WWhat a way for the Ashes to end. England’s performance with the bat throughout the series was terrible, with that collapse on the final day completely in line. I was a bit surprised by the releases. It’s a tough enough task to take on Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland on decent surfaces, but these were very bowler-friendly, and with the ball moving at a good pace, ill-prepared tourists who rely on Young hitters never stand out. It’s certainly not fair to look at the lower order in these circumstances, but the final impression was of Ollie Robinson going so far back that he could barely reach the ball when it was aimed at the stumps, a fitting end to a miserable tour.
Teams get beaten by better teams, that’s part of the sport, but losing the Ashes within 12 days indicates something has gone seriously wrong. There were extenuating circumstances in terms of the team’s preparation, which would have been poor even had it not been affected by bad weather and left Ben Stokes, in particular, coming into the series with barely any cricket. But that’s where the sympathy stops.
The tactics and team selection were particularly difficult to understand. England entered the first test on a green pitch without James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and then the second test in Adelaide, where spin would always play a part, not only without a wheel but also our only fast bowler in Mark Wood. It was when Chris Silverwood came out after that game to insist that, even with the benefit of hindsight, he had picked the right team that he lost my confidence.
Silverwood had spoken at length in the two years since his appointment about building the Ashes, but when the team arrived, whatever he thought he had built turned out to have no foundation. He’s a good guy I know well, but decisions like batting first in Brisbane and shutting out Jack Leach in Adelaide suggested he was approaching games with a pre-planned roster rather than looking at the conditions in front of him. Tactics and team selection are his responsibility, and he has to bear the brunt of his failure.
Ashley Giles, the ECB’s managing director of men’s cricket, gave a highly uninspiring interview ahead of the fourth test when he spoke, as a man whose job is in jeopardy might, about the need to change systems rather than people. He’s been in the job for three years and again there are extenuating circumstances with Covid, but he’s the man who appointed Silverwood, handing him full power to determine selection and tactics, and his other key contribution has been to completely remove support . structure that England had built over many years at Loughborough.
As we look ahead to the promised England test team restart, I think the positions of Silverwood and Giles are untenable. A new head coach must know the English game, have experience in all formats and have their own ideas on how to reshape the team. Look at what happened to the one-day team between 2015 and 2019, but this process will take a little longer. We simply don’t have top-tier batsmen scoring many runs in domestic cricket, so we focus on potential rather than evidence. There are a lot of major series and the focus on Australia is often overkill, but it makes sense to plan for a two-year cycle, which brings us to the next Ashes. Gary Kirsten has said that he would be interested and would be a very interesting candidate.
There are two names that instantly come to mind as Giles’ replacements: Andrew Strauss and Alec Stewart. They both have experience, knowledge of English cricket and the seriousness to make things happen. We know that commercial considerations are paramount at the ECB and that is unlikely to change, but this defeat has been so resounding and the backlash so strong that some things need to change. Their recent priority has been the Hundred, which has had several positive impacts, putting cricket back on the BBC and having the women’s competition running in parallel, but young players must be encouraged to aim for the ultimate challenge, and that it is test cricket.
In Australia we saw three young batsmen in Haseeb Hameed, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope learning on the job, trying to close what has become a huge gap between facing the county closers in April and a fit Australian test attack. unknown. One thing I agree with Giles on is that we need to bring the counties on board and give players more opportunities to play higher quality, pressurized games. The England Lions are meant to be that bridge and hopefully there will be more of a focus on their tours in the future, but a couple of other games could be on the schedule: Lions against the best of the rest, perhaps, or North against south. .
Joe Root spoke after the final test about his ambition to lead the team through the turbulent times ahead and outlined some of his own ideas for the future. One of the failings of Giles and Silverwood is that we have come to this point with a complete lack of candidates for the England captaincy, so it is good that there is no need for a replacement. Despite the embarrassments of the last few weeks, Root has done enough to keep his job, but not everyone involved can say the same.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism