Stupid. Just Stupid.

Wow. So where do we start? Do I reiterate, for the hundredth time, that Chris Silverwood (who is the most powerful head coach England have had since Ray Illingworth) seems out of his depth, or do I simply blame the ECB for giving him a dud hand? It’s a toss up.

This time, however, I think I’ll focus on the former. Although it’s true that nobody can turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse, it’s also true that the best managers can turn inadequate materials into something vaguely workable. It takes a special blend of ineptitude to turn a turd into something even worse.

Talking of worse, England’s selection strategy for the first two Test of this series has been absolutely mindboggling. Yes, you’re generally up the billabong without a blade when your batting line up is about as useful as a condom with a hole in it, but England’s foolhardy strategy has only made matters worse.

So let’s just review what’s happened. I have to repeat this to myself because I still can’t quite believe that it’s happened…

England left out their two most prolific seamers of all time on a green pitch at Brisbane, in order to save them for a much flatter pitch at Adelaide, which has rendered them somewhat toothless.

Meanwhile, they picked their fastest bowler at the Gabba, where accuracy and the ability to hit the seam were rewarded most, and thus made it far more difficult to include him at Adelaide, where his pace would have been a much-needed point of difference on a better batting surface.

Oh, and just to compound their error, England’s management decided to leave out their specialist spinner – which was their only other point of difference – once they decided that it was too risky to pick the aforementioned paceman in back-to-back games (even though, actually, he’s had a week off).

All this is enough to make any rational cricket supporter’s head hurt. It’s lunacy. We’ve now entered the crucial Adelaide Test with an attack that consists of five right-arm medium-fast seamers, two of whom are undercooked. Is it any surprise that Australia piled on the runs?

Call me a purist, but I actually consider England’s 5-seamer strategy to be a crime against cricket. It’s so mind-numbingly daft, and goes against everything that the history of the game tells us, that I simply can’t believe that a coach who has risen through the professional ranks (albeit far too quickly) can think it’s remotely acceptable – which, of course, it isn’t.

What’s more, let’s not forget that this is the fourth or fifth time that Chris Silverwood has picked 5 seamers with no variation. Doing it just once is a sackable offence in my book.

Jack Leach has his critics – many of whom forget that he took 12 wickets at 25 in the last Ashes and out-bowled Nathan Lyon – but what chance did he actually have at Brisbane? A spinner’s primary job is to take wickets in the second innings but England’s woeful batting prevented him from having this opportunity. What’s more, it’s easy to target a spinner in the first innings when there’s no scoreboard pressure. Australia’s batsmen could attack Leach knowing there were few consequences if they got out. They’d still be miles ahead in the game. It was a gamble they couldn’t lose.

So how does Chris Silverwood, who’s been involved in the professional game for two decades – so he shouldn’t be a complete mug – manage to convince himself that his vacuous selection strategy in these first two Tests was appropriate? I can only assume it’s because he became completely fixated with playing under lights. In others words, he obsessed so much about what might happen when night fell in Adelaide, that he forgot that England would be in the field for five hours before the lights actually came on. What’s more, he totally forgot that the first Test was kind of important, too. And therefore, it might not be the best strategy to keep England’s two leading wicket-takers fresh specifically for an hour’s play at the end of the first day of the second Test.

One wonders, too, whether England’s management even considered that this particular Adelaide Test was being played almost a month later than it’s usually played; therefore it would be lighter for longer. Shane Warne (on commentary) claimed that the day light lasted about an hour longer than it usually does in these day-night fixtures. So how long did that give Anderson and Broad to reverse the whole momentum of the series? Buggar all is the answer.

The absurdity of England’s position became even more apparent when, having waited days for the opportunity to get at Australia’s bastmen under lights, Root ended up bowling himself for a few overs in the shadows to hasten the second new ball. You can’t make this stuff up.

And, of course, none of the above even challenges England’s fundamental assumption that Adelaide was their best opportunity to win a Test. England have lost every single day-night game they’ve played away from home. Australia, on the other hand, are unbeaten in pink ball games at Adelaide. So what, exactly, made Silverwood target this particular fixture as his team’s best chance to succeed?

Now it must be stressed that cricket is a funny old game. Strange things happen. And it’s not unheard of for cocksure bloggers to write something (or someone) off and then have to eat humble pie when they turn out to be a genius. But can you really, realistically, see this happening?

I sense that we’ve all seen this particular movie before. It involves Australia scoring somewhere between 450 and 650. And then England getting rolled over quite quickly for scores in the region of 300 and 200.

And that, my pedigree chums, will be the end of the Ashes as a contest. No team has ever come back from two Tests down to win the urn. And this team is one of the least equipped of all time to break that particular hoodoo.

