England’s Ashes Campaign: The Lamentable Truth

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If Australia had ever lost 0-5 in England there would’ve been uproar from Perth to Port Macquarie and from Darwin to Devonport. It would have been a national humiliation – the nadir of Australian sporting history. And they would’ve made sure that it never, ever, happened again.

If only the ECB cared about the Ashes as much. We’ve been beaten 0-5 twice in the space of eight years, and the last time it happened there wasn’t so much as a review into what went wrong. Instead our hapless board simply moved the head coach sideways, scapegoated the team’s best batsman, and (after a poor world cup) ultimately decided to focus on white ball cricket instead.

Just think about that for a second. England lost the Ashes 0-5 but the ECB effectively decided to make the last four years about winning the Champions Trophy … (something they also failed to do). 

What should’ve happened, of course, was a focused and determined attempt to make sure we sent a competitive side to Australia in 2017. To make English cricket respected again. But apparently that was too much to ask for. Instead we’ve sent an even worse side to Australia than we did in 2012/13. And it’s just not good enough.

Instead of prioritising the county championship, nurturing specialist spinners, finding fast bowlers with a yard of pace, and developing batsmen with watertight techniques and the aptitude to play long innings, the ECB have actually done the opposite …

The first thing Andrew Strauss did was appoint a coach regarded as a bit of a white ball specialist. And the first thing Tom Harrison did (more or less) was to say the team must play entertaining cricket and risk losing to win. Steve Smith must be laughing his head off. Has the Australian captain become the world’s best batsman by taking risks? I think not.

As for the championship – the domestic competition that players and supporters care about the most – the ECB have treated it like an inconvenience. At my club Worcestershire there will only be two championship games at New Road between 15th May and the 4th September in 2018. That’s basically the entire summer. How on earth is that going to help England produce a team that can compete down under?

So what, exactly, have the ECB been doing over the last four years? Rather than helping Joe Root and his team avoid another humiliation, the board have been pulling out the stops to create …. < wait for the big fanfare > … a city-based franchise T20 tournament! You couldn’t make it up. Their main priority has been a competition most cricket fans think is unwelcome and unworkable.

Efforts to incorporate this T20 monstrosity into an already busy schedule are going to hinder the prospects of our test team even further. The championship is going to slide some more. One rumour is that there will be no first class cricket played in August from 2020. That’ll help us develop a Nathan Lyon of our own. Not.

The driving force behind all this is the cricket economy, stupid. The ECB argue that city franchises will create a bountiful revenue stream … except for the fact that it’s going to make a loss in its first few years. And as for crowds flocking to city stadiums to see the likes of Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum, hasn’t it occurred to Harrison and Graves that these players already feature in the very popular NatWest Blast?

So as England went down limply in the early hours of this morning, I hope everyone remembers the broader context. The minutiae are basically irrelevant. We can criticise Root’s decision to bowl first; we can blame the cut on Moeen’s spinning finger; we can blame the fresh air between James Vince’s ears; heck we could even blame the selectors. But the real culprits are the ECB – the board that’s overseen the decline of first class cricket in England, the demise of proper batting techniques, the dwindling concentration spans of our batsmen, and our failure to produce more than one world class spinner in three decades.

What’s more – and I don’t want to depress everyone too much – things are highly unlikely to get any better in the future. If you think for a second that Graves and Harrison might rethink their city-franchise plan if the worst happens and we lose at Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney too, then I politely suggest you think again. There’s about as much chance of that as Strauss and Pietersen getting wed at a civil ceremony on the top of mount Kilimanjaro on Christmas day.

The reality is that the ECB had no plan to prevent us from being humiliated in this Ashes series. And they have no plan to prevent another possible whitewash in 2021 either. All they seem to care about is picking off T20s low hanging fruit. Our only chance is that Australia decline at a more rapid pace than us.

So as much as it hurts, I’d like everyone to forget about Adelaide sharpish. This calamity didn’t happen because Root likes to bat at 4 rather than 3. Few of England’s problems will be solved by Ben Stokes returning, and there’s also little point in speculating how we’ll cope when Anderson and Broad retire either …

The bottom line is that English cricket (the test team anyway) are inexorably doomed until the people running the ECB realise that we supporters – the people who pay money to watch cricket and indirectly pay their salaries – don’t give a rat’s arse about emulating the IPL and the Big Bash. All we care about is the Ashes.

Never before have the goals of supporters and a governing body been so diametrically opposed. And that’s the lamentable truth.

James Morgan

140 comments

  • Good article, sums up my frustrations exactly. The ECB are to blame for this tour, they’ve gone around in circles since the last whitewash, which was the most humiliating England tour I’ve ever witnessed. The only thing we as supporters can do is to encourage everyone to boycott this City franchise to try and force ECB to stop chasing bucks and start looking at improving English Cricket. Attendances were going up in the t20 format, and we’d already made a t20 world final, we don’t need to mess about with it!

    It’s incredible that England still haven’t found a replacement for Andrew Strauss opening the innings – 5 years ago he retired! No replacement’s been found for Collingwood or Bell – who both had significant roles and records in test cricket, the roles they played in solidifying innings has instead been replaced with smashers and whackers – flamboyant 30’s and 40’s are more interesting to paying punters than boring 120’s that take all day. Trott hasn’t been replaced, Prior has had Bairstow and Buttler pretend to be wicket keepers. Don’t get me started on this Moeen Ali spinning experiment, it’s a complete waste of time.

    At no point has anyone in charge of the team spoke out about the need to find a more settled squad. They’re instead in total denial about the massively inconsistent results with some HUGE defeats in the last 2 years being completely brushed under the carpet.

  • Blimey James, that’s quite a polemic. I share your anger and frustration and can’t disagree with anything in this piece, which paints the bigger picture with depressing clarity. I think we all know that the present series is now (in the first week of December) effectively over as a meaningful contest and you’re right – barring an outright revolution within the governing body (which isn’t going to happen for the reasons you identify) there’s not much scope for optimism that things will improve in future years.

  • Don’t disagree with a word of it. I have only ever been to one T20 game, and that was because I was invited by a corporate sponsor. I was lucky enough to see Sangakkara bat for about half an hour, which was sublime. I don’t particularly intend to go to another, least of all the city franchise nonsense. The entire strategic plan is an absurdity.

  • You’ve written a blinder here James. Every word is true without question. There is nothing more I can say, apart from well done.

  • Maybe Australia just produces more resilient, more ruthless cricketers?

    They’ll still lose in unfamiliar conditions or even at home when outplayed – they are certainly not immune to the peaks and troughs – but they tend not to capitulate the way England has in those previous whitewashes.

    Maybe England still don’t understand that when they say Australians have “no class”, like that makes England superior, Australians view that as an inherent weakness. Maybe that’s why you lose 5-0.

  • Excellent, lucid article, James. The only flaw is that we fans are the last people the ECB will listen to. We are seen as the problem, holding back capitalism’s glorious march. The people they will listen to are the new fans, the large proportion of the population just waiting for city-based T20 to flick to our cricket grounds. Of course you only have a voice if actually exist…

    • Australia has the Big Bash T20 tournament. They’ve also managed to win quite a few 50-over tournaments.

      Why hasn’t that led to them getting whitewashed by England in Test series? Because apparently you can’t have one without the over.

      • Have Australia eroded first class cricket in order to promote the Big Bash? Or do they work in harmony? That’s the difference.

