After nearly four months away from home (that’s a third of a year!) England’s cricketers have finally left Australia. They must’ve been sick of the place by the end. But the ordeal isn’t quite over yet. We’ve still got two or three T20s left to play on the other side of the Tasman Sea before we finally get some respite from David Warner’s grinning mug. The international schedule never ends …
However, as the Australian leg of the winter has finally drawn to a close, I thought I’d pen my final thoughts. Call it a short summary if you like. BT Sport were asking fans to sum up the last 15 weeks in one word, so I thought I’d give you my one-word offering: ‘long’.
The word ‘long’ characterises the tour for so many reasons – and it’s not just the length of time our players were away from their families. The Ashes involved long sessions of watching Steve Smith bat, and long sessions of bemoaning the lack of variety in our attack. In fact, the only short things we saw during the Ashes were throat balls delivered by the Aussies’ long fast bowlers. Oh how we ‘longed’ for a 90mph of our own.
Sadly there’s no denying that the Ashes were a complete disaster. Even though the pitches were uncharacteristically slow, which should have given our batsmen more of a chance, we folded as meekly as many of us predicted. If it hadn’t been for that awful pitch at Melbourne, which was slow enough for Alastair Cook to withstand top class fast bowling for a change, we would’ve lost 0-5. In fact, there was only one positive on the entire tour: Dawid Malan. Everyone else was a let down.
Although it was somewhat anticlimactic after the Ashes shellacking, the 4-1 victory in the ODIs was good fun. Jason Roy’s superb 180 in the first game was outstanding and seemed to catch Australian observers off guard. England have improved so much in ODIs under Trevor Bayliss, but the Aussie media and commentators seemed genuinely surprised at the outcome. It was all a bit surreal.
I was really impressed with how we played in the ODI series. Whereas the test team really missed Ben Stokes, the white ball lads took his absence in their stride. Things didn’t always go our way in the individual games, but we usually found a way to win. Although the team occasionally comes unstuck on sticky wickets that require good batting technique rather than wanton aggression, England will probably start the 2019 World Cup as favourites.
It was a shame, in some ways, that the tour ended as it began: with two comprehensive defeats. But I doubt too many people will lose sleep over a couple of meaningless T20s. I certainly won’t. Besides, had we won the T20s, some people might have remembered the tour as a moderate success – which of course it wasn’t (not even close). The ECB deserves a heap of criticism for completely botching the four-year cycle since the last Ashes debacle, so perhaps it’s a good thing that the Australian leg of the winter ended unsatisfactorily.
Looking forward now, England have two tests against New Zealand coming up, followed by two (why only two?) tests against Pakistan, and a five test series against India at home. Oh, and another five pointless ODIs against Australia sandwiched in the middle. Ah, so that’s why we’re only playing two tests against Pakistan!
Once again I find England’s schedules absolutely mystifying. The last time Pakistan visited our shores the test series was a highly entertaining 2-2 draw. I doubt yet another white ball series against Australia will be anywhere near as exciting. Why couldn’t we have scrapped the ODIs against the Canary Yellows and played another test or two against Pakistan? Actually don’t answer that. We all know the answer.
The upcoming tests against New Zealand should be gooduns. I’m actually really looking forward to the games. The teams are fairly evening matched, plus there’s added interest because a few careers are on the line. If Mark Stoneman and James Vince don’t make any runs then it could be all change come the summer. Moeen Ali will also be under the spotlight – particularly if Mason Crane (and maybe even Jack Leach) play well for the Lions in their on-going series against West Indies A.
The best thing about watching cricket in New Zealand, however, is that it’s enjoyable whatever the result. Although the first test is a day-nighter in Auckland (boo!) the highlight will undoubtedly be in the second game at beautiful Christchurch. The five ODIs beforehand will probably be a bit of a ‘slog’ (see what I did there?) but at least they should be competitive.
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Painful is the word I’d choose.
There was some light relief in the form of the ODI series, but really…
I think it was the utterly predictable series of events in Tests that was so, so much to take.
Start before the Tour with the news that Stokes temper got the better of him (again!), follow up by the fact that we refuse to think through the balance of the bowling attack (again!), clinging to the belief that this time Jimmy & Broad will turn out to be as effective Down Under as at home (again!), throw in a total failure in the last couple of years to treat developing batting depth as a priority (again!) and of course, picking anyone other than Rashid – despite the alternatives not looking like they will do the job (again!).
