Pathetic. But We Can (And Must) Do Better Next Time.

When the end comes, it usually comes quickly with this England team. For all our hype and bravado we’re actually softer than a poodle’s undercarriage.

It took Australia just 45 overs to take all ten of our second innings wickets today. And eight of those wickets came in the last 23. It was a gutless performance that lacked any form of application, skill, or courage. They should all be embarrassed.

In years gone by we might have been saved by a classic Brigadier Block rearguard action. Or maybe Cook and Trott might have pulled off a Gabba. But who in this England team can pull off a determined ‘over my dead body’ innings? I’ll tell you who. Nobody. Because that’s not the way this team has been bred since Tom Harrison and Co implemented their bold new vision for English cricket.

I’m sorry but no World Cup is worth a capitulation like this. It makes me so sad to see the state of our red ball cricket. The shot Jason Roy played today, dancing down the pitch to slog Nathan Lyon and missing by a country mile, just about sums it up.

I can take losing when it’s honourable. Sometimes you just have to applaud the opposition. But some of England’s batting today lacked basic skill and judgement. Our batsmen just don’t have the technique or temperament to survive.

It took an unlikely hero in Rory Burns to spare our blushes in the first innings – the rest of the top seven made 148-6 – but today there was no hero at all. Just a bunch of test wannabes who were hopelessly outclassed by a proper high quality test attack.

All is not lost, however. England lost the first test comprehensively in 2005. But things will have to improve drastically. The likes of Buttler and especially Bairstow will need to work furiously on their games in the nine days before the next test begins. England might also consider giving Ben Foakes a call. He played in Surrey’s last T20 game on 2nd August so one assumes he’s fit.

I’ve heard calls for Jonny and Jos to be dropped. I can see why people are looking for scapegoats. Jonny hasn’t made many any friends recently and Jos now averages a pitiful 13 against Australia in six tests (that’s ten innings). However, although I’ve warned in the past that Buttler might get found out against top quality fast bowling, I do think he’s shown enough improvement over the last year to keep his place. What’s more, we shouldn’t forget that he made two half centuries (67 and 56) in his last test match before this one.

What’s more, we have to ask who is possibly going to replace them? In the words of Richie Benaud – a wise old sage if ever there was one – you can’t expect anything from a debutant. And I would be dead against going back to Vince or Ballance. Therefore, in the circumstances, England must stick with the batsmen they’ve got and just hope things improve. Sometimes it only takes a little technical tweak or two. Any experienced professional cricketer will tell you that.

As for Moeen Ali I fear that a change might be necessary if he’s mentally shot. It’s a shame as he’s given English cricket a great deal but his body language currently resembles the forlorn character we saw in the last Ashes down under. On that occasion he played the first four test matches, things went from bad to worse, and he suggested afterwards that he should’ve been dropped sooner. The management have a big call to make.

Thankfully the bowling, however, is one area we can improve. England must never, ever, pick four right-arm orthodox medium-fast seamers again. It never bloody works. What’s more, as Nathan Lyon showed today, we need a spinner we can rely on. If Mo’s confidence has sunk to irreparable levels (at least in the short term) then Leach must come into the side. At least he should provide some control.

I’ve heard plenty of experts argue that England need to prepare green tops at Lord’s and in the subsequent tests but I’m not so sure. Now that Anderson, our best exponent of swing and seam bowling, is unlikely to play for a month or so, the whole ‘green top’ theory looks flawed to me. It would just play into Peter Siddle’s hands.

Instead England should prepare pitches that give our batsmen a sporting chance to put a decent total on the board. Scoreboard pressure can do funny things to the opposition. What’s more, we need to change the composition of the bowling attack radically in order to fight fire with fire. In the past England didn’t have any fast bowlers available. Now we have two: Jofra Archer and Ollie Stone.

Archer and Stone should both play at Lord’s. It’s a no brainer. They’re younger and even faster than Pattinson and Cummins, and they should be fresher too. Leach should then come into the side in the hope that (a) he troubles Smith more than Moeen did, and (b) he can keep things tight if required. Broad and Chris Woakes, who has an excellent record at Lord’s and uses the slope extremely well, would then complete an attack that looks potent on paper. This pack of five should make life a lot harder for Steve Smith and prove far too much for Australia’s lesser players.

“But why do we need this many bowlers?” you might ask. I’ve argued against picking six bowlers in the past but in my XI for Lord’s Stokes would move up the order (to either 3 or 4) and focus on his batting. He might bowl the odd over if required. But if he does so it would be a short, sharp burst at maximum pace. There’s no way I’d ask him to bowl 22 overs in an innings again. It’s just too risky.

