With a ruthless determination and a killer instinct worthy of a wolf chasing a wounded deer, Australia duly completed the rout of a demoralised England this morning.
England simply haven’t turned up this series and a rejuvenated Australia have preyed on every weakness and every failing to humiliate what is still a pretty good side.
Winning a fourth consecutive Ashes series was a pretty tall order and it was one that was beyond England. The urn now returns to Australia (figuratively speaking, anyway!) and we no doubt won’t hear the end of it from our cousins on the other side of the planet.
As Cook admitted in his post-match press conference, England have been outplayed in all areas and will, I suspect, claim a 5–0 triumph. It’s simply not their style to take their foot off the gas. The wolf has caught the prey, now he wants to finish every last tasty morsel.
So what can England take from this series? Are there any positives?
Although it’s early days, Ben Stokes looks like the new cub off of the Durham production line. He’s starting to prove me wrong, scoring runs and taking wickets. He remains an unpolished diamond, a little rough around the edges, but with time and patience, a promising international career awaits.
It’s important to remember that players often don’t come to England as a finished product. Just because he isn’t a front line bowler or a front line batsman doesn’t mean he can’t become so. When Andrew Flintoff made his debut he was seen as a batsman who was useful with the ball. Comparisons between players are misleading and can be harmful, heaping unnecessary pressure on a promising player to meet someone else’s standards, but they can light a beacon for the way to develop a player. Coaches can see what previously worked and try it out on their new class. Here’s hoping Stokes can build on the promising start he has made.
Michael Carberry has also hinted of a having what it takes at the highest level to succeed although at 33 he’s hardly one for the future and it’s difficult to see any real difference between him and Nick Compton.
Other than that it’s hard to pick anything out. All the batsmen have shown that they still have the ability to score runs but have failed to show any consistency. They have also failed dismally to bat in partnerships or to be able to put Mitchell Johnson in his place or to smack Nathan Lyon to all corners of the ground.
Jonathan Trott’s absence has and will continue to hit the side hard – not just because of his undoubted talent but his work off of the field too. It’s a sad case and the issues he faces seem to have a disproportionate effect in the world of cricket. Get better soon, Trotty.
As always the biggest question mark hangs over the head of Kevin Pieterson. Brilliant natural talent or selfish individual who bats for himself and not the team? It seems strange for any criticism to be levelled at someone who has scored in excess of 8,000 test runs for his country. He is undoubtedly on his day one of the best ever plays to wear an England shirt. But his dismissals seem to get dafter and dafter the more tests he plays. When the rest of the side isn’t firing either his failings become much more sharply focused. For me he should be kept in. For a start who do you replace him with? And when he’s good, he’s brilliant. But anyone with designs on making him into a team player may as well give up now.
Plus points are also difficult to pull out from the bowling performances. Some of that can certainly be put down to the collective ineptitude display by the batsmen. Bowlers need the former to put runs on the board for them to defend and that simply hasn’t happened. But performances have generally been below par, with mediocre players such as Smith and Haddin able to increase their averages nicely.
Australia have been the better side. Well played — although they have shown a distinct lack of class in the way they have handled themselves (there’s been a disappointing lack of sportsmanship in general this series – from both sides). Time for England to lick their wounds and regroup – and, I hope, put this down a terrible blip in form.
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