ENGLAND lost The Ashes for many reasons, but top of the list has been the complete non-performance of five senior players.
Alastair Cook, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and captain Joe Root have been desperately poor.
It means England’s attack has been pop gun compared to the heavy artillery of Australia.
And the batsmen have been bombarded into submission by bowlers of great skill and speed.
I got into some bother two winters ago for awarding Woakes nought out of ten for his performance on a tour of South Africa.
Well, those five players wouldn’t get many more than that, let me tell you.
Let’s start with the bowling. James Anderson has been head and shoulders above the rest and Craig Overton showed some promise and courage playing on with his cracked rib. But as for the rest . . .
The biggest concern is the form of Broad. He has gone 54 overs without a wicket and it has been a dramatic fall from grace.
One explanation could be that he tried different wrist positions on the less responsive pitches of the subcontinent last year and now can’t get his wrist behind the ball to create that snap on release.
Whatever the reason, he hasn’t been able to get any pace and bounce or consistency of line and length.
Woakes had one decent spell under lights at Adelaide but, apart from that, looked a medium-pace, straight up and down trundler.
Moeen has three wickets in three Tests and has not extracted turn or kept the runs down. He hasn’t contributed anything worthwhile with the bat, either. He has been a massive disappointment.
As all-rounders, the likes of Woakes and Moeen needed to step up in the absence of Ben Stokes. But they have gone the other way and been diminished by the size of the occasion and talent of the opposition.
You can’t criticise the commitment of England’s bowlers — they have toiled away manfully — but there is a huge gulf in class in Australian conditions.
There will be a time when opening batsman Cook has nothing more to give but I don’t think that time has arrived yet.
Seven years ago, he looked in equally bad nick against Pakistan, scored a scratchy century at The Oval and went on to pile up 766 runs in The Ashes that winter.
I don’t like people such as Kevin Pietersen saying Cook looks uninterested. Nobody over the last decade has been more committed to the England cause than Cook.
But once an Aussie attack gets the wood over you, it is difficult to find any form, particularly with no matches between the Tests.
Cook, by his own admission, has a limited number of scoring shots and the Aussies relentlessly targeted his vulnerabilities around off stump. They bowled superbly to him but I wouldn’t be writing off Cook just yet.
I don’t necessarily believe the captaincy has affected Root’s batting. I just think Australia have bowled fabulously well.
Their attack is several light years ahead of England’s and frightening at times.
England’s lower-order is routinely blown away. As soon as the sixth wicket falls, that’s it, game over. Broad’s batting has disintegrated since being clattered on the head against India in 2014 and the bowlers all took some blows.
Even right at the end of the Third Test, Anderson took a crashing hit on the helmet.
By contrast, Pat Cummins comes in at No 9 for Australia and bats without a care in the world because he knows England don’t have the firepower to hurt him.
In Test cricket, home advantage is getting more pronounced. England have won the last four Ashes series at home but are heading for a third whitewash in the last four tours. The Aussies struggle desperately in India and Sri Lanka.
It will be interesting to see how India perform in England next summer. They are notoriously bad travellers but look the most complete team in batting, spin and pace.
England’s rookies have provided some glimpses of promise.
The emergence of Dawid Malan has been a highlight, while Mark Stoneman and James Vince have both scored a couple of half-centuries. But it should be the other way round with the experienced players setting an example and helping the new guys settle.
Ashes series are often watersheds for coaches and players. There will inevitably be calls for a clear-out and players to be dumped.
But I agree with Root that there is no point panicking and repeating what happened four years ago when they said to Boyd
Rankin and Scott Borthwick: “Here you are, have a Test cap!”
Rankin and Borthwick — remember them? They remain members of the one-Test club.
And does anybody believe in their heart of hearts that other players will be better than Cook, Broad, Woakes and Moeen?
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