Despite a brief period with England in the ascendency, the Fourth Test finished in the same way as the previous three – a landslide victory for Australia.
After out-batting the Aussies in the first innings to take a decent lead into their second, England capitulated in embarrassing fashion on the third day. First, three wickets went for one run to take the tourists to 87 for four, before slipping later in the innings from 135 for five to 179 all out. In the cauldron of test cricket, this was yet another performance that was simply not good enough.
Poor batting seals England’s fate once again
The English collapse was impressively catastrophic, and it once again begs the question of how on earth these batsmen can be playing so badly. It would do Australia a massive disservice not to comment on their bowling display; as once again Cook and co simply failed to cope with the Aussie attack; this time led by spinner Nathan Lyon. Nevertheless, as I’m sure we’ve all said 100 times: on paper, England have as good a lineup and bowling attack as Australia, but they simply aren’t performing anywhere near the standard required to win a test series in Australia.
Kevin Pietersen has been the English batsman most heavily criticised so far this series, but it was the South African-born batsman along with captain Cook who made the only scores of note; with Carberry, Root, Bell, Stokes and Bairstow all failing to show up. If one was looking to encapsulate the English batting performance in this series it could perhaps be best summed up with the statistic of only one English century in four matches and eight innings batted. Put bluntly; you don’t win series with batting like this.
England’s poor batting has cost them once again and put the Aussies within touching distance of that coveted 5-0 whitewash. England will be going back home with their tails firmly between their legs, but Michael Clarke’s side now have a real chance to ridicule this touring side in Sydney. No sensible man or woman would bet against them doing precisely that.
Time for a coaching and captaincy shakeup?
Whilst writing this column I’ve been keen to stress the fact that England have been bad mostly because Australia have just been so damn good. That said, the capitulation on the third day of this test was simply unacceptable, and another calamitous defeat has now got the English public asking questions about the wisdom of keeping the same coaches and captain in place moving forward.
Team director Andy Flower has insisted that he would like to continue, whilst captain Alastair Cook has also intimated that he would like to stay as captain; but acknowledges that ultimately the decision is not up to him.
Whatever happens, England will need to improve. Their decisions on and off the field have left an awful lot to be desired, and the net result of those incorrect decisions has been the receipt of a complete and utter annihilation by this ruthless Australian side. Things need shaking up, and whilst that might not be achieved with a new coach and captain, it might well be.
Particularly in Cook’s case, it is felt by many that the prolific batsman doesn’t possess the tactical nous required to make a success of his role as captain. This is an opinion shared by the England legend Geoffrey Boycott who suggests in the Daily Telegraph that Cook doesn’t possess the personality or technical skills required to be the right leader for this England side. Boycott certainly has a point, and especially in contrast to captain fantastic Michael Clarke, Cook lags significantly behind in terms of his ability to set a field to trap a batsman and motivate his troops. This will be a decision for the England selectors to make, but not one that will be made lightly.
On we go to Sydney, the final stop for this tumultuous Ashes series. Before the test at MCG I suggested that England had a very slim chance if they did the right things, but to be honest, I’ve now completely given up on them doing the right things. I believe England will lose, and heavily too. In patches we’ve bowled well, and a few of our batsmen have started to make decent scores, but the team performances just aren’t there, and something isn’t quite right. I wouldn’t bet on them being put right before Wednesday, and Australia could run up a cricket score as they romp to a deserved whitewash. (Yes, that last bit was on purpose).