        • Maybe not to the same extent – but there is now a big hole in the Shield season (a round of games finished yesterday, and the next ones start on 8 Feb) to accommodate the Big Bash. To many that’s all part of a general downgrading process – to squeeze Shield games in so you can have that Big Bash gap the season starts earlier when the conditions aren’t as good; some early season games aren’t played at the big grounds because they’re pitches aren’t ready; they mess around with day/night games and using pink or Dukes balls; more games through the year are sent out to regional towns, where the pitches often aren’t as good; there’s much more talk of interference in selections, they’ll insist on taking bowlers out of games (before or during the game) and there were even claims that Tasmania was told not to declare its second innings when it wanted to in one game (which was subsequently drawn, although that could have happened anyway) until a test candidate had had more chance to bat. These may not be as dramatic as the actions/inactions you are complaining about, but they also represent a steady erosion of the first class competition and its position in the scheme of things. To be fair, Shield players are now paid much better than they were, and this year the fixture list was such that all players were available to play the first 3 (of 10) Shield games (although some bowlers were kept out of some games) which is some improvement on past seasons where the test players (particularly if they also play ODIs) would barely play a single Shield game a year. But that scheduling is possibly an Ashes season thing.

        • FC cricket has definitely been eroded. The Big Bash now occupies the prime slot in the summer and everything else fits around it.

          Australian cricket has been affected by the rise of T20 just like English cricket. It’s not an excuse for capitulation.

      • Exactly what has Australia won in 2020 since the BBL ?

        Doesn’t help in any way. The BBL is great fun but like all 2020leagues.. isn’t high quality. It does what it’s supposed to though, gets people in for an evening who don’t look at Cricket otherwise.

        Sadly, these aren’t going to play or move to test cricket so it’ll have no effect long term

  • Good article, James. If it helps, I share your anger and frustration. The deadly trio of Graves, Harrison and Strauss are not friends of real cricket. ECB representatives, headed by Graves came along to New Road and presented their views on the future of cricket. Graves stressed that he was passionate about cricket, a claim I’ve heard from others running the game. At the meeting I pointed out to Graves that I was also passionate about cricket and originally from Yorkshire but that I didn’t agree with their plans.
    The Deadly Trio and their underlings may actually believe their own bollocks-laden hype. They claim the game is in terminal decline and that new fans need to be attracted – the mums. They can throw statistics around like confetti and promise big new money (money trees are confined to politics) and it seems the county chairmen are too stupid/short-sighted/greedy/clueless/frightened to fight.
    The ECB is grossly mismanaging the game and nobody seems capable of waking up and smelling the coffee. An old friend of mine used to say “you can’t educate pork” – that’s probably politically incorrect, but true. Rant over, for today.

    • The plan to attract Mums shows just how out of touch the ECB are. The last thing a Mum wants (if my wife and her friends are anything to go by) is to take a 5-6 year old to a cricket ground. Young kids have attention spans that last approx 20 mins. They’ll never sit through a 3 hour T20 without screaming / wingeing and generally making life a nightmare for the Mums who took them there. It’s a plan beyond idiocy.

      • Only exception to this is when I took my kids among group of 5-year olds to a 20-20 at Beckenham, where there was space for them to play a game similar to cricket that also involved periodically trampling through a picnic, while the real match was going on in the background. They watched about 3 balls of the actual cricket but had a whale of a time with their friends. Of course I could have replicated the same experience for free on any village green…
        Well done if you can get them to pay attention for 20 mins though 😉

    • They are right, Cricket is in terminal decline and has been for a long while. However, 2020has been around for years as well (8 ball overs) and has no effect on participation or retention.

      Sure, the tv side has risen but participation is the key ingredient as that’s where people learn and become interested long term. ECB only want each mum to come once and if every mum and family does that then winner.. add in the beer heads who go along to 2020 to get drunk and boom.. cash cow

      They are dumbing down the amateur leagues more and more.. first to winnlose instead of draw p.. now it’ll slowly creep towards 2020. They really are killing the game in the UK

    • yes we do. And the reason is that management never never never take a blind bit of notice of what anybody says. People on here love cricket and have been watching it all their lives and we get madder and madder to see bumbling idiots who purport to love the game and run it making such a pig’s ear. They never listen. They treat the fans who pay to see the game who love the game as if they were lower than the dust beneath their chariot wheels. If you go onto, let’s say the Guardian comments BTL, you will find more common sense and cogent thinking there than in ECB Towers. but these people know nothing, they are the great unwashed so go away and be quiet. We are Outside Cricket a phrase used by Clarke when in charge a few years ago. Another cricket blog which I follow is called Outside Cricket after this sneering comment and you will find the anger and rage on their against those who are running Test Cricket into the ground just as tangible.

      I keep hoping that England will get worse and worse and worse so that eventually somebody might wake up to the fact that something is wrong and do something about it, but they don’t they never will and it makes me furious.

      I could write this comment in capital letters because I am SHOUTING at those idiots but will spare your eyes

      OK rant over

      Going to put the kettle on and have cup of tea and a hob knob now….

      • It just sounds like the default excuse whenever you lose.

        “Management doesn’t listen to us!”

        Like you’d have won if management did it your way? I doubt it.

          • Did they cock up when they reclaimed the Ashes in 2015?

            Where’s your humility in acknowledging England have simply been beaten by a better side?

            • nobody is denying that Australia are a better side, but how much attention have you actually paid to the absolute calamity that is the ECB? This is the same outfit that had Alan Stanford land on the Lords outfield in a helicopter to agree to a $20m one off match with the West Indies. They are an absolute shambles of an organisation and unfortunately appear accountable to noone

              • What do you mean “if”? Australia were better. That’s the reality. Begrudging or not begrudging alters nothing.

        • Not at all. There are many reasons, in theory, why a team might lose a game.

          However the reason English cricket is currently performing well below its historic standards is due almost entirely to poor management, from the ECB, yes.

  • Look at the ECB. Have any of them been top cricketers ? Of course not, it is just politics. Get rid of the crap and install some people who know about cricket e.g Ian Botham, Geoffrey Boycott, Bob Willis, Charlotte Edwards, etc. As long as we have a bunch of plonkers running the game then what does everybody expect !

  • As you very rightly say James it is difficult to find encouragement in ECB strategy before the next time. The new T20 competition seems to leave the door open for counties to play 50 over cricket in 2020 at the same time, so if the white-ball strategy did happen to pay off in WC 2019 that could be timely.

    Agree entirely about the decline of Championship cricket in high summer, being one of a select group who saw Mason Crane play a 4 dayer at the Oval in early July (a run-fest pitch) he played once more in the 10 weeks to mid-September, when he bowled a couple of overs at a sodden Uxbridge. He took a very good catch as an England sub at Headingly but that basically seems to have been it for him, the part of the season when young spinners would at one time have had a chance to progress and people get to see how good they are simply doesn’t exist now.

    • “It’s difficult to find encouragement in the ECB strategy”. Actually it’s difficult to find strategy in whatever the ECB does.

  • Spot on James, great article. That said, I think we’d have won in Brisbane with Stokes in for Ball and would have had a much better chance with him in the side at Adelaide, too. Irrespective of whether what he did turns out to be criminal or not, he’s a first class berk and I wish the ECB had thrown the book at him – stripped him of the vice-captaincy, suspended him for a year and, if their contract allows (as I suspect it does for lamping someone in the early hours) cancelling his central contract while he went through some humiliating rehabilitation (ring any bells….?).

    One other thing. Is Steve Smith really the best batsman in the world? I know he’s rated 1 in the ICC list, but my instinct was Virat Kohli. At least Smith looks like you can get him out, even if it proves to be an illusion! So I looked up their records. Since the start of 2014, Smith has made 19 Test hundreds, 1 of which was a double (plus a 199). That’s an outstanding Test career in just 4 years! In the same period, Kohli has made 15 hundreds but (get this), it includes 6 doubles since July 2016. 6 doubles in less than 18 months! So he just gets the nod from me.

    Incidentally Joe Root’s equivalent figures are 11 hundreds with 2 doubles, but with a noticeable tailing off in the last 2 years, and dear old Alastair Cook has 6 hundreds with 2 doubles.

