I’ve had enough of reading about England’s tragedies and how they’ve lost the Ashes and how ironic it was that their only hope of holding onto the urn in the driest of cities was rain.
I’m having some deja vu as I write this, I’ve written about home advantage before on multiple occasions and I stand by the premise that home teams should be allowed to prepare pitches to their advantage. It’s not as though a perfect pitch could have won the Ashes single handedly regardless of which Aussie village cricket team turned up to play England. It’s an advantage that each team has a right to. However when you hear statistics such as Australia haven’t won an Ashes in England in 16 years, it does make you wonder is it really too much of an advantage? Or are there other factors at play…
A team that have the world #3 ranked Test batsman (Joe Root), the #1 ranked Test bowler (Jimmy Anderson), the #5 ranked Test all-rounder (Mo Ali, this could have also included #3 ranked Ben Stokes had he not been busy with other ‘matters’) and yet they still can’t even compete. Yes Steve Smith may be the top ranked batsman but Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc are not even in the top five Test bowlers. England even sit two spots above Australia in the ICC Team rankings and it was only last year that Australia embarrassingly lost 3-0 to a rebuilding Sri Lanka side. So how is it that England were steam-rolled so badly?
One of the potential factors contributing to England’s poor performance down under is everyone comes to English county cricket to benefit from our outstanding county system. With Mohammed Amir playing for Essex, Kumar Sangakkara playing for Surrey, where do the English players go? The best players in the world come to England so it doesn’t make sense to go anywhere else. They have become very accustomed to facing bowlers on their own pitches, very few of the players participate in the IPL (granted it is an entirely different game) but they don’t get much practice on the types of pitches they have been playing on in Australia.
Another of England’s biggest issues if that they have no venom in their bowling right now. They have skill, technique and quality but they are just missing that extra bite. That speed and aggression that would have come with Ben Stokes. Stokes bowls on average a similar speed to Stuart Broad but somehow has an edge that Stuart is missing (that something probably didn’t help him in Bristol but would have done wonders down under). England suffered a double blow as Steven Finn was ruled out from injury too. Players like Tymal Mills and Liam Plunkett have really upped England’s overall average pace in T20s but they are not Test bowlers. Having Mark Wood could have also really helped England especially somewhere like the WACA however I do think it’s been a great opportunity for young players like Tom Curran to make a name for themselves..
On the topic of bowlers, Moeen Ali. This is a point in itself. Moeen Ali reminds me of the old Ravindra Jadeja. For some reason he’s kept in the team regardless of his poor performances. He will have a long run of bad scores and as a one-off hit 50 and take a fifer before going back to single figure scores and full tosses. Using the now third ranked Test bowler is not helping my case but England have persisted with him long enough. It has come to the point where they are using Dawid Malan, their number 4 batsman who is barely a part-time bowler for Middlesex games let alone for England. Malan’s economy rate at the MCG has been much better than Ali’s and since he hasn’t produced any magic with the bat why are England persisting with someone who is so ineffective. He has been unable to hold up an end or dry up the runs like Nathan Lyon and has put even more pressure on the seam bowlers (as if they didn’t have enough work on their backs).
Lastly, England seem to be struggling with their mental game more than their physical. Vince, Stoneman and Malan all relatively new/unsettled players in the top 5 or the batting order which may have contributed to Alastair Cook looking as though he would rather stay in than score runs. Joe Root seems too burdened by captaincy and his inexperienced team and the fact that Cook hadn’t looked like himself until this innings here in Melbourne (the highest score and first man to carry his bat at the MCG). Even when England had gotten themselves into good positions they wasted their opportunities just as Sri Lanka had been doing against India with Johnny Bairstow coming in too low or rash shots from Ali. It seems as though once their concentration breaks they really struggle to get back into the zone. Even this innings, had Cook not been there to steady the ship, England could have been 150 odd runs behind instead of ahead. However with Cook finding his feet it could alleviate some pressure from Root and give the team the boost they need to potentially come away with the next two wins.