Ignominy has been the word of the weekend. But I’m not using it to bash the Australians today. Instead I’m using it in reference to England’s latest pathetic result away from home in test cricket: a defeat by an innings inside three days to New Zealand.
I haven’t got the stat book in front of me but of our current run of form outside England must be the worst in our history: a somewhat embarrassing draw in Bangladesh, a 0-4 defeat in India, a 0-4 defeat in Australia, and now a possible defeat to the Kiwis too. Ignominy means ‘pubic shame and disgrace’. England haven’t cheated but they’ve pretty much done everything else to embarrass and humiliate themselves and us long-suffering supporters.
No doubt some will take heart from the way we batted in spells today. The players did belatedly show some fight – the prospect of being roasted in the media kind of does that to people – but there’s no disguising the ultimate result. This current England test team is perhaps the worst we’ve had in quite a while. The fact it contains, on paper at least, England’s leading ever run scorer and wicket-taker is food for thought indeed.
We’ve discussed the reasons for England’s malaise many times before so I don’t see the need to repeat myself ad nauseam. However, I do think it’s instructive that seven of our batsmen reached at least 20 but failed to convert their starts into a meaningful score that might have influenced the outcome of the match. When so many players switch off and surrender their wicket mid-innings, this suggests that mental fatigue is playing its part. Either that or, of course, the team now has a white ball mentality and simply can’t build innings any more. Perhaps it’s a combination of both factors?
There are very few positives to take out of this performance. Alastair Cook still looks shot to me. Some will argue that he was unfortunate to get caught down the leg-side, but if you play outside the line of your pad this kind of thing is bound to happen. It happened to me on my debut for Worcs U17 many years ago and I got no sympathy whatsoever from the coach.
The other so called established players are also stuck in a rut. Joe Root continues to make 50s not 100s; Dawid Malan doesn’t look anywhere near the same player when the pitches aren’t flat and true; Jonny Bairstow is still playing silly shots; Moeen Ali looks like a luxury player at best; and as for the bowling attack heaven knows why our selectors and management think four right-arm medium-fast seamers is going to cut it at test level.
Jack Leach simply must play in the next game, and Mark Wood should play too. If the latter isn’t fully fit and able to bowl fast then he shouldn’t be in the squad. The only encouraging signs in this game were Mark Stonemans’ second innings half-century (which he then promptly gave away), Chris Woakes spirited batting today (just a shame about his bowling), and Ben Stokes’ encouraging knock.
Talking of Ben Stokes, it’s being reported that he aggravated his back injury in this game and he might now miss the second test. There were also reports that he had an injection to get through this game in the first place. Why oh why are we gambling with the fitness of such a key player. We’ve only just got Stokes back. So why risk his long-term health?