  • Splendid stuff James – and you’re dead right that this is all about the broader context, not the narrow decisions about the eleventh name on the team sheet or whatever.
    I don’t think the ECB give much of a shit about this result. Why would they care about a result in a format they want to kill, that most people can’t see and that’s being shown by a broadcaster they wish would Foxtrot Oscar?
    They’ll stagger through 2018 on the back of Indian TV money and 2019 on the back of the World Cup – then we’ll all arrive in the Promised Land of 2020 and 20/20 and the agenda will be become even clearer for those still in denial. Test cricket may be killed off quickly – or more probably allowed to wither on the vine as an amusing eccentricity of ever-declining quality enjoyed by dinosaurs and obsessives.
    The crucial moment was when Strauss declared white-ball cricket our “priority” in 2015. There wasn’t enough grasping of what that truly meant at the time. Take two examples of who seriously they meant it: 1) Look at the programme of the Lions this winter (and in the recent past for that matter). How else does it make sense? What are they doing in Australia but “concentrating on white ball skills” after an under-reported and pretty awful match against a Queensland XI? 2) Is it a coincidence that some players who might have been there for the Tests – Plunkett, Rashid, Hales, Buttler – were all not selected? Doesn’t it look like a policy not to risk them in the Tests in case of physical or mental damage being inflcited on key white-ball players?
    Anyway, I suspect they’ll throw Whitaker (who was kept on to be sacked at a moment like this) and perhaps Ramprakash under the bus – and then we’ll jog on much as before. The ACB are pretty much as bad and we’ll probably see another home Ashes’ win in 2019 lubricated if necessary by pitiful preparation, pitch manipulation and every 50-50 umpiring call just happening to go the way of the home team.

    • I dare not watch or listen to Andrew Strauss as every time I see that smug face and listen to that prissy voice and realise he is in charge of cricket in this country I want to put my foot through the screen.

      And my tv is new so…

  • Brilliantly put James. Thank you.
    How after four years can we send a worse team than previously.
    What about the so called sports academies designed to produce world class batting and bowling talent? People need to be accountable for these failures. From the top, what has Flower produced in the last four years, through to Strauss, his management of the ECB and its objectives. Right through to the so called coaches at the National Academy where quick bowlers do not seem to appear anymore. (For gods sake someone speak to Ian Pont who knows exactly how to make bowlers bowl fast).
    I could rant some more but what’s the point. What does the ECB care as long as it gets it’s money from Sky amidst the ever reducing club and player base in the UK brought on by the lack of TV exposure.

    • You ask: “How after four years can we send a worse team than previously?”

      Because the team England sent in 2013/14 was stacked with experienced, accomplished players who held on too long and then imploded under the pressure of an Ashes tour. And England simply haven’t been able to replace the likes of Trott, Bell, Pietersen, Prior and Swann in the intervening four years. Meanwhile, Cook, Broad and Anderson are 4 years older and probably past their best. Is that really a big mystery?

      You demand people be held “accountable” for this. But do you give them any credit for recovering from that whitewash four years ago and winning back the Ashes in 2015? It doesn’t sound like it.

      You lost a Test match in Australia. Is it really that big a surprise? When you look at the teams on paper, Australia has 6 Test-calibre players in their prime – Warner, Smith and the 4 bowlers. How many do England have? I’d say 2 – Root and Bairstow. After them, you’re stacked with veterans past their best, bits-and-pieces players, hail marys and rookies. Yet you think you can just roll up to Australia and it’ll all be alright on the night? England have still been very competitive but have ultimately been outplayed by a better, more complete side, playing at home in their own conditions. Suck it up and stop blaming “management” for everything.

      Honestly, the commenters here come across as hand-wringing crybabies. Learn to cop a defeat on the chin without having a meltdown about it.

      • To be honest Tom, it sounds like you don’t really know a huge amount about English cricket and you’re just coming across as a bit of an idiot. Perhaps you should stop commenting until you get up to speed, eh?

          • You seem surprised that an English cricket blog is discussing English cricket. Dennis does Cricket may be much more to your liking (Australia are great, England are shit repeat ad nauseam)

            However, if it makes you feel better, I don’t think anyone here is denying that Australia are the better side though I would argue that some people are in denial about how much better Australia are. The discussion here is about why England fails to produce more world class players. There are likely many reasons including mismanagement by the ECB. Sadly, this is not a new problem.

            • Maybe we should all give tom the troll a ‘this Aussie side are amazing, so much better than England. They played like superstars’

              There we go.

              Can we go back to discussing the England and ecb shambles now ?

            • By all means discuss English cricket. I’m merely pointing out that in the aftermath of a defeat, the kneejerk response is to “blame management” rather than acknowledge the role played by Australia’s superior performance. In this thread, there’s been very little discussion of the actual cricket. It’s just been one long moan about external factors.

              • Tom, it’s because we’ve done all the cricketing factors to death. It was even there in all the series previews!

  • Really good James. Wholeheartedly agree with you. I have been involved with a variety of spots over the years: disability sport and swimming to name two. I have never known a governing body actively trying to destroy the heart and soul of a game, cricket, that they are supposed to represent. Well the spivs at the ECB are trying their utmost in the form of pound notes and t20 to do this. They haven’t a clue of the meaning of the word sport. Once this fiasco in Aussie is over, the whole organisation needs sorting out top down and completely restructured. I’d help to do it voluntarily and am sure other cricket lovers would to. Don’t blame the players, the management of cricket in the UK stinks quite frankly.

  • I agree with pretty much everything in the article. However, it misses out on one issue which really is becoming apparent – that Joe Root, great bat that he is, was not ready to take on the captaincy. I would not want this to be seen as blaming Root for all ills. He has been dumped in it by the ECB and selectors as James makes clear. However, it is the job of a captain to make the best of what he is handed and a good captain can make a huge difference (as proven by Brearley). So what is the evidence?

    The first strike (but the more minor one) is his failure to fess up in regards to the no3 slot. We can all debate whether Root is more suited to bat at 4 (and I agree he is) but a captain is there to solve problems and, if needed, to set an example. It has been apparent for some time that England have a critical weakness at 3 and, if no other solution is available, Root would have sent a message to the troops by moving up the order. Instead, his first thought was for his own batting. Not the action of a captain and one which the troops will have noted.

    The second and more serious strike is around his management on the field. A basic and important skill of captaincy is bowler management and, especially, making sure you use your bowlers to get the most out of them. This does not mean keeping Woakes, your quickest bowler and a natural full length swing bowler, back so that he only gets the old ball after batting conditions have improved and batsmen are set. Then asking him to bang it in short as part of some bizarre plan dreamt up by Bayliss only compounds the error. It is no criticism of Broad to say that he is less suited to getting movement from a new ball than Woakes (and more suited to banging it in). Woakes should open with Anderson and, if Bayliss insists on his plan, Broad should be providing the short stuff (although I fail to see the point except as odd shock deliveries). Add in some strange field placings and Root has looked out of his depth when fielding, which is no surprise given his lack of captaincy experience.

    Root as captain always looked more of a forced choice (due to lack of competition) than a natural succession, but his performance so far only says that you should not learn captaincy skills at the helm of England.

    • Problem with captaincy is you have to be worth a place in the side as an automatic selection. Apart from Root, we don’t have another suitable player who is an automatic selection. There is no Brearley on the horizon, just some good solid county captains, who would struggle at test level. Root does have Cook and Strauss to call on for advice on and off the field, so he is hardly left to wing it.

      • I agree that the lack of an alternative was a key problem. I am less sure that having Cook and Strauss is helping. Strauss has to be held at least partially responsible for the decisions which have led us here and presumably backs the bizarre bowling plans of Bayliss. Cook is either being ignored or has disengaged himself from being consigliere to the captain. In 2016 Cook had recognised how best to use a seam attack of Anderson, Broad and Woakes in swing conditions, using Woakes as an opener when appropriate. If he is advising on this there is no sign of it.
        As I said, I do not blame Root. As James has pointed out there are many other issues. But the captaincy is an issue which is having a detrimental effect and we should not ignore it because ‘Root is learning’ or has experienced advice. It is not working, but I do not know the solution.