Moving forward, therefore, I’d like England to pick the following XI at Lord’s: Burns, Roy, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Bairstow, Woakes, Archer, Leach, Broad, Stone. If you’ve really got it in for Jonny then I wouldn’t mind giving Foakes a game. Some might wonder why I’m weakening the batting by dropping Denly but would the Kent man score any runs anyway? I like Denly as a player but I think it’s unlikely.

The tail looks a little longer than we’re accustomed to but I’m not overly concerned. Archer averages 32 in first class cricket, Leach made runs at Lord’s, and Broad made runs at Edgbaston. However, our main priority should be to dismiss Steve ‘bloody’ Smith (that middle name is now official) rather than eking our a few extra runs down the order.

England need to take 20 wickets to get back into the series. That’s indisputable. And if we prepare a wicket that’s generally good for batting, but with a bit of pace so it helps Archer / Stone, then our batsmen should enjoy a surface where that ball comes nicely onto bat. Let’s face it, they’re hopeless on green tops when good technique and patience are required.

The one thing we should never do, however, is prepare pitches that turn. I think that today made that abundantly clear.

James Morgan


  • I was travelling today, so I’m just catching up on the highlights (!). Whatever you might think about England’s batting, some balls from Lyon were just about unplayable.
    It’s difficult to suggest changes when there are so many injury doubts. I had previously suggested Foakes as a batsman who could keep wicket (!!), but is he fit? Is Woakes fit? Why else would he have bowled so little and so slowly in the second innings? Is Archer any fitter than Anderson was at the start of this match?
    My XI for the next test, fitness permitting, would be:
    Burns, Roy, Root, Bairstow (in doubt?), Stokes, Buttler, Foakes, Archer, Leach, Broad, Woakes/Stone (depending on fitness).

  • Eeking out runs for the 9th and 10th wicket won Australia this game. 5 seamers won’t do what 4 can’t, and the batting is so fragile that we can’t afford Woakes, Archer and Leach all batting a place too high. Same side you named but with Foakes for Stone for me.
    I never thought I’d write this, but actually I do accept this performance in exchange for the World Cup win. Winning the World Cup and winning the Ashes was always going to be a tough ask. Like anyone of my age, I endured years of humiliation in Ashes Tests but in recent years we’ve dished out a fair bit in return. And we had 2005, which will never be surpassed. So would I swap the thrill of that Sunday for another Ashes win? No way – it may have had a nonsensical ending and some of the most extraordinary good fortune any side has ever received on a sporting field, but it was pure, unadulterated entertainment at the pinnacle of a tournament, and it will forever represent the point where my kids “got” cricket. My little lad has barely put his bat down since, and my daughter’s not far behind, having hardly even had a clue what the game was before the tournament started (I finally succumbed against my anti-Murdochism and grudgingly bought a Now TV subscription for the summer when I realised my kids didn’t even know there was a World Cup on!). These things are priceless, and the unbridled joy of my kids at the moment of victory and what it has led to is worth an Ashes kicking. Once, and only once, mind….

    • I think you’ve just summed up English cricket. No Australian side would ever consider winning one series/tournament to be an acceptable price for losing another.

      • Exactly James. Most countries seem to win world cups without sacrificing the test team as a consequence. I think the WC final inspired mainly was because it was on TV.

        PS My team has 4 seamers because Stokes is playing as a batsman. He will only bowl a few overs if at all.

      • Australia got to the semi final. It’s no excuse, they’re just covering up the poor form of the test team over the last 4 years

      • I’m not saying the ECB should accept it; I’m saying I wouldn’t trade it simply from a personal perspective. The sad thing is that the ECB does seem to accept it, as reflected in its marginalisation of the County game in its relentless pursuit of cash, and to hell with its wider responsibilities to the game as a whole. It’s interesting that 7 of England’s world cup semi team played in this week’s Test, whereas only 4 of Australia’s. Partly this is because of ECB nonsense about the “brand” of cricket it wants to play irrespective of the arena, but mainly its because, when it comes to batsmen in particular, there aren’t any alternatives. How could there be, when county players rarely get to face top bowlers in the longer format, and only ever play on late spring and early autumn wickets? It’s a gross dereliction of duty that has, or course, been much covered on these pages.

