What a terrible day. It was miserable. The worst. The hope generated by Jofra Archer yesterday has completely evaporated, and now we have to contemplate our fears becoming reality – fears those of us who care deeply about our first class game have harboured for years.
As I watched England collapse to 67 all out I was shellshocked. But at the same time I don’t think anyone was surprised. We’ve been bowled out for under 100 a record 4 times onTrevor Bayliss’s watch. The only positive – and I dare the management to cling to this particular straw – is that at least we managed to survive a whole session this time.
In truth this Ashes defeat has been four years, if not longer, in the making. Everyone who’s been paying attention knows it. The ECB couldn’t organise a fuck up in a brothel. So why should anyone be surprised that our ODI success has come at such a horrific cost: the worst test batting line-up in living memory.
Most countries manage to have competent test and ODI sides at the same time. Our Ashes foes won World Cups and Ashes series simultaneously for fun. But not England. Oh no. We go from one extreme to the other like a bunch of rank amateurs.
A couple of weeks ago I advocated the popularly held theory that bowling wickets doctored for Anderson and Broad have papered over the cracks for years. Precisely nobody disagreed. However, I then took a slightly more controversial position by suggesting that this approach wouldn’t save us this time. And so it has proved.
The uncomfortable truth is that this particular England batting line-up is so bad, and so lacking in technique, that asking them to face Hazlewood, Siddle, Cummins, Pattinson (or whatever combination Australia prefer) on green tops is almost suicidal. It’s tough to bat against this lot on good batting tracks let alone decks that assist the bowlers. Is it any wonder they got bowled out for 67 today?
With Jimmy Anderson missing, Australia’s attack is just as good as England in English conditions. It might even be better. And with Steve Smith scoring crucial runs at Edgbaston and Lord’s, and Shane Labuschagne proving to be quite the find in his absence, I think we’ve discovered that Australia’s batting lineup, flawed as it is, is also better than ours in English conditions.
My preferred strategy, therefore, would’ve been to prepare tracks that are good for batting. This would at least give us a chance to post big totals and then hope that scoreboard pressure might take its toll on Australia. We’d still need to win the odd important toss, of course, which would enable us to bowl last when there’s some turn for the spinners and inconsistent bounce for the seamers, but at least we’d be able to stay in the game.
Now I know what you’re going to say. England got hammered in conditions like this down under and lost 0-4. However, that England team had no pace to trouble the Aussies. This time we’ve got Jofra Archer, and might have had Mark Wood and Ollie Stone too if it wasn’t for unfortunate injuries.
But there’s no point crying over spilt milk. Australia are a better side than us and they might well have won whatever the conditions anyway. The bottom line is that England have lost this series – and I’m assuming they’ll lose tomorrow because I doubt we’ll be able to chase 150 let alone 300 – because our current domestic structure simply doesn’t encourage the development of red ball batsmen. Graves and Harrison should hang their heads in shame.
On top of all that we have an incompetent chairman of selectors whose whole philosophy is completely insane. The idea that all-rounders rather than specialists wins test matches, and that performing in front of big IPL crowds is a substitute for technique, goes against the whole history of test cricket.
I can’t believe that someone so academically clever, who has played and watched professional cricket for decades, could make such a catastrophic misjudgement. Perhaps Smith was just lying to himself because deep down he felt he had no option but to pick the white ball specialists. After all, the first class cupboard is almost completely bare. And we all know whose fault that is.
The other thing that irks me is that the international summer is basically over now. When Australia go 2-0 up at some point over the next day or two, all we’ll have is two dead rubbers to look forward to. The test summer has therefore been a complete damp squib. It started at the beginning of August and it’s over already within three weeks.
Before I sign off, I’d like to ask you all whether the World Cup win was worth the humiliation we’re suffering now. In my opinion nothing is worth this; nothing is worth sacrificing the first class game for. What’s more, our test team is likely to be very poor for some time now.
If you’re looking for a light at the end of the tunnel you might have to wait a long time. With the ECB fixated on its pathetic Hundred experiment, which makes Ashley Giles’s promise to reinvigorate first class cricket undeliverable, we’ve only just ventured into the dark. And at this stage I’m not even sure where this metaphorical tunnel goes or ends.