So will I be sad if England get trounced as predicted? Of course I will. But, I have to admit, that part of me will be numb to it. After all, if you’re going to pick five right-arm medium-fast seamers for a Test match down under, with a Kookaburra ball on a flat deck, then you bloody deserve everything you get.

James Morgan


  • Totally agree James – absolutely ridiculous selection. Predetermined, but like they’d got the first two Tests the wrong way round.

    We should NEVER pick 5 seamers, especially all of about the same pace, in any game – if we can’t bowl out the oppo with 4 of them, a 5th makes no difference. Woakes is superb in England, but his record overseas is atrocious- he should never be picked in an away Test again.

    A fully fit Stokes in the side covers the 4th seamer – and gives us no excuse not to include a spinner. Leach’s confidence was probably pretty low after Brisbane, but it’ll be rock bottom now.

    This one is firmly at Root and Silverwood’s door – for once, we can’t blame their ECB superiors.

  • On the surface you would seem to have hit an important nail of the head but I saw an interview with Graham Thorpe, our Ashes experienced batting coach, justifying the selection. Presumably he knows the conditions well and can see the potential pluses and minuses of our bowling attack. He’s certainly a more experienced man than Silverwood. With Bess and Leach both potentially expensive spinners, given the attitude of the Aussies to Leach at the Gabba, it’s understandable they feel Root as likely to be effective.
    The annoying factor for me after the 1st day, where we largely kept things under control, was another substandard Buttler performance and with Foakes out there doing his stuff behind the stumps and with the bat for the Lions. Just as with Burns at the Gabba dropped catches help lose matches.

    • Spot on about Buttler. Just not good enough as a keeper or batsman at this level. He should stick to yhe hit and giggle stuff.

      • Don’t be silly – nobody at all had anticipated that Buttler would be just the man to drop a crucial catch with the Ashes at a vital moment! A bit like nobody predicted he’ll be just the man to make a pointless fifty to make a humiliating defeat slightly less cringeworthy.

        There needs to a Campaign for Real Keepers and Real Spinners. Partly one could blame it on England’s batting problems why they’ve blundered down this path – but only partly.

        • I did. Buttler has dropped a number of catches and missed stumpings ever since he was drafted into the test side. With a player like Faulkes available, who can bat just as effectively in red ball, it’s ludicrous.

  • “England getting rolled over quite quickly for scores in the region of 300 and 200” – that many, eh? I would be surprised to see that.

    If England didn’t want a specialist spinner then they could have had three front-line pace bowlers, plus Stokes and Root, and put in an extra batsman (not Bairstow though, please).

    Silverwood’s time is unquestionably up. This series will do for him. It should also be the end of Joe Root’s captaincy.

  • Are you saying five right-arm fast-medium bowlers isn’t the ideal attack for Adelaide? Especially when two are the wrong side of 35, one’s a novice, one’s never done anything outside home conditions and one’s manifestly unfit?

    Years of forward-planning went in this! It took very particular talent to come up with it!

  • Australia came back from two tests down in 1936/37, and won the last three. Otherwise, it’s hard to take issue with anything you wrote. I understand the ‘bowling dry’ strategy and to an extent it worked. Also, Labuschagne played and missed more than 20 times in his innings, and was lucky to survive two dropped catches and a near played-on. Mother Cricket will come back to bite him at some stage: let’s hope sooner rather than later!

    • True (I was going to pick up on that too), but Australia did have a not very secret weapon called Don Bradman for that series.

  • Totally agree James. The England “management” from Silverwood, Root and the wretched ECB are imbecilic and should be sacked. I’m by no means an expert in all the technicalities, but I’ve watched enough cricket to know that this bunch haven’t a clue, and that filters down through the player’s, most of who haven’t got the skills for test cricket. Why?ECB policy or lack of it, over the last decade prioritising the hit and giggle. And frankly I don’t think most of them are good enough anyway.
    We all know it, but when oh when is cricket going to be restructured top down? This crap can’t go on.

    • I agree with most of what’s here (both yours and James’). It’s hard to understand the “thinking” (I’m being generous) of the ECB, Silverwood and Root. Let’s start with the ECB. They have done everything in their power to destroy test cricket, by moving the championship to April and September (when conditions are nothing like those in tests). We reap what they sow, particularly the batting (no one can rely on a true pitch in April and September).

      I presume Silverwood and Root selected the teams for the first two tests. I also presume they decided to ignore any evidence of previous tours (by England or anyone else) to Australia in doing so. That is the only possible explanation for the team balance in both tests. As a related issue, how can England continue to justify having a part time wicket keeper when chances are at a premium (because of poor team selection)? It’s not as if Buttler actually contributes match winning innings.