  • Same old England, always folding. Lasting 45 overs when you should just be blocking it, in the last 33 test matches in England we’ve only drawn one. In our efforts to become a dynamic attacking force in test matches we have become completely one dimensional and bereft of personal responsibility. Nobody in that side says to me “they’re not getting me out”.

    From the moment Stokes got out when England were cruising, Australia seized the initiative and bar a bit of fight from Woakes/Broad it was all australia from that point. Not good enough, but then again they ignored the consecutive 5-0 and 4-0 results down under, relying on swinging and seaming balls in England to cover it up but the mental scars all came to the fore here. Root’s captaincy was dreadful and completely uninspiring, new captain is a must with the new coach because Root simply hasn’t got it. You compare him to someone like Graeme Smith and the way he talks, it’s night and day

  • By the way, England weren’t even the worst thing on the pitch – absolutely abysmal umpiring thank goodness for DRS

  • I cannot see any reason to persist with Bairstow, whose arc as a Test batsman peaked in the winter of 2016 and has been downhill ever since, and recently reached a level where his numbers and his visible discomfort at the crease have converged in a twilight zone. If he were not such an inept keeper, it would be worth letting him try to turn it round, but the contrast with Paine in this match was shameful; Paine knows how to stay down and keep his gloves low enough to catch the occasional bottom edge, Bairstow is already standing up and (having missed the chance) sometimes even fails to block the resulting byes with his pads. One seemed to get him in the box. This is not good enough (though painful for him, no doubt). As for Moeen, his batting is no longer even a ghost of what it used to be, and his bowling on the fourth day was dire.

    So they should both go back to their counties, in search of some red-ball cricket to play. Meanwhile, I would bring in Archer and Leach for Anderson and Moeen. I would bring in Foakes for Bairstow, and Curran (S) for the evidently superfluous Denly.

    There is still plenty to go wrong with this side, including the crazy waste of trying to turn Jason Roy into an opening batsman. But it would be more competent, and more competitive, than the one that lost in Birmingham.

    • Yes, I had forgotten Curran. I’m not sure how effective his bowling would be, but he has the sinew to stiffen the batting. Perhaps Curran at 7 instead of Bairstow (who, I confess, I don’t like), with everyone else from my XI moving up one.

      • Curran has never made a first class century, yet based on some lower order hitting we expect him to bat top 7? Madness. He’s not worthy of a place as a bowler alone either. Great character, great attitude but he needs to add 5mph and score some proper runs.

        • He is still only 21. Has played 18 Test innings and is averaging over 30 (ie three times Moeen over the same period and markedly more than Bairstow, who has been firing in the low 20s). That’s not just “some lower order hitting”. As for the bowling, he may need to add some pace, but the main thing would be to get the swing to go later. But the main thing is that he is a left armer, and has the capacity to slant the ball across the right handers, and bring it back. He can take wickets that are not accessible to an attack made up of four right armers.

  • Another pitiful surrender – but grimly inevitable. There are few teams in Test cricket – for any country – that have the technique and temperament to bat out a day for a draw on a pitch that’s turning and bouncing.

    If we pick Roy for Tests and ask him to play his natural game, he will end up getting out in daft ways like that – but over the long term, we have to hope that he takes to Tests like Warner (also typecast as a T20 blaster when he began his Test career) and the euns he scores outweighs the odd crazy dismissal.

    Leach for Mo is a no brainer – let Mo recover his confidence in county cricket. Would definitely bring in Archer or Stone but not both – would rather give Rashid a game in preference to Denly. We could have done with him bowling to Siddle and Lyon 1st innings – Smith wouldn’t have got nearly as many runs. He’s no rabbit with the bat either so bringing him in wouldn’t weaken the order much. Woakes needs to bat higher than 9 anyway!

    • I think Rashid is injured Garreth. Doubt he could last a test match with his sore shoulder.

  • Aus won, easily, with 4 bowlers. With Stokes we have 5. A 6th would be superfluous. Stokes, Leach and whoever the three best, fit, other 3 are.

    Foakes for Bairstow, and maybe Sibley for Denley. If so Sibley gets the whole of the series, as do Roy and Burns. Can’t keep Chopping and changing. Or stick with the same top 5 and get them to knuckled down like Burns did.

  • I thought Buttler looked the worst against Lyon today, he was guessing like a tailender.

    • Maybe, just maybe, Ed Smith isn’t a genius and Buttler isn’t a top 5 batsman.

      But right now Denley, Ali, Bairstow and, quite probably Roy and Burns, are bigger problems.

