Faithful supporters have spent sleepless nights watching a predictably poor and one-dimensional England side get battered in Australia. As soon as the news broke of our talisman Ben Stokes’ involvement in a brawl outside a nightclub in September, England fans predicted the worst. In the end we came a long way short of retaining the Ashes. James Anderson, speaking to the press following defeat in the fifth test, said that “England had not been blown away” and that “the planning could not have been better”. I disagree.
Team selection is a major reason we did so poorly. The batting was good in places. Malan can be proud of his performances in his first Ashes series, Cook made a wonderful double century, Bairstow a century, and Root consistently got starts without making those all important big scores. It was the bowling that was the real difference between the sides. Our three fast bowlers, Broad, Anderson and Woakes are all experts in English conditions, but as everyone predicted before the series, their lack of pace did not cause the Australian batsmen any real problems. There was a serious lack of aggression that led to Smith and others amounting huge scores that took games away from England.
Trevor Bayliss (England coach) and Joe Root have already said that the team have started to prepare for the next Ashes tour in four years time. How exactly are they doing this? Our three most successful cricketers, Cook, Broad and Anderson will not be in the team. Are they therefore going to drop these players in the summer to look to the future? No. What they need to do is think about the conditions in Australia that continue to make us look foolish and ill-prepared. The pitches are fast, bouncy and flat, very flat. So why do we not prepare county and test pitches that emulate these conditions, at least somewhat? Yes, the green seaming pitches in England suit the bowlers we have in the test team. But the reason we produce so many bowlers of the same ilk is precisely because the pitches are green and they seam. Just like in Australia they produce faster bowlers because their pitches require them to be that way, and India produce great spinners because their pitches spin. There is always going to be a home advantage, but if we want to become the best Test side in the world we should be focussing on how we can win more away Test matches, rather than being content with consistently winning at home.
Trevor Bayliss has openly admitted to not watching County cricket. This became clear when he announced that he had not seen his opening batsman Mark Stoneman play. Can you imagine Gareth Southgate not watching Premier League football? Or Eddie Jones not watching domestic rugby? Bayliss has also said he will not fight for a renewed contract after 2019. We’ve got news for you Trevor, we don’t want you anyway. Supporters of Bayliss will point to a resurgence in white ball cricket since his appointment, and they would be correct. However, it was actually when Paul Farbrace took temporary charge of the one day team that our impressive run scoring and attacking brand of cricket in the short format came to the fore. I would put the success of the team not down to Bayliss, but vice coach Farbrace, along with Eoin Morgan. His relaxed style has allowed a young one day side to go out and express themselves with a consistency we have not seen before.
England have got a lot of work to do in the next four years to avoid further embarrassment Down Under. We will have to replace Broad, Anderson and Cook who will have retired by 2021 and will have to select a team that can exploit the conditions in Australia, something we have consistently failed to do. I have no doubt that we will beat Pakistan and India this summer, but rather than getting carried away with home success, we must focus on rebuilding our team ahead of away test series in the future.