The Glorious Ashes and the Burning Issues

See the urn in this picture? It’s ours. It’s bloody ours. I’m delighted.

For all the arguments that have blighted English cricket over the last eighteen months, it was the sight of the old enemy that finally turned things around. When confronted by the prospect of David Warner downing tinnies and Mitchell Johnson singing ‘Killer Queen’ victoriously on The Oval balcony, the lion’s share of the English public suddenly got behind its team again.

This made a huge difference. Would we have won the Ashes without the brilliant crowd at Edgbaston, and to a lesser extent Cardiff and Trent Bridge too? Not on your nelly.

I suppose it all started with the ODIs against New Zealand. The public enjoyed the attacking cricket played, and the sight of a few new faces, and they were prepared to let bygones by bygones. According to all the polls on Cricinfo and The Telegraph, over 85% of people thought Pietersen was badly treated. But the key point is this: why did the public support KP? Because he was entertaining and we stood a better chance of beating the Aussies with him in the team.

When England began to play attractive cricket, and started beating Australia anyway, the arguments were laid to rest. This won’t please everyone, and there will still be some who can’t forgive and forget (a perfectly valid position to hold), but this is what happened.

With the majority finally behind the team again, the pressure valve was released. The dismissal of the unpopular (outside the dressing room at least) Peter Moores and the removal of Paul Downton also helped. Suddenly, public enemies number two and three were gone. Meanwhile public enemy number one, Giles Clarke, buggered off to the ICC, where he fits in very nicely thank you. Him and Srinivasan make a lovely pair. And by lovely I mean repellent of course.

Although Andrew Strauss handled the KP ‘recall’ issue appallingly – deep down we all know he was appointed because he’s cut from the same cloth as the ECB aristocrats and he was the only candidate that didn’t want Pietersen back – Strauss actually got some major decisions spot on.

For starters, the decision to sack Moores was one hundred percent right. It was a tough call, considering the beef that previously existed between the pair, but it was the right one. Strauss then shunned the populist candidate, Jason Gillespie, in favour of Trevor Bayliss.

Again this was an utterly brilliant decision. Gillespie is likeable and has been successful at Yorkshire, but Bayliss was the hard-nosed veteran, and the cool head, that England have needed for a long time. While Gillespie had enjoyed success at domestic level, Bayliss had enjoyed success at both domestic and international level. There’s really no comparison. Bayliss was the best candidate by a mile. Their CVs don’t even compare.

A major reason England have won the Ashes is the dramatic improvement in Cook’s captaincy. In my opinion this is a direct result of Cook freeing himself from the stale, unimaginative, attritional ethos of Flower and Moores.

When Ian Ward asked Bayliss whether the skipper seems liberated and full of ideas because the coach has ‘the odd word in his ear’, Bayliss smiled, nodded and answered in the affirmative: “I simply put a couple of thoughts in Alastair’s head and he chooses which one to implement”.

Meanwhile, Strauss and Bayliss assembled a superior backroom team. As pointed out by Teece in Maxie’s questionnaire post yesterday evening, the re-appointment of Otis Gibson has made a huge difference. Most of us were sick of David Saker, and Gibson’s fresh ideas really reinvigorated the attack. England’s plans for each Aussie batsman were spot on.

It was also a masterstroke to retain the services of Paul Farbrace – who many of us thought should have got the job when Moores did. I sense that Farbrace is the glue that holds the dressing room together and makes the players feel comfortable.

Because England got these off-field decisions right and were able to play with a modicum of freedom – a result of reconnecting with the public and the fact they were big underdogs – the team approached the Ashes in exactly the right frame of mind. The result? Things just went our way.

The phrase ‘you make your own luck’ is a bit too simplistic for my liking, but it has an undeniable element of truth. I think England got lucky – we were on the right end of important tosses and our batsmen played-and-missed considerably more – because we felt good about ourselves.

The players embraced the series in exactly the right manner and played as though they had nothing to lose. Moeen Ali’s important cameos down the order, which often happened at crucial times, embodied this joie de vivre. When England were under the pump, Mo did some happy hitting and swung momentum back to England.