      Buttler keeping and batting at 7, with Hildreth (fit?) at 5 isn’t mad. Bairstow looks shot.

      • All valid points of view. But I don’t think we should panic into wholesale batting changes now. These are the guys they’ve backed / groomed for the Ashes so the core of the unit must stay the course. Then we can point fingers afterwards if it continues to go wrong.

    • The ball that took his off stump did keep a little low, but he was never behind it. The right way for a Test batsman to get out to that ball was LBW, having covered his off stump and left it on length. But if he had been in line he would probably also have been able to drop his bat on it. Poor.

  • Stokes, Butler, Roy, Bairstow, Ali, etc – get rid of these white ball guys. The red ball game needs proper test match cricketers.

  • Just before the game I said that Burns and Denly needed to go. They just aren’t the “real thing”. I was at Edgbaston on Friday and even from the Skyline it was clear that most of the 30-odd deliveries that went passed Burns’ bad weren’t “left”. Most pros are capable of a good knock if the wind’s in their favour and so, I’m sorry, but I think the score in the second innings is a better marker of what we can expect.

    The biggest culprit in this Test though was whoever it was that said that Anderson was fit.

    As for the Lord’s XI, I think the core (Root, Stokes, Bairstow and Buttler) are still class and that, someone once said, “will out”. It’s certainly the best thing to go with when you’ve precious little else.

    On the basis that I probably won’t find anyone to agree with me about Burns, I’d start with him and Sibley (If you follow Benaud’s advice no one would ever get a start). Either that or bump a few guys up to get Foakes in (not sure what it was he did to deserve being dropped in the first place?). If my maths is right that’s 6, so then Woakes, Archer, Stone and the mighty Leach plus A N Other

    I do agree that Stokes shouldn’t be the 5th bowler and that the aim should be on taking 20 wickets but I do think the Australians have seen so much of Broad now that an alternative would be better.

    As I hate seeing Ali have to go, in the absence of a bowler with the initials A N and the surname Other, I’d go with Sam Curran. If he was good enough to be 12th Man – he’s good enough to play.

      • Didn’t Bairstow hit a double in SA that saw us win a series? How many series have we won in SA, ever?

        Bairstow is a class act in awful form. Let’s not go overboard.

        • No, he scored a century – one of only 6 in his test career of over 60 tests, and it was what 3 years ago now? You can’t call a batsman class if their weakness is a pace bowler aiming at the stumps

    • How about moving Woakes up the order – he’s looked like one of our better batters over this past year or so. Would allow us to play that 6th bowler, meaning that if he is struggling with his knee, we wouldn’t be as hamstrung.
      Stone (or little Sam – to bat at 8).

      • You don’t need 6 bowlers. Seriously.

        Aus won with 4. Aus virtually always just pick 4. It works.

          • Jack Leach is a quality spinner. We didn’t pick him.

            Aus would bite their arm off for an all rounder of Stokes’ quality. If they had one, they wouldn’t play Pattinson, Siddle, Cummins and Hazelwood in the same side, even if Lyon was injured.

            Everyone is going overboard because we lost Anderson (I can’t think of a Test since Simon Jones in 2003 when a frontline bowler went down in the middle of a Test) and because our ‘batsmen’ can’t bat.

            6 bowlers isn’t the solution. The solution is 5 batsmen, Stokes, WC and our 4 best bowlers.

  • Well I’d ditch Butler as well. A number 7 at best when there is a score in the board. Bairstows keeping was appalling in this match. Roy is a no 5 in 4 day cricket, ask any Surrey member. You can’t ask a man to be what he isn’t. Erm..Dom Sibley anyone? Averaging over 60 for Warwicks. He can’t be worse than Denly.
    My suggestion: Burns, Sibley, Root, Foakes, Roy, Stokes, Woakes, Curran, Stone/Archer,Broad, Leech.
    If Archer can bat, and he doesn’t look anything to me so far, and he’s fit put him in.
    This is the result of the ECBs blinkered policy on white ball cricket. Most of these guys don’t play red ball. But whatever they do how do you get Smith out? And if Warner comes to the party unfortunately I fear the Ashes may have gone.

  • Mo out
    Bairstow out
    Anderson inj
    Roy out

    Sibley In
    Foakes In
    Archer in
    Leech in

    Buttler/burns/denly told they must avg 40 by cop this series or it’s game over.

