarly couldn’t see how our attack – although decent – was going to be able to bowl out this Australian side twice for fewer than our batsmen could score.


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