Obviously this is a somewhat philosophical argument, and there are more tangible reasons for England’s success – Ryan Harris retiring, Joe Root outscoring Steve Smith handsomely, and our bowlers showing far more consistency than Johnson, Starc and the overhyped Hazlewood – but this is my indie view.

Some people will claim, of course, that the Ashes victory vindicates Downton, Moores, Whitaker and Strauss’s stance over Pietersen, and claim this is why England won the Ashes. Such a position is so banal and witless there seems little point dignifying it with serious discussion. Only Joe Root of England’s batsmen shone, and half the team is either friends with Pietersen or said complimentary things about him after the last Ashes.

We would’ve won more comfortably with Pietersen’s runs in my opinion. Let’s not forget that Downton and Moores lost their jobs for a reason. I doubt the World T20 and the World Cup would’ve been so disastrous without the needless controversy KP’s outright sacking caused. I’m sure Alastair Cook wishes the ECB had done things differently. Even Strauss admits it was handled badly.

However, this Ashes win is significant because the Pietersen issue is now dead. Hallelujah! Whenever I criticise the ECB most people I speak to immediately think it’s all about KP. I’ve wasted hours explaining that I’ve always been ambivalent about Pietersen. Whenever an ECB critic mentions the ‘P word’, the person they’re speaking to immediately stops listening. This is not the issue with which to win friends and influence people – to convince them that the ECB is cheating English cricket, world cricket and the public.

If you haven’t done so already, please, please, please go and watch Death of a Gentleman. The way the ECB has stitched up the rest of the cricketing world alongside the BCCI and the ACB is appalling, unethical and it makes me embarrassed to be an England supporter. These are the issues we need to ram home.

I also think it’s a tragedy that only a fraction of the population was able to watch the brilliant Ashes win on TV. Sky do a brilliant job, but their monopoly of live cricket on English TV is terrible for the game. The football and rugby Premierships might be on pay TV channels too, but crown jewels like the FA Cup and the World Cups remain on free-to-air. This is crucial. Rugby fans will tell you that the Six Nations and the World Cup are the only things that keep the sport relevant.

When it comes to holding the ECB to account, I sense corruption and greed are the issues that will resonate most. I know some people are worried that an Ashes win will paper over the cracks, and convince the public that English cricket in good hands, but I promise you it won’t – just so long as bloggers like ourselves, and Being Outside Cricket, and all the good people who read and comment on this blog, keep plugging away. They won’t get away with it because we won’t bloody let them.

Anyway, I’m not going to sign off with a political rant. I’m going to finish by returning to today’s amazing scenes at Trent Bridge. While the nation’s footballers continue to betray their fan bases by jumping ship at the first sign of a bigger pay cheque, and strut around like nouveau riche yobs, our cricketers are a breath of fresh air.

The joy on the faces of Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler and Mark Wood (who is delightfully innocent, down to earth and ever enthusiastic) was the highlight of the day for me. These are our guys. They played really well and we’re all proud of them.

They can’t help it if their employees are incompetent and disingenuous. Nobody likes their boss anyway, right?

James Morgan



  • I currently seem incapable of coherent thought.

    It was classy of Cook to acknowledge Peter Moores. Then Warne praised Cook’s captaincy and I realized it’s all a dream. Please don’t wake me.

  • You said it for me. I’m lost for words. The team and their supporters have come through so much. At last today, we have made it. I’m deliriously happy.

  • It’s a fantastic achievement. I thought Cook spoke quite well at the end. Classy to recognise Michael Clarke. The team came together at just the right time. Everything went our way.

  • Will there be a drunken bus ride through London tomorrow with Stoke grinning aimlessly?

  • Wonder if Cook might come to regret his repeated bigging-up of Peter Moores. The skipper seemed a bit swept up in the emotion of victory without engaging his brain.

    Bayliss didn’t seem remotely impressed on SKY to be reminded Cook had played down his role. Seemed he – Bayliss – had Cook’s comments duly noted…

    And Strauss won’t have been impressed at all….

      • If you believe Moores deserves ANY credit – when his emasculation of Cook’s leadership over selection in WI almost cost BOTH their jobs – then go knock yourself out

  • 1. Michael Clarke is retiring from international cricket. High time and I thought this would come after the World Cup but maybe he thought he could win the Ashes in England and get one up over Ponting. He was emotional and why not? But are the team really in good hands? Maybe so! Nevertheless Pup will be missed on the field.