    Time to clear the decks as this group has failed a lot. Might as well fail with new people

  • We also need to find anyone prepared
    To simply bat time.
    Both for opening and 6 like collingwood wood used to

  • If Strauss is serious about providing encouragment to red ball batsmen he should be leaning heavily on our brain dead brain’s trust to lift their closed shop attitude to players that have performed well in other formats, assuming this form can be a transferable skill. After all we ditched the policy of shoeing test players into ODI’s to produce specialist one day players and Won the World Cup, so why not the other way round. It’s not going to be an instant fix, but surely the likes of Roy, Butler, Bairstow and Moin cannot be carried on with much longer if they continue to look as fallible. There are replacements out there better suited to the longer format. They may be younger and less experienced but they carry no baggage from World Cup euphoria.
    Immediately Moin and Bairstow should go for Leach and Foakes, neither of whom had done anything to be dropped in the first place and we clearly need separate administrators for the red and white ball game. Leave Mr Ed and Taylor to the white ball game and give the test selection over to Strauss and Giles.
    I don’t mind England losing test matches, but batting collapses seem to be the order of the day in recent years and this line up does nothing to address that. We need new blood to replace tired minds and bodies.

      • Strauss may not have an official title but he’s definitely involved as the media are still interviewing him about the state of the game. I believe he still has enough influence for his opinions to be relevant. I am sure that if he was approached to get actively involved for the time being he would consider it.

  • It is a demonstration, if one was needed, on how not to prepare for an Ashes series. The ECB, Ed, James and Gilo are the lunatics running the asylum that is our national cricket team. WTF? it is almost as frightening as having Trump in charge of the US and BoJo of the UK…..I feel peculiarly disenfranchised.
    Where in God’s good name is the preparation for the country’s national team to compete against an average Aussie side? Root’s captaincy has to be called into question with his field placings and bowler selection. Ed Smith should be replaced with immediate effect, James Taylor is purely the puppet but equally useless and Harrison should be eviscerated and quartered with each quarter being flown from every corner of Lords to serve as notice to any self serving, avaricious shit that the nation will never tolerate this level of ineptitude again. The World Cup was an astonishing result but it has come at an astonishing cost to the game of cricket in the country…. and the 100 will continue the decline in an attempt to mass popularise what was already a hugely popular sport watched by millions before the ECB sold its soul to Sky. The fat cats at HQ take the dough while cricket in all its forms becomes a slave to commercialism that excludes the fans.
    Rant over –
    The next test match will most likely produce the same result unless the groundsman can make Lords a truly quick pitch which is just too unlikely and 2 spinners is simply not an option when we’ve none that can match Moeen and he is In completely the wrong frame of mind right now. Archer if fit must play as should Ollie Stone. Sam Curran is a fantastic no9 if Woakes bats at 8. No Broad or Anderson, Ali or Denly. Buttler keeper at 7 Stokes 6. Keep Roy and Burns for now to open, Root 3 Sibley and Northeast 4 and 5. Archer to bowl left arm spin after his initial opening bursts….. and that’s the blooming problem… we do not have a spinner worthy of a test spot… and we don’t have shoe-in no’s. 4&5. Anyone got a white ball to play with?

  • Ed Smith looks like a mafia boss with his ever-present shades and clearly can’t see what’s going on.
    Mo needs a break and some TLC. Do we have a spin bowling coach?
    Buttler and Bairstow need kicking up their asses, repeatedly.
    Root needs reprogramming so that he doesn’t spout crap.
    As for the umpires – never again should they stand in Tests.
    My expectations are low.

    • Do we have a spin bowling coach? Well, there are only so many places in the coaching team and you’ve got to find some sort of balance. So I expect Mark Ramprakash can provide a bit of spin if required. Either that or we replace him with Geoff Miller who can look after spin and batting.

  • Obviously Mo has to go and Jimmy is out. I also think Bairstow needs a rest. I would go with:

    Stone (12th man)

    • 6 bowlers is insane. But add a batsman (Lawrence? Hildreth? Clarke?) in 5 (for Curran) and that looks like a good side.

    • What has Roy done to deserve selection ?? Avg 35 at county level

      Why not

      Burns (deserves a run)
      Sibley (only man sticking his hand up)
      Root (never a three but we have no choice)
      Hildreth (lets see if he can do it for one or two years )
      Stokes (sadly we have no choice)
      Foakes (what the hell has he done wrong and is by far the best keeper)
      Woakes (all rounder )
      Stone (or if it’s a green top, Curran but only if it’s a green top)


      Back some players who do bat time and go for

      Hammeed (with specific instructions to block and only pick off free bees )

  • Archer.

