Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Ashes autopsy

Another Ashes test series has come to an end, thankfully the ailing English Lion has been put out of its misery.  Australia deservedly finished 4-0 winners, at least we were spared the depressing humiliation of a whitewash.
Image result for Ashes 2017 Back in November the Aussie selection raised a few eyebrows but it seems they got it right as pretty much all of those picked have contributed in some way.  Stephen Smith in particular was brilliant and all four of their bowlers took more than twenty wickets.  England's biggest problem is that our combined bowling attack couldn't take twenty wickets in any of the matches.

Our batsmen didn't exactly excel either.  Alastair Cook had one magnificent knock of 244 but failed to pass 40 in any of the other innings.  Mark Stoneman began the tour in decent form with a couple of fifties but his returns dwindled as the series wore on.  To be fair opening the innings is difficult anywhere and even more so on Australian wickets with quality bowlers sending the ball down at 90mph.  Cook may well be getting towards the end of his career but is still well worth his place in the team and who else is there?  The lack of alternatives means Stoneman has probably done enough to keep his place in the side for the tour of New Zealand at least.

James Vince was a bizarre selection and I really wonder if Alex Hales would have got that spot had it not been for the 'Bristol incident'.  Hales was in the wrong place at the wrong time, I imagine the selectors thinking 'shit, who do we pick?'  Vince started well with 83 in the first test and managed a second fifty but kept getting out for low scores after wafting at wide balls.  After twelve tests he averages 22 and has never looked the part.

One of the very few positives from the tour was Dawad Malan who scored his first test century and backed this up with other decent scores to finish the tour with 383 runs at 42.55.  This is s decent return for a young player and he'll hopefully push on from here.

Johnny Bairstow only managed one fifty plus score but this was 119 and although he wasn't up to his usual standard he is a class batsman, his keeping improves all the time.  The waft outside the off stump in Sydney, after refusing a nightwatchman was horrible...

Moeen Ali had a poor tour, he didn't get the runs we have come to expect from him and his bowling was totally ineffective.  On home wickets Mo is class with both bat and ball but his bowling definitely doesn't travel.  He started the tour with a bit of an injury and a slow start might have affected his confidence but I still don't believe he was up to the job that was asked of him.

Chris Woakes could also be regarded as an all-rounder but on this tour he didn't look like he could bat or bowl.  At times Woakes has looked like a very good cricketer but remove one great match against Pakistan from his record and it becomes distinctly average.  If he is going to keep his place in the side then he will have to do more in the future.

We have two truly great opening bowlers who had contrasting series.  Stuart Broad was well below his usual standard, he bowled a couple of very good spells but also had a couple of poor matches.  In truth Broad hasn't been a game changer since the tour of South Africa a couple of years ago and if he doesn't rediscover his form soon he might find himself discarded.  On the other hand James Anderson has been on top form all year and showed his class on this tour even though the pitches didn't suit him.  He was our leading wicket taker with 17 but this tally was still fewer than any of the Aussie bowlers.

A few bowlers came and went; Jake Ball played one match, took one wicket then got injured and never featured again.  Mason Crane displayed his leg spin at Sydney but didn't make an impact.  Craig Overton and Tom Curran both played two matches each and both showed they could contribute with a few runs.  Overton looked a decent bowler too but his tour was shortened by injury, hopefully he will come back.

That just leaves the captain; Joe Root done OK with the bat and passed fifty five times without making it to three figures.  If he is going to make the most of his talent and become the truly great player he looks like being then he has to make it count when he gets in.  If he could have turned a couple of those half centuries into three figures then who knows how those games would have turned out.  The worst example was the new ball waft at Sydney whilst on 83 which exposed Bairstow and let a powerful position slip away to a pitiful one.  His captaincy is improving all the time but he made two unforgivable cock ups in not bowling Jimmy when Australia were under pressure in Brisbane, then inserting the Aussies after winning the toss in Adelaide.

For me the biggest mistakes for England were made before we even left home and I don't mean the Stokes thing.  I think our selectors have been consistently bad for several years; they still don't know what our best batting line up is but they may be getting closer with Hameed waiting in the wings and I think Keaton Jennings might come back better in future.  
Their biggest crime however comes with the bowlers selected; on pitches abroad we need a quality spinner and at least one 90mph shock bowler.  I don't know who or where these players will come from but that's the selectors job isn't it?

There's some ODI stuff coming up over the next few weeks followed by a couple of test matches in New Zealand which will be a proper test.