    2. Alastair Cook made a funny by saying that Bayliss shouldn’t be given that much credit. He makes funnies now! Where is that stoic Cook from 18 months ago? See what winning the Ashes does to you? But the gesture when he mentioned Peter Moores and how much of this success is down to him was mighty of him indeed. He also became emotional and why not?

    3. Root – No.1 Test batsman. Broad and Jimmy – No.2 and 3 Test bowlers respectively. NO ONE EVER SAW THAT COMING! (insert Broad’s surprised face at Stokes’ catch here)

    4. Australia – this is a perfect example of ‘looks good on paper but doesn’t live up to it’ Starc, Nevill and Rogers have been the stand-out players in the 4 Tests so far. Johnson erratic and Hazlewood is steady but not overly threatening. Smith is good but might have been discovered.

    5. 3-1 with one Test to go? England bowlers becoming the first team to win 100 Tests by an innings? England becoming the only team to have 4 bowlers take 5fers (actually 6fers but then….) in 4 consecutive innings (Jimmy, Finny – Edgbaston and Broad, Stokes – Trent Bridge) Bowling out Australia in the lowest innings in Test history? Some records indeed.

    Selection time and England might do good to maybe give Footitt or Plunkett a chance. No need to play Jimmy and Rashid might go through the Kerrigan route (no need for that to happen.) Then again Rashid might definitely play in the UAE and maybe he will come in. But who goes out if Rashid does make his debut?

    • There is a rumour that Rashid will play at the Oval. I would drop Buttler to make way. Bairstow keeps. Buttler’s shot at TB said ‘I give up, I ain’t up to this’ written all over it. Sorry to say.

      • Yes, Buttler’s a fine acrobat but not much of a ‘keeper’ nor batsman at the highest level at this stage.

        Trying Johnny out now as keeper if he’s likely to keep in the UAE makese sense in a dead game

      • Sorry James but if by “this” you mean Test cricket that’s barking.

        He has one bad series after three good ones – and you conclude on that basis he’s not up to Test cricket? He obviously was trying to hit himself into some form (after fairly having been accused of being too tentative this series) and got a good one from Starc who was in the middle of an excellent spell. It happens.

        Remember Buttler was one of the few who stood up in the WC. He was also excellent in the 13/14 ODIs in Oz when the team was under the pump. I know these are ODIs and not Tests but look at players who perform away when the team are losing – not players who perform at home when the going is easy. By all means give Buttler a game off and a break (especially if he’s carrying a minor injury – remember he missed some of the NZ ODIs) but to dump him permanently in Tests is silly.

        (Apologies if you didn’t mean what I think you meant).

        • I meant that Buttler thought ‘I’m not up to facing test bowling of this quality’. I think Buttler is a world class ODI talent, but I’m not convinced he can score runs against top class test bowling at the moment. Runs against India and the West Indies really means very little. It’s not much of a step up from county cricket imho. Let’s not forget that Bopara has 2/3 test tons against the Windies. It meant sod all when he was up against the better teams. I think England need to find players who can beat the best teams, not just thrive against the weaker ones. I like Jos a lot, and think he’s super talented, but he needs to work on his technique – just like Ballance.

          • I would be disappointed to see Buttler left out, but he currently owes his position to incredibly muddled thinking on wicket-keeper selection and succession planning over the past 2 years. If England were starting with a blank sheet of paper, Bairstow would now stroll into the test team as wicket-keeper batsman, and one worth his place as a batsman too. But I doubt that will happen at the Oval. The selectors will want Bairstow to have another crack as a middle order batsman unencumbered with the gloves. However, if Buttler fails with the bat again, I suspect he may find himself sitting out the winter test tours.

          • On the point about how much runs against the WI indicate, I’d agree about runs made against them in England. They have a terrible away record. Bopara made two centuries against them in England.

            Runs in the WI I’d argue another matter. Bopara made one century there – on such a road of a pitch that England’s 600 was countered by 749! Even Ramdin could make 166. Of course not too much should have been read into that.