      • If Root has only Cook and Strauss to ask for advice off the field then we really are in the ordure. Cook used to have instructions on what to do sent down to the field by messenger as he had no idea of what was going on. I would advise Root to just get on with it and make his own mind up, but he will end up being micro managed as per

    • Problem with captaincy is you have to be worth a place in the side as an automatic selection. Apart from Root, we don’t have another suitable player who is an automatic selection. There is no Brearley on the horizon, just some good solid county captains, who would struggle at test level. Root does have Cook and Strauss to call on for advice on and off the field, so he’s hardly left to wing it.

    • I don’t have a problem with the decision to bowl first at Adelaide. The problem was two bowlers with 900 test wickets between them who decided that the approach to a swinging ball should be to bowl back of a length. Utter lack of cricket intelligence.

      • I had no problem with the decision to bowl first. Just the use of the bowlers in the prevailing conditions and the stupidity of giving the ‘bang it in with the old ball’ role to the seamer least suited to that role.

      • Speaking up for Anderson and Broad: the pink ball in daylight hours doesn’t swing very much and certainly not when once the seam has been compressed. This is well known. So, bowling 82 mph ‘floaters’, one after the other or even 5 times out of 6 is a mug’s game. What bowlers of this type do now is bowl 5 backish of a length and then one further up as a tempter.

        Woakes before injury had increased his pace to late 80s … so this is another case of the Loughborough guys misjudging the effects of his injuries and wishing for a quicker return to fitness than transpired. Just as on the last trip down under they misjudged the impact of Swann’s shoulder op which virtually halved his ‘revs’. Woakes at 83/84 bowling up to the the bat … well he’s playing yourself in material.

        As it was England (with one floodlit bowling stretch which the Australians handled well), ‘restricted’ the hosts to … what was it, 440ish? Just shy of the typical 1st innings on an Adelaide drop-in pitch.

        Bowling was not really the problem. England needed to bat four to five sessions in their first dig. They were helped by rain in their first floodlit stretch. But failed the next day to bat until dusk. Batting batting batting.

        The bowlers then dismissed the Australians for a typical Adelaide 3rd innings score. The England fourth innings was again a fairly typical Adelaide 4th innings 220? Leaving them short by the amount that a half-way decent first dig should have given them.

        But really that first dig performance was not unexpected. Over the last four years England have invested heavily in the wrong batsmen – ones with very weak techniques and/or temperaments.

        The bowlers, didn’t they take 20 wickets?

        One imagines that, knowing the squad’s limitations, the start-out-strategy was: accept probably lose Test 1. Get lucky in a 50:50 in the second Test. Draw 3 and 4 and sneak 5 with their golden boy.

        • Anderson is nailed on as one opening bowler. However, Broad – even with the new ball – often bowls at 81/82 and gets minimal swing (presumably due to his chronic knee troubles). Woakes 84/85 with the old ball is worth another 2-3 mph using a new one. I agree the pink kookaburra is a pudding, but if it is going to swing it will do so when new – so give it to the bowlers who can use it. Whether the same rules apply at the WACA depends on what wicket they serve up. A fast bouncy wicket may suit Broad – but recent WACA pitches have not been different to elsewhere.
          I am afraid there have been too many calls for Broad based on his fitness and pace of his younger days, and taking 20 wickets in a test does not cut it when they could have been taken for less with decent bowler management.

        • “The bowlers, didn’t they take 20 wickets?”

          No, 17 of them.

          By the time we’d taken 10 wickets we’d already lost.

  • James Your article hits the nail on the head, But regrettably well argued writing about the ECB betrayal of our game has no effect on them. True cricket lovers need to consider how to take their anger and frustration to the next level

    The Graves. Harrison, Strauss triumvirate have pursued policies which devalue and marginalise 4 day Championship Cricket . The championship is the development arena for our Test team – so is anyone surprised that our Test team is declining and will continue to decline.?

    Does this bother the ECB ? I doubt it , because it helps to justify thieir strategy of prioritising limited overs cricket ,whilst parotting the mantra that Test Cricket is struggling and declining.A decline hastened by what they are doing.

    This view that the ECB is ruining our game at a breakneck speed seems to be shared by the majority of the cricket fans in this country but this doesn’t, cut any ice with the ECB because they think it is more important to “engage with a vast new untapped audience “ who will flock to the new city based T20 competition lured by rock bottom ticket prices and more razamattaz than you can shake a stick at.

    What we cricket fans have manifestly failed to do over the last four years is to unite in an effective way and stand up to the ECB. Does anyone have any ideas about how we can move beyond moaning and get the ECB to take notice?

    What about direct protest action like picketing the ECB offices? Any other ideas?

  • ‘’Instead of prioritising the county championship, nurturing specialist spinners, finding fast bowlers with a yard of pace, and developing batsmen with watertight techniques and the aptitude to play long innings, the ECB have actually done the opposite”.
    100% spot on James. In a few years time, we’ll end up with 2 first class games per county in April, and 2 more in September, and that will be the Championship. There’ll be 2 domestic T20 competitions, a couple of T20 franchise competitions, and the ECB will wonder why we get bowled out for 90 in each test innings, concede over 500 and get thrashed.
    But Strauss & Harrison will still enjoy their day’s out at the franchise finals, as Nottingham Nobodies beat London Layabouts on D/L.

  • I fear this is true having witnessed the debacle in Adelaide. England are not equipped to compete with this good but not great Australian team. Our psyche and the ECB seem to be programmed to celebrate mediocrity, as Jean Giraudoux espoused, “only the mediocre are always at their best.” Sadly that sums up English cricket from the top down. Passion would appear to be only a fruit!

  • Best article about cricket I have read for a long time – and not only because I agree with every word. As far as the ECB is concerned traditional cricket can go hang – money is the sole motivator.
    Abolish the ECB in its entirety and start again. If only – won’t happen, though: that would put an end to a large number of highly-paid sinecures, perks and nepotistic links to other cricketing bodies.

  • I’d love to see an article on the ECB set up compared with the English Rugby set up. Both are relatively minority sports unlike football. But both get large sums of money through sponsorship, Sky and the TV deals. Yet one sport produces high class sport athletes. The other sub standard athletes.
    The ECB (and I include Grant Flower in this) really need to take a hard look at themselves and work out where they are going wrong.
    If cricket continues in this vein, with a decline in playing standards, number participation and viewing audience the game will struggle to attract the funds it currently gets. Then there will be real issues.

  • It’s galling to think that after 2013 a report was submitted, and here we are 4 years later and the situation is worse. The delusion is mystifying. To see people latch onto the performance in one session under lights was quite sad. So far Overton is the single redeeming feature of a spineless defence. Hampshire don’t bat Vince at 3 but England do. Yorkshire don’t bat Ballance at 3 but England do. it’s clueless stuff. Broad bowling at 130km/h like a mid week county trundler. The ECB and the selectors are indeed the people killing Test Cricket.

  • One of the more extraordinary things is that none of cricket’s big-wigs seem to recognise that the ONLY type of cricket that ever truly captures the nation’s imagination is close, competitive Test cricket. Donald vs Atherton. 2005 Ashes. England holding out in Cardiff. Haddin caught behind on review and England win by 15 runs. A great chunk of the country even stopped working yesterday morning as Root and Malan battled to get over the line and the impossible briefly came into view. This never happens with ODIs or T20 and, I’d wager, never will – yet they receive all the investment.

  • You guys are hilarious. You lose a test match and all you can muster is a boilerplate screed about the way the ECB is ruining the sport?

    Scant acknowledgement of the way you’ve been outplayed. No credit for the way Australia bowled on the final day. No acknowledgement of the fact you’ve under-rated Lyon throughout.

    And Australians are bad losers?

    It demonstrates once again that the most exquisite thing about English cricket is its hypocrisy.

    • Tom, the fact is that both sides are mediocre – Australia is a better class of mediocre. You have bullied us into submission because we have allowed you to. Root cause (no pun intended)? England has failed to prioritise test cricket and produce a team good enough to give you a good game because the administrators are following the money. As in all good analysis we are concentrating on discussing the root cause, not the symptoms.

