Style and Substance elude England

This Ashes tour has been labelled as England’s worst ever tour and given the score lines that Australia have beaten England by in this 5-0 drubbing it’s difficult to argue with.

England ended a bleak tour of Australia with a 281 run defeat inside three days at the SCG. England completely capitulated within 32 overs to 166 all out with Michael Carberry top scoring with 43. Not since 1984 has an England side lost five successive test matches by margins in excess of 100 runs or eight wickets. At Brisbane they were hammered by 381 runs, Adelaide 218 runs, Perth 150 and Melbourne they lost by 8 wickets.

In 2006 the tour had exactly the same storyline, a vengeful Australian side desperate to put things right, a key English batsman leaving the tour early due to a stress related illness and a 5-0 score line.

The only difference this time is that this Australian side did not contain the world beaters of Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Gilchrist, Hussey, Warne and McGrath.This Australian side in comparison had some good players and a good seam attack but only Johnson and Harris would get in the 2006/07 team.

For England it’s a tour that has signalled the end of an era, the team formed under Andrew Strauss has been dismantled in truly spectacular style. Even when Strauss retired this was the same England team that beat India in India for the first time in 28 years and barring an extra five minutes would have beaten the same Australian team 4-0 in England.

The return of Mitchell Johnson cannot be understated, he was voted Man of the Series and rightly so, his pace in Brisbane set the alarming tone that was to follow for the rest of the series, and throughout the remaining four tests he made established English batsmen look very average. Johnson’s 37 wickets came at an incredible average of 13.97 Complemented perfectly by Lyon, Siddle and Harris this bowling unit made an experienced batting line up look distinctly average.

The form of the much maligned opening batsmen David Warner was a key factor as well, his scores in the second innings of the opening three tests were 124, 83* and 112. His form did decline in the last two tests but by then the Ashes had already been won and the wheels had well and truly fallen off England’s wagon by then.

The other notable performer in the series were Brad Haddin who’s series average of 61 included 1 century and 5 half centuries, all those runs came at crucial times for Australia. In Brisbane he came in when Australia were 100-5, in Adelaide 257-5 and led them to 570, in Perth 143-5 and helped them to 385, and in Sydney he came in at 5-97 and they ended on 326. These were all crucial first innings runs and he was a consistent thorn in England’s side.

An England tour that started with Jonathon Trott, Graeme Swann, Matt Prior and Joe Root ended in Sydney without any of them in the side. The way the Australian press and cricket team dismantled a team that had been chasing a fourth successive Ashes series win, and had worked their way to number one in the rankings only a short while ago, was impressive yet alarming to behold.

Australia and in particular Man of the Series Mitchell Johnson completely dismantled the spine of the England team; with key batsmen Jonathon Trott leaving after the first test due to a stress related illness. Matt Prior was dropped for the Melbourne test after a barren summer averaging a paltry 17 since his last ton against New Zealand in March and Graeme Swann’s shock retirement compounded the misery, albeit it came after the Ashes had already been surrendered.

England’s key batting trio of Kevin Pietersen , Alastair Cook and Ian Bell ended the series with averages of 29, 24 and 26 respectively. Only Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad can hold their heads high. Broad finished with 21 wickets and was by far the best England bowler. For Stokes on his maiden tour to be the only batsmen to score a century and to take 15 wickets is a special effort, especially when all those around him spectacularly folded.

Many called the displays of the batting unit gutless, embarrassing, lacking in any fight and there’s not a lot of arguing that Cook and Flower can do that will change people’s minds. For a batting line up as supposedly good as ours was to have one century throughout an entire five match test tour is unacceptable, when you consider that Ben Stokes was in his second test match and scored the ton it’s even more damning on established batsman Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Joe Root.

The worrying thing about the batting was not just the lack of scores but the way in which England scored them, their run rate throughout the series was 3.08 compared to Australia’s 3.71. There are only two innings that England beat Australia and that was in the final innings at Sydney in which they were all out for a pathetic 166 and in the first innings in Melbourne.

The bowling throughout was not brilliant either, the plans and the accuracy of the bowlers were nowhere near as good as Australia’s and the difference in pace was there for all to see.

It’s harsh to attach too much blame to the bowling unit though,the likes of James Anderson and Graeme Swann had bowled more overs in 2013 than any other test match pace bowler and spinner and due to the poor performance of the batsmen during recent times they have had to get England out of many holes almost single handedly at times. Stuart Broad was the best England quick of the series and was only beaten by the brilliance of Johnson and Harris overall in the series.

For England its back to the drawing board, an inquest is imminent and questions have to be asked about an environment where so many players have lost form at the same time. Not the batting, bowling or fielding coach can claim to have had a successful tour.


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