    Is he really ready for Tests?

    For me Stone bowled really well against Ireland and should be next cab off the rank.

    Shame Gregory is crocked.

  • Pick a 13-man squad:
    Burns, Sibley, Root, Roy, Buttler, Stokes, Foakes, Woakes, Curran, Archer, Broad, Stone, Leach (so that’s no Denly, Moeen or Bairstow) and then try to pick a team.

    If Woakes is fit, leave out Buttler and Stone. Curran and Stokes share 5th bowler duties.

    If Woakes isn’t fit, Stone comes in and maybe Buttler stays in ahead of Curran. Although Curran’s likely to get more runs, Curran/Archer/Broad/Stone/Leach looks too long a tail whereas Foakes/Archer/Broad/Stone/Leach might look just about acceptable.

  • Bell said recently that he couldn’t see young batsmen with the patience and skills to build an innings – they were concentrating on white ball skills. This has permeated the whole system from the orders of the top down. You can count commentators and media critics in that – the focus on T20 and the World Cup. That’s the general picture and now we’ve got the Hundred as well. Graves said he didn’t like Test cricket. Batsmen have been encouraged (pushed) to go down that road in the shameless push to join the franchise bandwagon. This is why we have deals with Sky. A great sport is being betrayed but the fans still love Test cricket. I hate to say it but failing is OK for this ECB. That prepares the ground for getting rid of it? Or cutting it down to four days?
    Let’s not turn on the team. That’s what they want. To hide in the shadows.
    However Denly is in the team for the wrong reasons – he’s a favourite of Ed Smith because he once played with him. He has an average of 36 in County cricket. It’s unfair to Denly. He’s nowhere near Test standard. Ed Smith isn’t fit to be Chief Selector on that basis.
    Burns is in the side because of a stack of runs for Surrey. Test cricket will resolve the issue. He will either survive or not. Ballance had a better start but was found out and refused to adapt or couldn’t.
    I think Bairstow should be given a chance but hand the gloves to Foakes who doesn’t throw his wicket away when batting. Bairstow has shown an ability to address his Test batting.
    Root is exhausted. Clearly.
    Focus criticism on the men behind the players. The coach has been hopeless at Test cricket. The selections and selectors. The prevailing ethos. Why is Roy opening???? The money barons at the ECB and the Hundred. Flower and his coaching of the Lions who have been losing a lot of games. Does anyone question his job? Too entrenched. But if you have nasty men at the top then the game is open to abuse of power.
    By the way the missing name among you who could bat to save a game is Bell. Ask yourselves why that is?

    • You’re rightly picking on denly but alas what avg does Bairstow, Stokes, buttler have in test cricket?? What does Roy avg in county cricket.

      Can’t throw stats at one players but ignore the others

  • FWIW I think England lost this test earlier than yesterday (sure, it was a poor effort, but the pitch was offering prodigious spin). I think there are 2 (possibly 3) earlier occasions where we let Australia off the hook. First was letting them add 162 for the last 2 wickets. The second (possibly) was the mini collapse on day 3. Neither of those should have been disastrous (a lead of 90 after first innings was a good one). The real problem was the bowling on Day 4. The pitch was offering turn, and our spinner failed to turn up. Being a seamer (or one and a half seamers) down meant our spinner had to bowl well, and he didn’t. 487/7 on a worn 4th day pitch tells its own story. I like Mo, and a Moeen playing well is a big asset for England, but his confidence is shot and he needs a rest. We should have been chasing no more than 200 to win.

  • If the batsmen cannot be relied upon to score runs, there really is nowhere to go – an extra bowler won’t compensate (unless we can find a modern-day Sydney Barnes!)
    Isn’t Stone also carrying a niggling injury?
    As for the umpiring, the sooner the technology is used for all decisions, the better.
    Like Tom above, I also blame the ECB. Scrap central contracts, have a proper county championship programme so that all contenders have plenty of red ball cricket and then select from those in form, as used to be done. The best preparation for cricket is to play cricket.

    • We were crap before Central Contracts. God, we were crap.

      At least these days we win home series.

  • If Ashley Giles wants to focus more on improving the red ball team, then how is marginalising championship cricket going to help this? Nobody in authority seems to have an answer. Re Smith… Root said on interview that he’s hungry for runs. I wanted Aggers to say “Yes but shouldn’t the Eng team be just as hungry, are you that hungry?!!!” The one day team started to improve when they were made up of specialist one day players rather just the test team rehashed. Doesn’t the same philosophy need applying to the test team now in reverse?