      • Australian administrators also “follow the money”. They’re also obsessed with the Big Bash. The Sheffield Shield (the FC competition) gets suspended for two months in the middle of the summer just so the Big Bash gets maximum exposure. So don’t act like this T20 thing is some unique phenomena that only affects England. It’s not an excuse for capitulation.

        How many Test-calibre players in their prime do England have? I’d say 2 (Root and Bairstow). Compared to Australia having 6. And Australia are playing at home. In light of that, why would you expect to win? Maybe you should consider the possibility that English fans have underestimated some of these Australian players, the bowlers particularly. Instead, you just fall back on “yeah whatever, Australia are mediocre – blame the ECB”.

        Does there have to be some extraneous, mitigating explanation for England to be beaten in Australia by an Australian side that is actually the better and more complete side? I’d suggest that’s merely the natural of order of things. But you guys apparently feel better when you blame “management” rather than acknowledging that Australia have simply played better and have the superior personnel.

        The point remains, England get beaten/outplayed by a better team and all you can muster is a howl of indignation about the administrators. It’s the most churlish shit ever. And Australians are the “bad losers”? The reaction here suggests otherwise.

        • How many Test-calibre players in their prime do England have? I’d say 2 (Root and Bairstow).

          I’d agree. This is the problem. This is comfortably the weakest England team I have seen in my lifetime, and I see no signs of it improving. This isn’t just some cyclical blip. This is far beyond that.

          Which begs the question: Why? What has gone wrong with English cricket over the past 5 years (although the roots of the problem are a decade old) that means we can no longer produce competitive test cricketers?

          … which is what we are all discussing, and what you seem to be alternately confused/angry about. Its nothing to do with “bad losers”. We’re just trying to analyse the causes of this mess.

          • How do you know it’s not cyclical?

            Players come and go. There are peaks and troughs. For now, Australia are ascendant.

            People underestimated some of these Australians players, even following Brisbane. Failure to acknowledge this, while moaning endlessly about the ECB, is absolutely being a “bad loser”.

            • Who did we underestimate? Smith and Warner are world-class, as are Starc and Lyon. Cummins and Hazlewood are also very good. Some of the other batsmen still have a bit to prove but a couple of them look decent.

              This is a good test team. probably second in the world. its not the all-conquering team of 2006/07. England should at least be competitive – they’re not.

              I don’t believe anyone here has “underestimated the Aussies” at all. I predicted 5-0.

    • You obviously have a view point on this, as you keep repeating it. Australia played better than us and they deserve their win. I begrudge nobody a victory. What we are complaining about here is that it happens over and over again. There seems to be no clear strategy or coherent management re Test Cricket and this is why we get mad. I can assure you, most of us here accept our perennial losing status as part of our daily lives, and that is the saddest thing of all. We expect to be crap and we are so something, somewhere must be going wrong. The actions and behaviour of the ECB over the last few years show them to be spineless and useless so we get mad.

      But fear not, the apathy of acceptance will soon prevail again

      • But England beat Australia at home in 2015. The reality is that it’s hard to win away from home in unfamiliar conditions. That’s not something that applies exclusively to England. Do you forget Australia getting bowled out for 136 in Birmingham and 60 in Nottingham?

        But sure, Australia don’t generally capitulate the way England have previously. Maybe Australia just produces more resilient cricketers. Maybe it’s cultural. Maybe you should bear that in mind next time you take a shot at Australians having “no class”. Maybe that’s not actually a weakness. Maybe that’s why you get whitewashed.

        • Its not that hard. Between 2001 and 2012, the England team beat every single test side away from home at least once.

          Other test teams have similar records. Australia used to expect to win every series, wherever it was played. The West Indies before them. South Africa and Pakistan have always been extremely competitive in any conditions.

          • Yeah, but it’s become harder to win away. Players have become less adaptable. Look at how much Australian players struggle in English conditions these days.

            And there’s no point using all-time great sides as the basis for a comparison.

            I certainly don’t expect the current Australian or English sides to match the accomplishments of those vintage teams.

            • This is our point. In the space of a decade, this England team has gone from one that could compete and triumph over one of the greatest Australian teams of all time, to one that isn’t even competitive with the weakest Australian team in 30 years.

              Both teams have fallen off- but England have fallen much, much further, to the point where its actually embarrassing.

  • Just a couple of points to redress the rather sanctimonious polemic of righteous indignation against the ECB.
    Just like all of you I would like to see more resources put to developing talent as test level, but to imply the ECB is to blame for the lack of specialist bowling and batting talent today seems the easy option. The counties are responsible for scouting and developing talent. How many top class fast bowlers and spinners have we produced in the last 50 years? Also how many genuine test class batsmen have we produced in that time?
    The ECB’s agenda is looking to keep the future of the game in high profile, so it can compete effectively in the public eye with other sports. In an age where fast and furious is the way people want their sport, as they’re paying enough to demand more instant entertainment, it is entirely reasonable to concentrate efforts on shorter formats. If cricket doesn’t keep pace with the times it will die, as the public will go elsewhere, taking the TV companies and major sponsors with them. Professional sport is a business today. More county games with it’s ‘3 men and a dog’ crowds are clearly not the answer. India, home of the IPL, seem to be able to produce a succession of effective test players with very little domestic long game cricket.
    Like it or loathe it, we live in an age where attention spans are poor and people lose interest quickly. This doesn’t just affect the punter, but the player mentality as well. Personally I detest it and despair our inability to savour anything. When you go to a Test Match, you only get to see one day, with no result most of the time, and rely on memorable moments, which can come at any time and there is no doubt as a match develops there is an air of anticipation you don’t get in a 1-dayer. However this is clearly not appreciated by enough people to impact on ECB thinking.
    James rightly points out how special the Ashes are to both countries, but test series against other countries lack this. As the Ashes happen only once every 2 years, How attractive is the interim?
    It may be that we have to become an embarrassment before pressure will be on to restructure.
    Of all the coaches in international sport only Eddie Jones seems to be able to inspire the necessary for consistent improvement and a winning mentality. Maybe we should look at tapping into his mantra.

    • Great English pace bowlers, spin bowlers and batsmen of the past 50 years? Quite a lot, actually. Do you want a list?

      We also used to be consistently competitive on tour until about 5 years ago. This idea that it is impossible to win away from home and always has been is some kind of 1984 style rewriting of history.

      • I’ve been watching England tour since 1970/71 and I think its a bit of a stretch to say we’ve been “competitive” until “about 5 years ago”. Since 1990 we’ve won 5 and lost 21 games. Since 1970, we have lost 7 out of 11 series. One of our victories was against Yallop’s team in 78/9 and it doesn’t count the 3 match series just after that which we lost 3 – 0 (It was only a 3 match series so we weren’t playing for the Ashes. We would have lost 5 – 0 had they played 5) Over that time period it has always been a surprise when England have won.

        As for great spin bowlers, I can only think of Underwood and Swann. There’s been some useful bowlers like Embury, Edmonds and Monty but they are hardly greats on the world stage.

        I think the ECB has much to answer for but I also think we have struggled to produce world class players for some time.

        • “Since 1990 we’ve won 5 and lost 21 games.”

          I’m sure England have played more than 26 away test matches in the past 27 years you know.

            • Why? I wasn’t. We didn’t compete last year in India either, losing 4-0. We’re uncompetitive in the UAE, often losing 3-0. We haven’t even managed to beat any of New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies or Bangladesh in the past few years.

              We used to beat all of these teams away – What’s changed?

      • Yes, I want a list. Remember there’s only one better than great and that’s greatest, of which there can only be one. Name some good pace bowlers (90mph boys) and spinners who could spin a ball, without resorting to the likes of Graham Dilley and Monty. It’s not as easy as you may think. Even with batsmen, there have been precious few ‘greats’ and a legion of failures dating back decades.
        The problems we have now finding obvious selections are not new.
        As for winning tests way from home this has always been an issue for England sides as long as I can remember. Any victory is greeted with loud hurrahs. Conditions in England are only duplicated in New Zealand. Everywhere else dry hard wickets make bowling a side out with swing and seam more difficult, as the shine and seam are knocked off the ball more quickly.

