It was another awful performance and yet another dispiriting defeat. I might as well have just cut and pasted a report from the Ashes. Is this English cricket’s lowest ebb? Obviously we’ve had worse defeats in the past, and this particular test probably isn’t a watershed, but it’s hard to think of a time when the future has looked so bleak. This team can’t win away and now we can’t win in conditions that are supposed to suit us. So when exactly are we going to be competitive? Nine wickets is an absolute shellacking.
With Anderson, Broad, and Cook unlikely to be around in a couple of years’ time, the team is basically going to be Stokes, Bairstow, plus nine other misfits making up the numbers. And worse still, the ECB don’t seem to give a toss. Well, they probably give a bit of a toss, but not as much as they should, and clearly nowhere near as much as they care about making more and more money from stupid white ball vanity projects.
I’m afraid I can’t comment on the specifics of days 3 and 4 with any authority because I’ve been away all weekend. I was hoping to catch up and watch the game’s conclusion when I returned home at lunchtime on Sunday, but obviously the game was already over. Buttler and Bess were unable to sustain their heroics from the previous evening with the Pakistan attack rested and a new ball in their hands.
It was a shame but not entirely unexpected I suppose. Sometimes it’s easy to make runs when the game’s already up and you’ve got nothing to lose. It’s only when the lead begins to build, and there’s a contest once again, that the pressure reappears. Still, at least they averted an innings defeat. I guess we should be grateful for small mercies.
I’m really not sure where England go from here. The team is riddled with inadequacies – particularly in the batting department. No doubt Ed Smith will be hailed as a genius because Bess and Buttler did well in the second innings, but the truth remains that he did little to change the side – other than mess around with a batting order that was already in a muddle. The result? We’ve been hammered at home. And that’s even more depressing than being hammered away.
Chris from BOC pointed out that If we lose this series 0-2 then we’ll drop to 7th in the world rankings – thus making us effectively the worst test team of all the major nations. If that’s not a low ebb then I don’t know what is. How did it come to this? The ECB has huge resources compared to other boards yet we’re continually humiliated.
There are problems with the England side from top to bottom. I read today that the Cook / Stoneman opening partnership is now statistically the worst in England’s history (for combinations that have played ten games or so). I’ve also read that Jonny Bairstow only averages 32 in the last twelve months. He’s supposed to be one of our best players!
Meanwhile, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the captaincy is affecting Root’s batting. He’s still getting fifties but doesn’t seem to have the mental reserves to make big runs anymore. Say what you like about Cook’s captaincy credentials but at least carrying the burden of captaincy didn’t seem to diminish his ability to score hundreds. Perhaps we should tell Mike Brearley to gets his whites out of the attic as we could do worse than pick a specialist captain at 7. I’m obviously being a bit facetious but you catch my drift.
The overwhelming feeling out there is that England’s batting is too white-ball orientated. We’ve got lots of talented individuals but they neither have the technique nor temperament to play long innings. Harebrained Harrison asked them to be bold and risk losing to win. I wonder if he feels the same way now after watching yet another catastrophic collapse today? This team needs some gold old fashioned gumption and fast. I don’t care how flashy our players are.
I guess if we’re looking for positives – not that they are many when you’ve been hammered at home by a team you were supposed to beat – we can point to a few things. The biggest one for me was Alastair Cook’s first innings performance, which proved (to me anyway) that he’s still a good player. The next is definitely the performances of Buttler and Bess on Saturday afternoon. I was unable to watch but by all accounts they played very sensibly. Plenty of people are saying that Bess looks like a keeper … as in someone you want to keep around. Much as the idea of picking three wicket-keepers fascinates me, I don’t think it would necessarily be rational!
Finally, and I guess I can’t avoid this after getting so worked up about his selection, I should say a few things about Jos. Apparently he played well yesterday so fair play to the bloke. Obviously my Twitter feed was full of people saying “eat some humble pie, chump”. I guess it comes with the territory when you put some strong opinions out there. Although I have to say these people seemed very quiet after the first innings 😉
My response to Jos’s half-century is twofold: (a) nothing would please me more than Buttler emerging as a world-class test batsmen as first and foremost I want England to win, and (b) one innings doesn’t make a career. The time to judge Jos will be next September after the Ashes when there’s a substantial body of evidence and he’s come up against the same Aussie attack that overwhelmed him in 2015. One innings really doesn’t tell us anything (whether that’s a duck or a fifty).
England have had plenty of false dawns before in their search for proper batsmen. Sam Robson, Adam Lyth both made test hundreds before the selectors figured out that they weren’t the answer. James Vince looked great at times too. Even Mark Stoneman has made a 50. And then there’s Moeen Ali. He scored 5 test hundreds and 12 fifties before the selectors figured out he wasn’t consistent enough (or frankly quite good enough) to play as a frontline batsman in test cricket. My worry with Jos is that he’ll be just like Mooen – great to watch and a brilliant counter-attacker – but without the additional value of picking up wickets.
My perspective is that England desperately need to find two or three frontline batsmen; therefore I’d much rather invest in someone like Joe Clarke, Liam Livingstone, or even a prodigious young player like Ollie Pope at No.7 who might in time become our next batting super star. There’s not a lot of pressure down the order at fifth drop, so it strikes me as the ideal spot from which to nurture a young player.
My other beef is that Ed Smith and the ECB don’t seem to care about players doing the hard yards in the championship anymore. And as someone who’s deeply concerned about the health of our first class game I think that sets a worrying precedent. That’s why I felt so passionately about Jos’s selection. It’s nothing personal, as he seems like a really good guy, but I agree completely with Andrew Flintoff when he said that Jos was “lucky” to be recalled and that he hadn’t “earned his spot”. I really pisses me off when the championship is basically treated as an irrelevance these days.
Those who have followed this blog over the years will know that my main issue is the ECB’s love-affair with white ball cricket – not the specific players who seem to represent this bias. After all, it’s the ECB’s white ball priorities that have led to England’s embarrassing performances of late. My fear is that runs for Jos will make the ECB feel vindicated in their “attack, attack” or “modern” approach – even though the team itself remains deeply flawed because of their neglect of first class cricket. In other words, Buttler heroics might obscure the big issue and paper over the cracks.
Anyway, I think that’s a good spot to leave things. This stream of consciousness has now come full circle. England have lost this test because they were underprepared, out-of-form, and because the board simply don’t prioritise test cricket – no matter how much they pretend they do. A few years ago we were the No.1 test team in the world but way down the rankings in ODIs. Now it’s the other way around – even though most cricket fans care a lot more about test cricket and the Ashes than the endless sequence of ODIs that come afterwards.
A quick word about Pakistan too. Well played guys. Congrats. Pakistan have now beaten England 8 times in their last 11 tests, despite only having a fraction of our resources. Missing out on the IPL obviously has a silver lining after all! It’s impossible not to feel chuffed for them. They seem like a really likeable lot, and Mickey Arthur is clearly doing a very good job.
I wonder if Mickey feels like swapping jobs with our Trev? I bet he’d get a nice pay rise.