Not much changes with the Test team all the issues that would have been discussed at the start of the summer 2016 and 2017 are still there. Top order, Spinner and if the Keeper is too good for seven, Root at three, should X in the ODI team be in the Test side with the extra of the lack of pace in the attack but England won’t need pace at home or in Sri Lanka or WI so that will fall quickly off the agenda.
I enjoyed the ODIs and Mark Taylors reaction when Australia made 302 and lost by a distance was almost made up for their dire commentary you could hear the cogs moving he is head trying to compute it. The lack of cricket these guys watch when they are not being paid shown up again
I think it’s mostly all been said by now. I’d add that the scheduling was daft. The ODI’s and T20’s (if we must have them) should be played before the Test Series and not after. By the time the Aussies were on holiday in January the main course had virtually finished. The attendances at the tests were far better than any of the one day stuff so I read the other day. Readers will recall when we only played 3 ODI’s in the UK in the summer, they were always played prior to the tests, and over a week at the most. Far better. I do believe that Aussie is looking at this for changes in 4 years time. Why have 5 OIDI’s? 5 doesn’t sell out most grounds, 3 probably would and more importantly people might actually remember what happened after a month instead of one pointless game blending in to another.
I have BT Sport, not Sky because I get in free with my telephone package. I watched the ‘highlights’ of the last T20. Worst load of tosh I’ve seen. Now decided I will never ever watch another T20 International or Domestic, even if Surrey make the final of the Blast!
The Ashes part of the tour already seems a *long* time ago – and I suppose the ECB would be quite happy to have it recede into memory faster than Graeme Gooch’s natural hairline. Some of us will not be forgetting, however, that it was a slow motion car crash that we saw coming from the moment the Test squad was announced… if not before.
And I’ll never forget Gooch’s hairline either!
Our test team was just crap. However in white ball cricket we can give the Aussies a run for their money so why do we field a second XI when it comes to the T20 series ??. Even worse we have a couple of the losers from the test team in the T20 team. The mind boggles.
“Moeen Ali will also be under the spotlight – particularly if Mason Crane (and maybe even Jack Leach) play well for the Lions”.
Crane took 0/81 in the first match (but he’d probably looked good in the nets, had something about him, fronted up somehow, wasn’t Adil Rashid, etc etc).
Meanwhile, there have been rumblings about the venues for the next home Ashes. Bransgrove is apparently very confident Hampshire are going to get one of the Tests. That leaves Edgbaston, TB, OT and Headingley battling for two matches. Good job the guy in charge hasn’t any conflict of interest here…..
Hector has something on the Rose Bowl getting an Ashes test in the coming days.
Cor blimey, the Rose Bowl is a horrible venue for a Test Match. Middle of nowhere, not enough buses from Southampton, terrible parking, takes about two hours to get out of the ground, and Bransgrove..well I better not say what I think of him.
Avoid at all costs.
May I respectfully suggest you not say England came unstuck on sticky wickets when they never played on one. Certainly true that in one of the ODIs they had trouble when the pitch did a bit early and there was swing about – but that wasn’t remotely a sticky wicket (that is, one that has got wet, then dried so it has a hard layer on top but is still soft underneath, so the ball breaks through the surface and bounces and moves unpredictably). It’s a shame to dumb down expressions that have a specific meaning.
That was mine, too.
Anyone who was remotely surprised by anything that transpired this winter simply hasn’t been paying attention for the past few years.
From my Tasmanian/Australian perspective I thought the tour was far too long. If the Ashes had not been decided before Christmas, my interest would have been maintained, I watched a few of the ODI’s and the T20 at Bellerive, but otherwise gave up watching a while ago. Agree with you James, they are a bit meaningless and I didn’t know half the Aussie team – wasn’t even aware there are games in NZ. The matches are all on free to air TV and there is prime time coverage but I just change the channel to something else, followed the match online and flicked back when something happened…. I don’t like the Australian test schedule, by the time of the Boxing Day test, the series is nearly over, the entire series done early in the New Year, just as the summer holiday break starts – I would like to see test matches start later, Melbourne and Sydney should be match two & three. (this applies to most tests in Australia, not just the Ashes). I think England will do well in NZ, very English like conditions this time of year, although the team must be knackered. Bring back travel by sea, players get an enforced long break.