        • How many top class fast bowlers and spinners have we produced in the last 50 years? Top-class I will take as ranked top 10 in the world at the peak of their career.

          Spinners: Underwood, Swann – the cupboards’ a bit bare here.

          Snow, Old, Willis, Botham, Fraser, Gough, Caddick, Harmison, Hoggard, Anderson, Botham, Flintoff

          “Also how many genuine test class batsmen have we produced in that time?”

          Boycott, Gooch, Gower, Atherton, Stewart, Thorpe, Smith, Vaughan, Trescothick, Pietersen, Cook, Root, Trott, Bairstow

          I’ve probably missed quite a few from the 70s and early 80s.

          • A few others: Ian Bell was better than Bairstow in my view, as was Nasser Hussain and Andrew Strauss. Tony Greig was a good all rounder (though not really English…). Mike Gatting had a very good second half to his test career. I’d include Stuart Broad among the bowlers. I think Simon Jones was certainly “top class”, too, when he could get on the pitch.

            • Yes – I knew I had missed out a load – I couldn’t be bothered to google it properly.

              How many of this current shambles would get into a team in the 90s? Root, Anderson… Bairstow as a keeper to let Stewart open the batting?

          • A bit bare!!! (There was Embury and Edmunds)
            Lamb and maybe Greig (both South African, along with Smith and Trott) not there, certainly Amiss. But that’s over 50 years & 17 counties.
            A bit unkind not to include bowler Broad.
            (Can’t have Botham twice either.)
            Bairstow can hardly rate in there yet.
            How many greats in that lot. Not many.

            • Ok pick another country. The list won’t actually be much longer. The whole point of great players is that they don’t come along that often

    • Long time since I went to a county match which had 3 men and a dog. Was truish 20 years ago but it’s an increasingly blinkered excuse for anything.

      Also the assumption that people’s attention spans are short now doesn’t appear to be based upon anything but conjecture. Quite the opposite is true. People have more ways to choose what they watch and how.

      Cricket has always been unique in that a scorecard tells a story. Years ago all you needed was a scorecard and a match report telegraphed back which allowed people to visualise the game.

      Much more can be done here. If you are interested or follow a particular player then why not be able to subscribe to them, have all of their overs or runs available to view with email alerts for when they are playing? If someone hits a double then why not a direct link from the scorecard to highlights of their innings? It’s obvious but as they sell the rights it can’t happen.

      For instance when the MCC played the county Champions in the UAE they broadcast it live on youtube. Commentary was provided by a couple of wonks and the players / coaches themselves. It was good cricket with a tight finish.

      Assuming that people are going to watch every ball is a poor argument about anything. Modern technology however allows far more than it is currently being used for. Want to watch Mark Footit bowling at the death? Difficult currently without attending all of his matches.

      People want to know how fast he fast bowlers are yet speed guns only seem to make an appearance in international matches. I have difficulty believing they’re that expensive. Cameras certainly aren’t and commentary is effectively free assuming that the batting side are willing to have a chat.

      If you told an American baseball fan that you liked the look of a fast bowler but didn’t know what his average speed was they’d look at you a bit strangely. Are you from Afghanistan or somewhere rural?

      If England were searching for a new fast bowler how many people would look up the fastest balls bowled in county cricket if the information were available? What if the same bowler was commentating and talking about their spells rather than loafing around the changing room whilst his side were batting? It’s easy to do.

      Some players, as we all know, are box office. Fast bowlers and bats mainly and I can’t immediately think of a better example than Waqar or KP. If some young gun was bowling 95mph toe crushers in the second XI never mind the county championship we’d be ignorant of it barring maybe a match report with vague wording. If young bat was trouncing a seriously quick bowler then, other than a perception, the same.

      People’s attention spans are not shorter, they merely wish to choose what they watch. Giving them more choice and the ability to have the content they desire delivered to them through stats and facts is something that cricket is uniquely set up to do.

      I think it’s pretty obvious that the ECB are not just clueless about this, they intrinsically distrust it. Strauss in particular.

      • Have you got children? Look at the length of kids TV programs. 10-15 minutes between advert breaks. Talk to any teacher who’s been around a while. This is not conjecture. It’s been an insidiously growing influence on behaviour since the 1970’s. My grandkids have difficulty persuing anything for long and their parents see it as normal. I don’t remember being or knowing anyone like that when I was their age.
        Being bored is a national pastime, as is an inability to sit still.

        • I babysat every single ball of the 2005 Ashes with three children. Best job ever and they were entranced.

          Mine are too young at present but they will be thoroughly indoctrinated in time. 🙂

          Sadly the wife is Welsh and seven years into a ten year plan to educate her isn’t going well. Don’t judge me harshly though as we all make mistakes.

        • “I don’t remember being or knowing anyone like that when I was their age.”

          Oh well if you can’t personally remember having a limited attention span as a kid, that’s good enough evidence for me.

    • Mark. I don’t agree. The ECB is run by so called business men whose only agenda is to make money at the cost of selling the soul of the game. Sport should be administered by people who actually have played it and understand what it means. In fact there are not 3 men and a dog at county games. That’s a fallacy projected by ” experts” who never attend. There were 6000 at the Oval for example for the opening fixture in April this year. The ECB is effectively trying to kill of the county game so they can have an endless diet of t20 crap for the so called instant society, those with s 10 second attention span. If the county game dies so does not test cricket but all cricket. The results of there misguided policies are plain to see in what’s happening now. Its high time the ECB were boiled in oil for entertainment during the interval of a t20. Wretched organisation KILLING the game.

      • For ‘selling the soul’ of the sport read keeping it alive. Test cricket is no more the soul of the game than 20-20. Don’t get me wrong, I love test cricket, but also enjoy 20-20. I didn’t used to when it first appeared, but if you take away the off field razzamatazz you have a tactically fascinating and extremely skilful game on it. To be consistently successful with the white ball is just as difficult, with a site more pressure, as there is little time to correct error, the draw not being an option.
        I know you won’t agree with any of this, but just think of this quote from a leading Buddhist monk from over 50 years ago, when he said. (Roughly translated) ‘There is as much of the essence of life in the circuits of a digital computer as in the petals of a flower’ No romantic notions there, just a cutting though to the chase.
        Incidentally, I watch a fair amount of county cricket, being a Warwickshire member and there is no comparison between attendances there and at 1-dayers.
        Members stands are half empty, non members stands are pretty much empty and most of the hospitality rooms are shut. That is 3 men and a dog to a county committee. A good weather Saturday make get a few thousand in occasionally, but sadly it is an exception. Even then most of the crowd are of mature years.

        • 2020 isn’t attracting more people to the game. Sure attendances are up but viewing figures for Cricket are down, participation is down…

          2020 will not bring people into the game, it’ll kill off older players and once a player is mid 20’s they will sack 2020off as it’ll get boring

          It’s a bit of fun and a slog but it’s a dumb Verision of Cricket really. Good for beer heads

          • I think you’ll find participation in all sports is down. Games consoles rule OK!
            There’s nothing dumb about 20-20 if you open your mind to it. It’s a tactically complex game with a lot of extremely skilful participants operating under extreme pressure.

            • I play lots of T20, and I appreciate the subtlety that is often overlooked. I also enjoy attending the games live, as I think it makes for a really good live event. I’m by no means an old fuddy duddy.

              HOWEVER. the fact is that T20 does not actually make particularly compelling tv. The games are too samey, and often get a bit dull. Even if it was on FTA, you would never get 9m people watching it in the same way that the 2005 Ashes did.

              Test cricket – as long as it is competitive and high quality – is actually the more marketable format of cricket for tv audiences.