            We need to remember that we haven’t beaten WI on the last two tours. We could have done with someone who could make some runs at Bridgetown this time around!

      • Right now, Rashid would probably score more runs… and is certainly a better bowler.

        The Oval would be the ideal time to pick him, but I’d be truly surprised if it happens.

  • I am delighted and relieved that we have won back the Ashes surrendered so ignominiously in Australia in 2013-2014. I liked the way the Aussie tail was polished off quickly this morning and that young Mark Wood was able to chip in at the end and take two of the three wickets.

    Reasons for England’s retaking of the Urn…

    1. Australian batsmens’ inability to cope with lateral movement of the ball, especially at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.
    2. Michael Clarke’s loss of form and careless dismissals, setting a bad example to his colleagues.
    3. Poor shot selection by Aussies batsmen in the 3rd and 4th Tests.
    4. Stuart Broad leading the attack in Jimmy’s absence and producing that unbelievable 8 for 15 spell, but also his excellent bowling throughout the series.
    5. The fact that several England bowlers, in addition to Broad, had key spells at different times. Anderson at Cardiff and Edgbaston 1st innings, Finn at Edgbaston 2nd innings, Stokes at Trent Bridge, plus useful wickets here and there for Wood and Ali.
    6. Joe Root’s batting. I think his series average is in the mid 70s now, with power to add. He looks a class apart from the other England batsmen at the moment.
    7. Better fielding and slip-catching by England. The catching drills brought in by Farbrace and Bayliss seem to be working.
    8. A better team spirit in the England camp, even after the humiliating loss at Lord’s. Bayliss must take some credit here, as well as for asking for livelier wickets after Lord’s too. Cook must have a hand in this too, even if he has had a quiet series with the bat.
    9. Divisions in the Aussie dressing room.
    10. Fantastic fans encouraging the team, especially Edgbaston. This must lift the players. At polite, sedate Lord’s we never do so well on the whole. Wonder what the Oval crowd will be like.

    • Agree with every word. Thanks for doing the ‘tangible reasons why we won’ bit for me :-)

    • I agree with nearly all of that, although I think the “divisions in the Assue dressing room” have been overstated in their significance.

      Australia’s batting absolutely capitulated in the 3rd and 4th Tests. There’s no dancing around it. Sure, there was some useful English bowling, but it certainly wasn’t awesome enough to justify those first-innings collapses.

      Cast your mind back to the first two Tests. For me, who had some doubts about Australia pre-series and felt England could win if they played well, those first two Tests brought confirmation. At Cardiff, Australia bowled and batted carelessly while England played well enough to make them pay. At Lord’s Australia made big runs on a benign surface and then ran through England with some high-quality fast bowling.

      Those Tests were, in microcosm, what I expected from this series leading up to it, with the upshot that Australia would probably come out with their noses slightly in front.

      But at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, that all went up in smoke. The incompetence of Australia’s batting rendered all other considerations meaningless.

      • Lords was down to ‘High Quality fast bowling’ and other tests were down to ‘useful bowling’ and ‘Australian capitulation’


  • A very good summary.

    England have won the Ashes more emphatically in 2015 than 2013 but the reasons are very similar. Australian batsmen have struggled on English pitches and the England bowling attack has exploited that weakness brilliantly. In addition Root has chipped in with a very classy ton on a pitch that was helping bowlers. The Australian bowling attack has been poorer in this series than in 2013 when Harris and Siddle bought the Australians closer to victory on a number of occasions than the final Ashes result suggested. I am afraid that as in 2013 the jury is still out about a some of the England batting where I suspect a lot of the old issues still remain. I can’t criticise Cook in this Test at all as his decision to put the Australians in to bat first proved absolutely correct in terms of both the pitch and exposing the psychological weaknesses of his opponents who performed as though the wicket was completely unplayable in the first innings even though subsequent events showed runs were quite possible with a bit of application.

  • “Would we have won the Ashes without the brilliant crowd at Edgbaston, and to a lesser extent Cardiff and Trent Bridge too? Not on your nelly.”

    Turn it up.

    Australia’s batsmen could have self-destructed in an empty stadium.

    • Australian batsmen capitulated in UAE against Pakistan last year in front of very small crowds.