  • Amusingly, the averages of our top 7 batsmen over the last 20 Tests each (or entire career, for those with less than 20 Tests) reads

    Burns – 28.5
    Roy – 28.8
    Root – 37.2
    Denley – 21.8
    Buttler – 33.6
    Stokes – 33.8
    Bairstow – 27.7

    Pretty grim. Ed Smith may not be a genius.

  • Right so…

    Before the summer started the general consensus was that in test cricket are batting was a problem. Once the tests start we are bowled out for 80 in Ireland and would have been bowled out cheaply twice but for burns.

    And the answer is 6 bowlers. Seriously. 6 bowlers. Honestly if they put that line up out you could have no complaints whatsoever if we are bowled out for about 100. That’s a ridiculous suggestion.

    If you need 6 bowlers then it suggests you are going to be up against 500 so you are pretty much screwed regardless.

    Denly being crap doesn’t mean you give up and load the team with bowlers. It means the selectors do their job and start identifying test calibre batsmen preferably giving them a debut before they are 30.

    Bizarely given how pro test you are, you seem to be trying to go down one day tactics. Giving yourself lots of bowling options with some bowlers who can bat and hope some of them come off and hit a quick 30.

    • Agreed. Sibley for Denley, with Roy at 3 or 4 seems a no regrets option /if/ Sibley has the technique to at least stand a chance against Cummins.

      6 bowlers is insanity. Writing off Stokes as a excellent 5th bowler is insanity. He’s a fine all rounder.

  • The problem is this ethos every player has to be all singing and all dancing. This isn’t an ODI or T20. But we end up with a side largely comprised of rather poorly titled “all rounders”. The only player any where near an all rounder i.e. being in the side for equal bowling or batting skills is Stokes and only just at that. Want the best spinner in the country? Amir Virdi of Surrey by miles. He won’t be considered because he can’t bat and fields poorly. Might get a 5 for though. You have to pick specialists in Test cricket otherwise you get the current shambles. We’ve all said it before but the whole structure and purpose of the game in this country needs serious sorting out top down from Ed Smith’s sunglasses to Moens moon balls. But it won’t happen. I doubt a few cosmetic changes now will make much difference once Warner comes to the party.

    • There’s nothing wrong with “proper” all rounders (players who would get in the team on the basis of either batting or bowling). Any team would be better with a Kallis Sobers or Imran Khan in it. What England have are 1990’s style bits and pieces players. They may work in white ball cricket but not in tests.

      • Just look how over rated Curran is… somehow he’s the next saviour of batting and bowling..

        He’s yet another bits and pieces player.. not really good enough at either. Good energy and effort tho

        • No he has great potential. At 20 years old, like his brother, he will give a side full commitment. That’s gold dust in this team. Funny how the ECB restricted him to bowling 20 overs for Surrey in two Championship games and yet Anderson, aged 37, plays 5. Wonder why he’s picked up a potential series defining injury?

          • most of this England side are players who had “great potential” and ended up tired before they hit 30 with 60 tests of average records – by the time they’re supposed to be hitting their peak they are burnt out by the international calendar (Cook retiring before he hits 35, Root will be the same). Bairstow the prime example, inserted into the England side far too early – never had to work for his place, has never moved beyond a mid 30s average, and only has 6 test centuries to his name. People are saying now he needs time out to mentally recover as he looks like he’s spent both mentally and physically

            Back in 2014/15 these players were all being described as “potentially the best team England have ever had”, the big defeats that went hand in hand with the big wins were going to become fewer and fewer, but that’s not been the case at all. I think picking potential and waiting for them to come good playing for England doesn’t work for the majority of players, there is no hunger to improve and make the breakthrough if you’re already playing at the top. Someone like Sam Curran is not in his current state a test match bowler

            • So who is a “test match bowler”? Of the lot just played only Stokes and Broad qualify. Curran isn’t playing at the top agreed, but like his brother Tom, certainly has more hunger to succeed than probably Bairstow, Moen, Broad and even Butler. It’s this “closed shop if your face fits and your Roots best mate”that is the main problem.
              You know we’ve been playing Broad and Anderson together far too long and not developed likely replacements for these great but aging bowlers, now we have no choice as I don’t see Anderson playing before the 4 th test, if then.

            • Bairstow never had to work for his place? You clearly haven’t been paying any attention whatsoever.

