0The Ashes urn3–0 to England… what have we learned?

I’ve been away on hol­i­day for the past 2½ weeks and haven’t had chance to write about the crick­et.  Dur­ing that time there have been 2 more Ashes test matches and Eng­land have exten­ded their lead to 3–0.  Hav­ing been away from all the talk­ing heads I haven’t heard what they have to say, so here are some of my own thoughts, unin­flu­enced by the pundits.

1. Australia still can’t bat

As I pre­dicted — the Aus­sies still can­’t bat.  They nearly won the 3rd test (but for the weath­er?) entirely thanks to a Michael Clarke 187 (Eng­land had a tar­get to win of 331 — without Clarke that tar­get would have been only 144) but with that 1 excep­tion­al innings aside Aus­tralia have con­tin­ued to look entirely inept with the bat.

2. England can win without Jimmy

A lot of talk before the series was of how reli­ant Eng­land are on Jimmy and Swann.  Jimmy has­n’t been at his best in the last 2 tests and yet Eng­land still drew 1 and won 1, with Broad tak­ing a career best 11–121.  Eng­land also have power to add for the return series with the ser­i­ous pace and bounce of Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett.

3. The Australian selectors have lost their nerve

Aus­tralia need to bring in new play­ers and then really back them by giv­ing them a long run in the side.  There isn’t much point in bring­ing in lots of old play­ers, but a mix of new youth with a few remain­ing exper­i­enced play­ers would make a lot of sense.  Instead of being big-headed the select­ors should bring back Simon Katich (as I’ve called for before) along with some youth.  To their cred­it the select­ors did make sev­er­al of the changes I sug­ges­ted pre­vi­ously, with the intro­duc­tion of Dav­id Warner being a boost to their bat­ting line-up.  To be fair I also called for drop­ping Chris Rogers who has since per­formed much bet­ter and he seems to be a calm char­ac­ter and a good part­ner for Warner.  How­ever, Steve Smith has con­tin­ued to prove his lack of class with a bat and should be dropped.  Mov­ing Shane Wat­son down the order was­n’t a bad idea either but he con­tin­ues to get in and get out.  By repla­cing Smith with Katich and either Wat­son or Khawaja with Hen­riques their line up would look more sol­id.  I would also still look to bring in Fawad Ahmed, with a line-up of

  1. Rogers (35)
  2. Warner (26)
  3. Katich (37)
  4. Khawaja  (26)
  5. Clarke (32)
  6. Hen­riques (26)
  7. Had­din (35)
  8. Lyon (25)
  9. Siddle (28)
  10. Har­ris (33)
  11. Ahmed (34)

Longer term though Aus­tralia des­per­ately need to find some young­er tal­ent, and someone who might be able to take on the cap­taincy when Clarke’s back has finally had enough.

4. England’s batsmen are a concern

Eng­land aren’t mak­ing enough runs.  Whilst I think the pitches aren’t as good as the com­ment­ary team seems to think, with both sides under­scor­ing against the pun­dits pre­dic­tions, there are con­cerns about England’s batting.

  1. Cook (50, 62, 51) — has­n’t had a par­tic­u­larly good series.  How­ever, he has still made some decent scores and as they say, form is tem­por­ary, class is per­man­ent and I’m sure the big runs will return soon.  Per­haps Cook is suf­fer­ing from hav­ing too much to deal with (the cap­taincy, his own bat­ting and the media), like Strauss and Vaughan seemed to struggle with before him.  Except for the toss I think Eng­land should look to have someone else deal with the media inter­views when they are bat­ting first.  If they are bowl­ing first then I see no prob­lem with Cook doing it.  When bat­ting first per­haps anoth­er seni­or team mem­ber could take on the role — Jimmy or Matt Pri­or for example.
  2. Root (180) — was moved up the order too soon in my opin­ion.  The pres­sure of open­ing in such a huge series must be pretty intense.  How­ever, he looks the part and now he has been sent to open he should be giv­en the back­ing and stay there.  I would give him until at least the end of the return series, and I’d tell him he’s secure in his place until then.  His 180 proved he could do it
  3. Trott (48, 58, 49)- Does­n’t look quite him­self at the moment, I’m not sure why.  Like Cook he is a class bats­man, and like Cook he is still mak­ing some reas­on­able scores.  Maybe he needs to spend a bit of time with Mr Boy­cott or someone sim­il­ar who can really ana­lyse where the prob­lem has crept in.
  4. Pieterson (64, 113, 44) — Is still com­ing back into form after injury, and has looked good, and made some reas­on­able scores.
  5. Bell (109, 109, 74, 60, 113) — Is finally get­ting the rewards for the class he has shown in the past couple of years.  No con­cerns at all here.
  6. Bair­stow (67) — Is Bair­stow more of a spe­cial­ist lim­ited overs bats­man?  I like his atti­tude to the game, but I think his all-round game has some weak spots.  Real­ist­ic­ally the place is his because no-one else is chal­len­ging enough for it.
  7. Pri­or — Is still a class wick­et keep­er and knows his game with the bat.  He more often makes runs when we really need them, if we’re win­ning it does­n’t mat­ter if he’s mak­ing some lower scores.

All in all, it’s hard to drop any of England’s bats­men — they’ve all had at least 1 decent innings and you don’t drop play­ers when you’re 3–0 up with 1 to play.  The only play­er really under threat from where I see it is Bair­stow.  I would be temp­ted to give someone else a try, per­haps Alex Lees from Yorkshire

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