Glad to see that it isn’t just England fans who are fed up with the schedules.
As an Aussie I would be more than happy with a 3 ODI, 3 T20, 5 test schedule ODI prior to tests with Brisbane first then Mel, Syd, Perth Mid Jan and Adelaide late Jan Perhaps consider two tests prior to Christmas but certainly not 3. Maybe T20 after. T20 Mostly a different team to tests anyway. Each major ground gets a white ball and a red ball game and Hobart can get just a white ball game.
Mismanaged in a word.
In retrospect forgettable.
It’s odd that in cricket the people responsible for governing the game in this country seem to be immune from exposure to high profile media analysis. In soccer there would have been a national outcry after such a debacle, despite the fact that everyone knows the influx of foreign players, managers and owners is the prime issue here and there’s little that can be done without being taken to court for racial prejudice and restrictive practices.
In cricket this is not applicable, so analysis should be able to produce embarrassment for those in charge without fear of reprisal. You get the odd editorial in the serious papers, but very little in the popular press. I know cricket doesn’t generate the levels of passion and interest of soccer, especially at test level, but you would think the opportunity to stick the boot in would be irresistible to the normally brutish journalist mentality. Yet once the next home season begins there will be little more than passing reference to previous tours, however calamatous, especially if we get off to a decent start. I guess it’s the old adage of old news being no news. A sustained campaign for accountability takes more than a few sky sports ex-player presenters to bring about change. The most effective public response would be to vote with their feet, boycotting white ball matches in favour of tests, but this will never happen.
Like most things in the entertainment business money is the pharaoh, being invested primarily for short term gain. This is too deeply ingrained accross popular culture for any pressure group to alter, so any change has to be approached with this in mind. Idealistic notions of traditional values will not cut the mustard, however well intentioned. If test cricket can be made a more financially viable alternative to 1 dayers there would be a chance for its resurrection.
An interview with Joss Butler yesterday produced a robust comment from him as he was questioned about his chances of getting back into the test team. He accepted he had probably burned his bridges there, but it would be irrelevant within a few years as 20-20 would replace all other forms of the game anyway. He was quite adamant about this, saying it is the only form of the game that is geared to attracting families. Clearly this makes financial sense and is already the accepted trend in popular entertainment. If someone on the inside sees this coming then more effective action needs to be taken to make test cricket family friendly.
“saying it is the only form of the game that is geared to attracting families. this makes financial sense and is already the accepted trend in popular entertainment. If someone on the inside sees this coming then more effective action needs to be taken to make test cricket family friendly”
Complete nonsense, of course. Do people really think that young kids and families had no interest in cricket prior to the birth of professional T20 in 2003? Bizarre. When I was a kid in the 90s, test cricket was the ONLY form of cricket me and my friends were interested in and we absolutely loved it. Lets not patronise or underestimate kids. Kids aren’t stupid. by the time I was 11, I understood all the nuances of the game as well as any adult. The kids I coach now (aged 10-14) are a little different – most of them don’t get to see much cricket on tv in the way I did, but they’re still interested in anything where England are playing. (The one thing they are not interested in at all is franchise cricket where they have no horse in the race)
I love T20 for what it is, it’s fun and convenient to both play and to attend. Every summer I play in 15-20 games, and watch a couple of NWB games live, as well as umpiring a dozen junior T20 games. I’m no dinosaur.
But 9 times out of 10, its simply not a particularly exciting game to watch on tv. The ultimate winner quite often becomes obvious long before the final over. People keep repeating how exciting and family-friendly T20 cricket is like a matter of faith, but if that’s the case, how come it doesn’t pull in anywhere near the audience or interest that test cricket does, even amongst kids?
Hardly complete nonsense. What Butler is saying, and he sees this from the inside all over the world, is that 20-20 is indeed attracting families the way no other form does. Interest in the game must be translated to active support. It’s not sufficient to love the game and be knowledgable about it, you have to go and see it live, the only barometer of public support organisers understand. This costs a lot of money for families and many live a distance from their nearest test ground. The problem with trying to get kids interested this way is they can’t see a whole game. With 1 dayers you go on that day, usually to a ground within reasonable travelling distance, get a result and see your favourite players in action. With test and county cricket you get a lottery. There’s not even a guarantee you’ll see certain players in action atall.