    • Ok maybe a stretch, but the general point is valid. England wouldn’t have
      played so well, and Australia would’ve felt more relaxed and confident, if the English public was still at war with the team.

        • It wasn’t all Australia being crap. This is an indie view, which tries to look at things a bit differently, and it’s perfectly valid to look at the reasons why England played well and were able to exploit Australia’s weaknesses.

  • I don’t suppose that it’s worth pointing out that KP injured himself in May and hasn’t played since, as far as I know, so discussion of whether or not he should have been included is irrelevant.

  • A great performance from England, and its no doubt they well deserved the series win.

    For me the real turning point was at the end of Lords when Bayliss and Cook demanded english wickets. When Lehman says Australia played better in 2013 it is true but I think only because wickets were prepared that suited them more. 2013 I feel may have been much worse had seamers been prepared for that series as well. Reward has been gained for playing to your strengths rather than trying to hide your weaknesses.

    Its always hard to see your flaws when you are winning but I am going to give an external curmudgeonly view of the English bowling.

    There is no doubt that the England bowlers bowled more consistently over all than Australia and Broad has been uniformly superb and the main reason for England’s success. I think he is now far and away the best all conditions bowler your have. Anderson and Finn each bowled a great spell at Edgbaston, but can’t say either have impressed that much otherwise. I am even less convinced by Wood. Until Stokes came on and started that brilliant spell of swing, it looked like Broad was going to have to do all the work in the second innings in Trent Bridge. Finn and Wood were non threating. Finn of course bowled brilliantly at Edgbaston so it remains to be seen if this was a poor outing or inconsistency. Then there is Moeen Ali. No doubt the best number 8 batsman in the world and, in low scoring seaming games where a spinner isn’t needed but an extra batsman is, he’s certainly a perfect choice. As a spinner? Hmm. He took important wickets at Cardiff and I think was a key part of that win, but the Australian approach to him was stupid and gifted him wickets. You don’t want him hit out of the attack, you want him in so he can be milked for 4 runs an over as they realised at Lords (Warner as usual slow on the uptake) and hasn’t been a threat since with 9 wickets at 50.

    The Australian bowling has been well below what was expected of them. All three seem to have been trying to take wickets rather than bowl with consistency, although one wonders particularly in the case of Hazlewood whether the pressure of low scores to bowl at has been part of the issue. McGrath’s telegraph article is interesting with regard Hazlewood stating that he looks like he’s trying to swing it when he should be just bowling consistent seam line and length, and states how McGrath was dropped in 1994 when he was told he needed an outswinger to be test quality and took 0/104 as a result of bowling them. Starc oscillates between good and inconsistent, one feels he is improving but still has a long way to go. Johnson though is the biggest disappointment he’s bowled incredibly well in flashes but that highlights the sense of overall disappointment. A sort of a microcosm of MJ’s career. You feel he needed 1-2 consistent bowlers to bowl with but didn’t get them. Lyon has been his usual self honest toil does his job commendably takes important wickets doesn’t set the world on fire and still slowly improving. Unless a deadly leg spinner turns up at some stage in the next 5 years to drive him out of his spot he will probably end his career with 400 unassuming wickets .

    For batting for England, Root is of course brilliant will be interested to see if he can cope with SA at home or will suffer as he did in Aus. Cook did enough without being brilliant. Bell also has done well to come back. Still not 100% convinced by him and doubt we will see him in the next ashes. There is a number of holes still. Will Lyth and Butler play at the Oval? Is Stokes a number 7/8 and Ali a 6?

    As for Australia, Clarke has been woeful. Sad to watch a great player brought low but he’s not up to it anymore. Voges might hold his spot for a bit if he can score at the Oval and Sean Marsh did almost exactly what I thought he would do. At least his brother can bowl. With clarke gone S Marsh might still get a run but he’s only there as there is a dearth of quality batting candidates in Australia. Smith has been disappointing, some poor shot selection at Cardiff and TB when he looked like he could do well and he could really do with a season in County cricket to round out his game.

    The real future question is will we once more have a one sided result at the next ashes Australia? Will England get rolled by fast bowling and bouncy pitches as australia have by seamers in England?


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