Thursday, 2 January 2014

The fifth Ashes test and the end of an era.

The fourth test has been and gone without me finding any time to write about it.  Being Christmas I managed to watch & listen to quite a bit of the match, just as I did in 2010.  That Christmas was joyous on all fronts and the boxing day test match will be fondly remembered forever.  Not so this year.  An Australian victory by eight wickets on the fourth day sounds like the match took a normal path for this series but half way through England were in the stronger position.  A few months ago they would have pushed on to win convincingly but the deterioration of this team’s confidence since the start of this series came into play.  England bottled it on the third day.  This performance brought back memories of Adelaide 2006, from that point we just knew the series would finish 5-0 and I have that same feeling now.

Here in stormy England, just a few hours before the fifth test begins, rumour has it England are going to make some changes.  Michael Carberry is said to be facing the axe, he’s done better than most of the English batsmen but not enough to make the opening slot his own.  I’ll be disappointed if Carberry doesn’t get one more chance in Sydney, other batsmen have not done as well but will retain their places regardless.  In hindsight we made a big mistake last summer promoting Joe Root to open at the expense of Compton who (like Carberry now), could consider himself unlucky to miss out on the home Ashes series.  Had he played we would have found out for sure if he was up to the job of test opener.  Will he get another chance?  Likewise, had Root stayed at 6 then he would have gained more valuable experience of test batting, against an older ball.  Now it’s rumoured Root will open the batting again, with Gary Ballance coming into the middle order.  Balance is a cricketer I know very little about, like Stokes I suppose?

Monty Panesar is said to have an injury but again, rumours from down under suggest he won’t play whatever his fitness.  Scott Borthwick may come into the side bowling leg spin, now that would be a novelty but is he good enough?  It would be a massive mistake to treat Monty as just a “2nd spinner”; he has a very good record at test level and has out bowled Swann in the sub-continent in recent years.  Monty is our best spinner, if he’s fit he has to play!  It seems Tim Bresnan will be dropped too with Boyd Rankin most likely to come in.  Bres is a good honest all round cricketer but, in my opinion, just isn’t quite good enough at test level.  So if the rumours are to be believed, England will be sending three debutants out at the SCG… it’s going to be 5-0!

Just doing a little count up and beginning with the Oval test match in August that could make six England players getting their caps over the course of six matches?  Certainly doesn’t look like the path to success to me.  The media has made much of England’s bowling selection for this Ashes squad.  The three tall quick bowlers, Tremlett, Rankin and Finn will likely only play two matches between them all series.  Why were they picked?  It suggests England thought they’d just turn up and do what they done three years ago, score plenty of runs and rotate their bowlers.  The fact is from the beginning, this Ashes tour doesn’t appear to have anything like the preparation and attention to detail of 2010, it has a ‘going through the motions, appearance.  That tour is a glorious memory for us long suffering England fans and a benchmark for all future tours to be compared.  It began the best year in living memory for many English fans and ended with us number one in the rankings.  This current series looks set to be a whitewash and an even worse performance than 2006, at least then England could rightly say they were up against some of the best cricketers to ever play the game.  This test sees the final fragmentation of England’s most successful side for a generation, the road back to the top looks steep.

England should have one last motivation for this final test match, an unexpected victory would tie the ‘ten match series’ at four each.  On paper it will be honours even but it still won’t feel like it for England.

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