        • Most t20 “supporters” are not attracted to the cricket, but a piss up on a Friday night. The Oval packs in the London boys, most of whom haven’t a clue about whose playing who. T20 skillful? Do me a favour. Its hit and giggle cricket, rather wackit. Bowlers are cannon fodder and the main aim is to slog 6’s out of the ground. Which becomes an utter bore after you’ve watched a couple of matches. It was OK when in first started as a bit of fun, now its taking over with an endless stream of 150 plays 150 games. As with most things in life – less is better.

        • “For ‘selling the soul’ of the sport read keeping it alive.”

          Except, of course, its doing the exact opposite. Cricket is being destroyed by a combination of self-serving charlatans and well-intentioned idiots.

          • How is cricket being destroyed when the game generally is attracting more punters than ever.
            Test and county cricket are one side of the game, maybe the best for the purist, but not for the majority. Most people work and opportunities to attend the long game are limited. White ball and especially 20-20 provide a good evening out. There’s no point getting offended by this. Elitism will alienate the sport from the majority.

            • “when the game generally is attracting more punters than ever”

              Except, Marc, that is complete and utter bullshit. The player base has shrunk by 50%, and the tv spectator base by 80% in the past decade. Cricket is slipping into complete obscurity.

            • More “punters”??

              Less people are watching on the tv and less people are playing. Attendances are similar but is that offsetting those lost to tv and participation?

              Where will the next generation come from ?

    • Hi Marc. Thanks for putting an alternative view across. I’d like to challenge a couple of points you make though.

      Firstly, if it’s the ECB’s job to keep cricket high profile and in the public eye, then why has there been no live cricket on free to air TV since 2005? With participation in cricket falling, I think they’ve done a particularly poor job at this.

      Secondly, I strongly disagree with the assumption that people have short attention spans these days. It’s just too convenient an argument – and an excuse for the ECB to focus on T20. The invention of new media and social media should have given cricket more channels on which to reach a broad audience. What’s more, the increasing popularity of NFL (which takes twice as long as UK football) and the increased popularity of the Tour de France, which takes 20+ days to complete, shows that people are more than capable of following a test or a championship match over 5/4 days.

      If the product is good enough – and as hardcore cricket fans I think we probably all agree that cricket is – then people will watch it. I don’t think films are getting forever shorter, or pop songs forever shorter, so why should cricket be any different. The problem is, and always has been imho, marketing. It’s just easier to market T20 … and so that’s why the ECB do it. If only they decided to throw as much money at marketing test cricket and the championship as they’re going to throw at the new city T20.

      • Talk to any teacher who’s been around a while. Look at the length of kids TV programs. This is not conjecture or an illusion. What child do you know who can sit still for 10 minutes and doesn’t constantly complain of being bored when asked to.

        • Kids will have problems with any sport then. I have two and yes, their attention spans are short, but this won’t be the case forever. They’ll grow into adults. The marketing should be aimed at the adult population that pay for tickets / tv subscriptions etc. Adults are the people we’re talking about, right?

          Incidentally, the ECB are aiming the new city T20 at Mums and kids aged 5-7 – the so called new untapped audience. There’s no way kids will sit through a cricket match lasting 3 hours. Mine struggle to sit still for 20 mins! Just more lack of logic from those who run the game.

          • Presumably the ECB have done some market research before committing to this initiative.
            As I said County and Test cricket are normally viewed for just 1 day by most, so there is rarely
            an outcome. This is my point about the decline in long game attendances amongst the young. Also you’re favourite player may be sitting in the pavilion most of the day.
            The young need to be attracted to the sport and this is where the white ball game comes into its own. There is a definite result, plenty of consistent action, both on and off the field, and all the players will be participating at some time.
            Kids don’t have problems with other sports because contests are generally over In a couple of hours with a final result and you get to see your favourite players for the entire game.

        • Any child over the age of ~12 will happily sit and watch a sporting contest if he/she is emotionally invested in the outcome. 12/13 year olds are amongst the fiercest and most dedicated sports fans there are.

          Younger kids, say 8-9 year olds, have always have limited attention spans. and always will.

          • Are you telling me that a 12 year old will sit in front of the TV for 6 hours and watch a days test cricket if England are playing?

            • No, because no-one of any age has ever done that. Literally no-one consumes test cricket in that way, nor have they ever.

              That’s probably the most ridiculous strawman I have ever encountered.

      • County cricket lasts for days, sometimes without a result, so it can’t be viewed as a complete entity if you’re only there for a part of the game. This fragmented entertainment cannot be compared with pop songs or films, which incidentally are geared entirely to hyper action these days to keep attention, just a succession of set pieces, each one more potent than the last. I love movies, but not the multiplex generation ones, where character and script are entirely subservient to a cliche plot.

    • The whole Cricket ecology is inter related. If you solely believe that say amateur Cricket doesn’t impact pro Cricket then in 20years where will your fans (aka money) and players come from ?

      So, to that end the whole game is built upon participation because even those who don’t actively play either did, do or never got the opportunity. This means when you strip it right back the very essence of the ICC and ECB (for us) role is to grow participation. Let’s explore..

      1) has participation grown or declined in the last 5,10 or 15 years? If so, why?

      The answer is as varied as it is complex but essentially it boils down to modern life. It’s not that the formats are less fun or that people don’t have time to play 50 overs anymore (although I’m sure in the past like now that is/always was a factor)..it’s because each and every person from a young age simply has more options available to them, more demands on their time which means choosing what you most want to do.

      Cricket is a great game but sadly it can and is boring for people if they aren’t getting an active game when they do play. If you’re the one getting to bat top 5 and bowl each game then you’ll love life.. however if you bat 7+ and maybe don’t bowl then you’re probably going to choose other activities.

      That’s just one example of something that can happen. There are many reasons for people not playing but the ecb are addressing the wrong things.

      The focus on girls, disabled, youth is all great and much needed.. however, that shouldn’t take away from the focus on the main stream that is the ecb league structure (I’m inckuding All divs from ecb prems to div 456 of a county)

      Then of ocurse you have the problem that we all play diffferent rules and different formats.. this means there is no consistency in the talent production line. You may argue that county youth squads produce talent but the reality is they aren’t very good and county age group squads are littered with no hopers (sorry to all the little jimmys but it’s true, you’ll never make it and are there to make up the numbers)

      How do you produce players whose skill levels are able to inntheiry, lead them to play test cricket ? Currently leagues are moving from draw Cricket (where you have to have tactics, wicket taking bowlers and batters who can bat long, bat to a situation but also accelerate when required ), towards a dumbed down version if win/lose, where bowling simply becomes about economy, capt becomes about economy and batting is simply a presession which sadly on the whole means very few of a team get a good game . However, it’s a good thing to play week day evenings .

      So.. how do the ecb grow grass roots participation which the plan that you’re producing fans of the future but also test players??

      You go ‘old skool’ with modern facilities and technology. You produce good wickets with a bit in for the bowler but not green tops.. you ensure you’re playing in the high of summer so it turns and spinners become vital. What you don’t do is what they are doing which is crap kids stuff which just counts how many kids were in school that day so they’reaxhed 2,000,000 kids) and you stop dumbing down the league structure.

      At the pro level, you keep 2020 and tests but sack off ODI’s. You focus the 2020for being the way to get people involved, make it entertaining etc. However, you keep all the big contracts, money and kudos for the test players and county 4day game. Make it worth 200k per team to win the 2020 but worth 2m to win the county 4day stuff as an example. Stream all 4day games via the ecb website and sell the 2020 to the tv companies.

      You then reach more people with the format you want and the 2020 becomes the tv bread winner

      It really isn’t rocket science but is complicated

      • I echo what you’ve said about age group county cricket. No idea how they select them but I’ve known some duffers. Almost never at small local clubs either, seems as though the bigger clubs and private school cricket are the main scouting grounds.

        Which if young players of potential moved to play at a higher standard or those whose parents are rich enough were genetically better cricketers might make sense. They don’t though. A fantastic bowler at a small club might just keep them at their current league and they quite enjoy feasting on the rabbits. Why would you move from being an opening bowler with a feared reputation in your current league and probably getting a bat as well to being 3rd change and number 11?