              • Bairstow can get out innings after innings being bowled or LBW and never have to worry about being dropped. He doesn’t seem to have to work on his technique in any way that helps him deal with the dreaded ball that goes on to hit the stumps and his mediocre average year after year is forgotten about because people remember his partnership with Stokes in South Africa and pretend that that is the norm. Batsmen in the county championship have spent years consistently churning out runs and never had a sniff of the same opportunities Bairstow has been given because early on they decided Jonny had loads of potential and could just learn the game while playing for England. I’ve had enough of the Bairstow love in, it’s only created an arrogant mediocre wicket keeper

                Test match bowlers need pace, and if they don’t have that, consistent dead eye accuracy. If they’re not able to take wickets then they must be hard to get away and keep run scoring to a minimum, and Curren doesn’t have the years of first class experience behind him to help him achieve this without people feeling like they have to protect and encourage him. Curran is also young and developing, his body will not be able to take the demands of an international calendar and away from England he will not be much of a threat. Broad and Anderson have played for too long, and it will be like when Ambrose and Walsh retired – a huge hole left behind but to be honest every other test side has this problem when great players leave

  • Will someone explain to me how a player who takes no wickets at test level and scores the odd fifty is going to win us test matches? The Currans may be for the future, once they’ve shown they can perform consistently, but I don’t see how either of them raises our game now. Hunger doesn’t replace skill, the real goldust at this level. Any player we introduce would be expected to display hunger. If the Currans played for an unfashionable county we wouldn’t have heard of them, as neither are tearing up trees in the championship. I like their attitude and competitive natures but they need more substance to go with that.
    It all boils down to the unshakable fact that you can’t take form from one format into another. This is the fundamental flaw in Ed’s thinking and he’ll never accept it, whatever stats are put in front of him. He’s spent all this time and effort into giving opportunities to ODI players and now that format itself looks under threat.
    There’s something cockeyed somewhere.

  • Well we need something or someone to “raise our game”. The present bunch certainly isn’t doing it are they. And I’m afraid I disagree, hunger, youth and enthusiasm count for much in sport and you won’t develop these guys by sitting them on the bench and a crooked County schedule with one round of 4 day cricket in 7 weeks in July and August, anymore than continuing with players just because their face fits.

  • Just a thought about the umpiring quandary at present. As there are 4 officials appointed for each test, why not alternate them so no 2 officiate out in the middle on consecutive days. This gives them a breather from being under such scrutiny every ball for the entire match. No player is under so much pressure, yet we expect them to perform at a consistently high level. I wonder whether the likes of Dickie Bird would have such a reputation had his every decision been subject to potential challenge with snicko and slow motion replays from angles he has no view of.
    There used to be standard interpretations for umpiring, like if the ball hits on the front foot above the knee roll you don’t give it as there is doubt about height and if it swings or spins to leg hitting in front of leg stump you don’t give it as there is doubt about direction. Also if snicko shows a spike, often so small as to to be pretty much outside the range of the human ear, you can’t give what you don’t hear. These are all clearly now redundant, making umpiring a much more complicated business accountability wise.
    Umpires have always had bad games, like the players, but this is all relative to the pressures.

  • PS: You try umpiring for sounds with the incessant din of the Barmy Army in your ears. It’s piercing man.

  • Can’t be bothered much anymore – but an annoying myth is growing up about this game. As usual, it comes from people who know no cricket except recent England matches. “A team losing a bowler to injury is doomed…. no team in that position could vever win…. ” etc etc.

    It isn’t common (because teams are mostly too sensible to go into a Test with a bowler who breaks down quickly) but it has happened.

    SA beat Australia in Perth in 2016 with Steyn breaking down after only 12 over. Rabada, Philander and Maharaj (on debut) took the wickets. Wayne Daniel was only able to bowl ten overs when West Indies beat England at The Oval in 1976 and Michael Holding took 14 wickets. In 1978, Australia won the deciding Test against an Indian side including Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath, Viswanath and Vengsarkar with Jeff Thomson only able to bowl 3.3 overs. Wayne Clark, Ian Callen (who never played another Test) and the recently departed Bruce Yardley took the wickets.

    It isn’t such a good equivalance but England won the Ashes in 1970/71 with John Snow barely able to bowl in the second innings after breaking a finger. And people mock Ray Illingworth….

    In most cases the recipe is simple: the batsmen scored lots of runs, the remaining main bowlers stood up, sometimes they were backed up brilliant fielding (like Bavuma’s run out in Perth) and occasional bowlers chipped in.


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