Footie has the right idea with £1 a ticket for kids at cup and midweek games, as long as they bring an adult. It’s the ol’ speculate to accumulate tactic and it works there, with a load of special extras thrown in, some of them free. Cricket’s attempt on this front is token in comparison.
“20-20 is indeed attracting families the way no other form does. ”
People keep saying this, but the evidence is diametrically opposite. Its like people who claim the world is flat. Most families I speak to prefer test cricket. If you go to a test match in England, there are kids everywhere – far more than you see at an evening T20 game.
“you have to go and see it live, the only barometer of public support organisers understand”
Actually my understanding is that tv revenues are by far the more important consideration than live spectators.
Besides which, test cricket in the UK sells out year-in, year-out, despite our crap unlikeable team, daft schedule, depleted opposition, crap weather, and completely no exposure and promotion.
You must go to different matches from me. I see no evidence to back up your view when I go to 20-20 or test matches, though I do only go to Edgbaston and Trent Bridge. Kids everywhere I do not see at Test matches, unless there are school trips arranged by private schools.
I agree TV revenues are key, but If attendances were poor it would be a reflection on public support and TV would pull out. This applies to any sporting event. The last thing a TV company wants to show is empty stands.
As a point of interest here you need to look into the flat earth evidence. It is more interesting than you may think. There are plenty of well qualified scientists poking holes in the prevailing ‘knowledge’ with simple experiments and getting no response when challenging the establishment. (A bit like cricket) Many basic calculations and observations do not support the text book view.
You do see some kids at T20 games, (unless you’re at the Oval), but nowhere near as many as you see at the test match, where they must make up 25% of the crowd at least. Your average test match spectator is a father and his son(s).
As for the flat earth conspiracy theories… wow…
Just check out some of the documentaries relating to this. All the protagonists are asking is for someone to disprove their findings, yet no one seems to be willing to respond. Odd?
T20 is supposedly all anyone wants to watch – and yet the Caketin looks barely half full for today’s game (I can’t find an official attendance figure but these have become so farcically disconnected from the evidence of one’s eyes I don’t trust them anyway).
In other formats, this is enough to declare their imminent demise.
I’m not surprised, the CakeTin is a 35k seat stadium – the last CWC excepted NZ cricket hasn’t filled one of those in a long time. Particularly not on a Tuesday night.
That said, it was a better turnout than the International Rugby 7 weekend got this time last year. And a hell of a lot better than the Wellington Phoenix soccer team manage at the ground, & more than the Hurricanes (Super Rugby) team would get for a match against an Aussie* or Saffa opponent on a Friday or Saturday night
*Granted Australian Super Rugby teams are almost as rubbish as the Phoenix …
Families at T20? Where? Plenty of drinkers and people who don’t care or even know whose playing. This “family” thing is a myth.
At a nice summer day at the Oval there are more families for a CC match enjoying the day than you’ll ever see at the Friday night booze up for T20.
Don’t get me started about booze ups at cricket. Test matches, with their beer snakes and fancy dress are far worse then 20-20’s here. There are thousands of protagonists who go to party and be part of the entertainment not to watch cricket. You should have seen the behaviour at the West Indies Edgbaston test last summer, the whole ground seemed to be taken over with this mentality.
I know I only go to Edgbaston, but there are always loads of kids at 1 dayers from all types of background, particularly Asian. Most of the kids at test matches seem to be school parties from the private sector, often in uniform. Yes there are dads with kids, but they are generally from a typically middle class cricketing background. I’m not criticising this, but cricket needs to attract the young footie audience, where the numbers are, so it becomes less elitist. Test matches don’t as yet do this.
2020’s attract beer heads who are out for a party and plenty of beer. They couldn’t care less about Cricket or the game that’s on.. few cheers and jeers that are beer fuelled and it’s ‘great fun’.
If buttler is right then Cricket will die out into an utter irrelevance
My club alone would drop from 3saturfaky league sides and two adult Sunday sides to one Saturday side and no Sunday side. Fact is, not that many people want to play 2020 unless it’s evening Cricket which isn’t modern.. it’s been about since at least the 70’s!!!
Totally let down by the Ashes. Nothing else matters for me.