        On the other hand I’ve played with some fantastic cricketers at small clubs who might well have been more than useful at first class level. There just seems to be a complete disconnect.

        Another aspect is the concept of time. If you’re picking players for 50 over cricket then seamers are usually going to be your best bet. If however you merely have 50 overs worth of time then spinners can bowl their overs faster and gets more wickets per minute. If you need to winkle out the ferrets to get a win then it’s a different form of bowling to merely keeping the runs down for a win. Guess which is most useful for developing test cricketers?

        • Draw Cricket is required if you want to produce pace, spin, captains and test batsmen. It’s the only way you get the exposure and mentally learn what’s required.

          Limited overs is simple and for dummies.. duuur keep runs downnand slog.. then you have to slog and if you get out slogging we hammer you.. yeh., ‘what a game’

          No wonder Cricket isn’t keeping people interested with such a boringly dumb and simple format

      • I really think its vastly underestimated just how hard it is to achieve competence, never mind excellence, as a young cricketer, if you are not exposed to top-quality technical examples.

        Hands-on coaching is great and obviously very important, but that majority of cricketers in times gone by will have learnt by watching their heros on tv.

        I achieved competence, if not exactly excellence, as a cricketer, simply by copying the players I watched playing test cricket every summer – and by god there were some good cricketers around on the telly in the 90s.

        Its sad to say, but the best player that the kids I coach have ever seen play a cover drive, take a slip catch, or bowl an offcutter…. is me.

        Now I’m ok but I’m hardly a role model of technical excellence, and I can’t keep wicket and I can’t bowl quick. Is it any wonder that kids these days are growing up with dodgy techniques?

    • Marc, you write: “The counties are responsible for scouting and developing talent.”

      IN part this is so. 10-14 they are. But even in those years through regional coaching and competitions ‘England’ are beginning to take over direction of development. By 15 technical, psychological and cultural development is being directed out of Loughborough.

      County coaches dread losing control of their talent to England Development programmes. Counties start to get told when and where to play players and how to use them generally.

      Cultural Development – what’s that mean? For example in batting there is an emphasis on aggression, as just one example. There is a beefing up of the sense of belonging to an elite and the instilling of arrogant self-confidence. They are being subjected to the England cricketing brand.

  • There is quite a lot of comment here about the failure to produce bowlers of genuine pace. That is not quite right. It would be more appropriate to ask why we fail to bring through such bowlers. I understand the injury problems of Wood and Mills. However, after the T20 finals Otis Gibson picked out Olly Stone for particular praise, pointing out that he had topped 92mph (on a fairly slow pitch and after coming back from a cruciate injury – which had nothing to do with his action). So what do the selectors do with this 24 year old who is capable of 95+mph in the right conditions? They ignore him for the Lions. Instead, he is playing grade cricket in Oz. What is the point if you do not even bring your fastest bowler back into the system when he is fit?

  • Good interview with Nasser Hussein today. He cites Cook as the example of someone who’s worked out his game despite technical deficiencies and blames the present crop, of mostly pretty experienced players, for not doing the same, thus putting the blame for repeated failures squarely on the individual player’s shoulders. The selectors also come in for some hammer for re selecting players who seem to have the same issues from their previous stint in the team. Its good to see players leant on to provide solutions themselves. They’ve been in the game long enough.

    • Was that Sky’s Ashes debate? I thoroughly enjoyed that. Good interview indeed.

      The only bit that slightly concerned me was when they said all Ramprakash does is ‘throw balls down’ rather than coach. I could do that! I’m in the wrong job 🙁

    • Whilst not disagreeing with the general thrust of your argument I believe the reason we are two down in this series is pretty straightforward. Most of our senior, established ( and previously reliable) players simply haven’t performed. If Cook, Moeen, Bairstow and Broad had played at anything like normal then the series so far would look very different.

    • Really…? Or is this tongue in cheek?

      He presents a valid viewpoint cogently and doesn’t resort to this kind of nonsense to characterise those that disagree with him.

      I know whose viewpoint I find more becoming…

  • James,

    I’m on board with everything you write about the incompetence of the ECB, the marginalisation of the Championship and the obsession with nonsense cricket and all that entails – but at least part of me is thinking “Isn’t this just modern Test cricket?”

    Home teams are dominating everywhere. Australia lose virtually every away series – albeit not as badly as we do. This same England team that is hapless, hopeless and harangued (with good reason) usually wins comfortably enough at home, the odd surprise notwithstanding.

    My point is this – no team sport bequeathes a home advantage as significant as cricket. Yet no sport has done away with proper preparation more than cricket.

    Take this tour. A couple of warm up games against decent club players – and then into a Test match. Contrast the “old days” when you’d play 3 or 4 four day games against full strength state sides to acclimate to conditions. Which side do you think would have been better prepared? And now we have a 2 day declaration game to prepare for another Test match – which Mark Wood is possibly going to play in having bowled a handful of overs in months. Talk about under-done.

    Of course the Aussies get similarly stitched up when they come to England, with games against under-strength counties from the bottom of Division 2. Which is why, as soon as they get onto a pitch that does a bit against quality bowling, they fall in a heap. They’re not properly prepared.

    I don’t know what’s to be done, given the insane scheduling and all the hit and giggle that dominates every countries’ domestic season, but this notion that a couple of matches against club players and a few net sessions can prepare you for a Test series has to be looked at. Because the preponderance of home-dominated series over the last 10 years or so is helping to kill Test cricket.

    • I get his point, though feel he’s over egging it. The off field stuff is pretty much as irrelevant as you’d expect it to be, including I’d say Ben Stoke’s omission.

      If you think a different 3rd or 4th seamer would have changed the nature of the test matches to date then I’d suggest you haven’t been watching. Even the addition of another England batsman wouldn’t likely have changed the results. Mitigated slightly maybe but we’d still have lost in all likelihood in both tests.

      The truth is that England came to Oz with two rather fearsome opening bowlers which Australia couldn’t hope to match for experience. If we’d been blown away by a quick with a spell of 8-15 in Australia then we’d have plans for the return match at home.

      And so they did. Whilst they talk up their pace bowlers they’ve also prepared wickets thus far which nullify them. Yeah they’ve got after the tail as you’d expect quicks to do but against the top order they’ve been largely innocuous where England didn’t decide to give one of them some tap.

      Meanwhile they’ve been laughing all the way to the bank as Nathan Lyon has enjoyed the bowling conditions to take crucial top order wickets.

      The difference between the sides has had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of seam up on offer and everything to do with the quality of the spin. If Moeen had taken his wickets at 22 every 10 overs and Lyon his at 98 every 32 overs the results would be reversed. You could swap around any of the seamers and little changes.

      Where the author has a point is the attention and focus from England is entirely on the wrong things. Do we need Wood’s pace or Stoke’s all round ability? No, we need two spinners who are neither injured nor crap.

      But… Surely Lyon is a genius like likes of whom we having produced in many a year? Bollocks. He’s bowling medium paced top spinners which were unlikely to threaten the stumps in anything other than the batsmen’s minds. Quite a conjuring trick mentally but not my idea of good bowling.

      England are making him look like Jim Laker when your average 3rd XI bus conductor would take him downtown without a thought. KP said it after the first innings at Brisbane, you’d can’t let a spinner bowl at you in such helpful conditions.

      Course we haven’t even bothered to bring an offspinner of our own other than the injured Ali. Can’t believe they bowled Jack Leach in the tour match when Liam Livingstone’s off spin is more than useful. Come to think of it he might also be the man to take Lyon out of the attack…

  • Call me a tin foil hat wearing so and so but every time there is a big story about how the game is being chopped up and sold to the highest bidder the England tour of Australia turns into a media farce. We’ve had the KP affair and now this. Almost like the money men couldn’t care less about having a decent test series as long as they are getting filthy rich.

By James Morgan

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