The Ashes: Post-Mortem on England’s Devastating Loss

It will come as no surprise to many of you to find out that England has again lost the Ashes in Australia. Overnight, Australia bowled England out for 68, to win the test match by an innings and fourteen runs. Australia now leads 3–0 in a five-match series, and if you are a betting man, you would bet on them making it 5–0.

It is customary in sports that when a team loses as badly as England has done, a post-mortem must be conducted. We must understand how it happened. We must understand why it happened, and we must understand how it can never happen again.

If you go on social media, this post-mortem has already started. Fans, former and current players, commentators, and anybody with a phone has contributed their opinion. However, here are a few topics of discussion to help you in your post-mortem.

1. India, New Zealand, and Australia are far superior to England

These three teams are considered the three best test teams in the world. England played fourteen test matches against them in 2021. They have only won two of those matches. These three sides represent things that England currently lacks. They are well led, organised, well-balanced and each of them have a clear identity based on their captains. England does not have that. When you sit back and compare England to these teams, they are lacking in every department.

2. England’s Batsmen

In the year 2021, Joe Root scored 1,708 test runs, the most for the team. The next best, Rory Burns, scored 503 runs. A little trivia question for you guys. Who contributed the third most runs to this England side? Extras, with 412 runs. 

England’s batsmen have failed, but they have also been failed. Yes, a lot of them deserve copious amounts of public bashing, but in their defence, they have not been helped. 

Much has been made of the lack of attention being paid to red-ball cricket in England. They play on bad pitches and in bad weather at bad times of the year for batsmen. The argument is that because of this, batsmen develop weird techniques to deal with weird conditions. These techniques are taken to International cricket where they are found out. It is also argued that batsmen in England are not taught to bat for long periods due to these conditions.

This argument is fair. The two best test batsmen Marnus Labuschagne and Joe Root both played County Cricket in England this year and struggled. However, they have both been in irresistible form in International cricket. All the players picked by England are the players scoring runs in county cricket. However, they struggle to translate that to International Cricket runs.

3. Root and Silverwood sacked?

This will be a key part of the post-mortem. The likelihood is that both will lose their roles. Root has been captain of this test side for five years now. His stats as captain is pretty good, as no England captain has won more test matches than he has. However, in the eyes of many, he is lacking as a captain. He especially suffers when compared to the likes of Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson.

Root’s poor Ashes as a captain was summed up in a statement he made after the loss in Adelaide. His comments about the bowlers needing to bowl fuller lengths were met with widespread confusion, with everybody asking the same questions. Why did you not tell them then? If you are not telling them then what are you doing as captain?

As for Silverwood, he was given the added responsibility of being a selector, as well as a coach. To keep it short, he has been poor at both.

4. White ball cricket balance

It was said the other day that young English players are more excited to play these franchise white ball leagues around the world than red-ball cricket. They cannot be blamed for that when the message from the ECB has been to prioritise white-ball cricket.

When you look at the English summer, there is a new white ball tournament called the Hundred. That goes hand in hand with the T20 blast and 50 overs tournaments. The argument is that these competitions will generate interest in the younger generation and will also make the ECB a lot of money. They then look at the IPL and the positive effect it has had on Indian cricket.

There is a difference though. India has found a balance. Yes, the IPL has helped their white-ball side, but they have made it clear that red-ball cricket is just as important. Virat Kohli, who until recently captained India in all formats has always made it clear that test match cricket is the priority.

A white ball great like Rohit Sharma who struggled in test cricket has worked tirelessly to become a test match player. Young players like Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, and Rishabh Pant have made it clear that although they enjoy white-ball cricket, test match cricket is the priority. We even see great white ball talents like Prithvi Shaw and Ishan Kishan go on India A tours to get better at red-ball cricket. 

A lot of young English talents are not doing that. It also seems that many of the great white ball players in England are content with simply being great white ball players. If you want to be good at something, it has to be a priority. England’s depth in white-ball cricket is endless, but in red-ball cricket it is scarce.

5. What Next?

We are all in agreement that this series with end 5–0 to Australia right? Then the attention will turn to the West Indies. The likelihood is that England will make changes and will probably bring in a few younger players. 

Players like Saqib Mahmood, Harry Brook, Matt Parkinson, and a few others may get opportunities, but unless there is a change in the system, we will have this conversation after every series.

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