      I think the racism crisis in English cricket could be the catalyst for change.

      I fear Root will come out of the Yorkshire racism crisis badly. He was a room mate of Gary Ballance, and could have acted to stop the abuse, but didn’t. Chris Silverwood was a player at Yorkshire then coach at Essex, both of which have had issues. ECB leadership simply doesn’t exist.

      I thought Glenn McGrath was on his usual wind up predicting 5-0. Now I think he’s right.

  • I understand that if the match finishes early, Silverwood has challenged the Aussies to a PowerPoint contest !

  • Exactly the chat that’s been going on in my club’s Whatsapp group. Remarkable stupidity. And that’s before you even get to picking your best keeper.

    Spot on, James.

  • Absolutely James. It defies belief. Brisbane was our best chance to win a Test, but they played what the computer said rather than what was in front of them.
    The other one that really gets my goat is Buttler. However many times he costs us crucial wickets with his hopeless keeping, there are NEVER consequences. When you’ve got a keeper as good as Ben Foakes who is also a very good batsman, it’s maddening.

    • There’s not much difference in their Test batting averages, and I did post here a while ago that my guess is that Foakes’s will be higher than Buttler’s by the end of this series ! If you add in the runs Foakes saves; the catches and stumpings he takes, he is a far better bet overall than Buttler, and that is before you take into account the effect on a bowler of seeing catches put down and, in the case of spinners if we ever play one again, stumpings missed.

  • As an Australian we can believe our luck especially after losing cummins right before start. Butler is clearly not good enough for a test keeper. You can drop regulation knicks like that in a test match and expect to win. Fine for white ball when catches are less important than runs conceeded but catches are 90% of fielding in Tests.

    Generally England bowled too short and with the amount of bounce lots could be left and the deviations of the seam of which there were plenty left clear air between bat and ball. Unwilling to bowl a bit fuller and risk getting hit in exchange for nicks. I remember something similar in 2017

    • That’s a decent summary, Steve : the sad thing from an English point of view is that you, accurately, could have written the same thing all too often about England in the last few years !

  • Very good analysis of the crazy selection practices James. I’m Australian but foremost an Ashes tragic who is tired of the one sided beltings handed out every 4 years, except for 2010/11, and lack of a contest. I’ve logged off for this series already after just under 6 days of actual play and am getting too old to think that there will be a competitive Ashes series down under within the next 20 years.

  • With England two down when the lightning put them temporarily out of their misery, I rather expect to wake up tomorrow morning and check in after the “Dinner” interval to find them six down for not very many. The point that five identikit seamers is too many just seems screamingly obvious, even if three of them are Anderson, Broad and Robinson. The strategic arguments for the particular rotation of bowlers are, as you say, absurd. However, apart from rotation, they also seem not to have got the skills or the physique to get the best out of the Kookaburra. Starc and Richardson got it to hoop all over the place by bowling it at speeds that were just high enough to make it really difficult for the batsmen. We can afford one master bowler who operates at about 130kph, but not if the others can barely get above 140, and none of them can swing it is a Dukes or it is pink and the lights are on.

    Buttler seemed out of sorts as soon as he dropped Labuschagne for the first time, which seemed too soon to descend into the bathyscaphe of depression; but he shouldn’t really be here. Except for Root, the batsmen all have their own problems, technical or temperamental, but these are magnified by the selection of a different wrong attack in both games.

  • Time for the media to start blaming Malan for “not going on”, “not making daddy hundreds” etc while ignoring those contributing eff all? I seem to remember they blamed him for getting out on 140 on the last tour.

  • Hah! The Guardian OBO has ” we shouldn’t be blaming Malan and Root but… ” entry soon followed by a suggested batting order for the next Test where Malan is demoted in the order. Take the one thing that’s working and change it because of everything that isn’t is genius! And how did Ollie Pope become ” the next great England middle order batsman” without anyone apparently realising until now he can’t play off-spin?

    I’m also a big fan of the Australian TV graphic showing the supposed area a fielder is covering – as if the quality of the shot and the fielder (or lack of it) makes no difference….

  • Just at the moment, Joe Root is the best batsman and the best spinner in England. Is it really reasonably to have him as captain too?
    Peter Drake
    teacher Hexham

  • I just feel so bad for Root. The guy’s doing everything in his power to take this team forward but all he’s been getting in return is dropped catches, mediocre batting performances (Malan excluded), poor decision from the management. With 3 more tests to go, I can’t imagine Root’s helplessness.


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