Sunday, 5 January 2014

So we lost the Ashes 0-5, but is it all bad?

Is there any consolation for England following their utter out-classing by the Australians in the Ashes whitewash? It's very difficult to see much light when you're on the receiving-end of such a drubbing, but let's try.

The bare facts are telling. In 10 innings England failed to pass 200 runs in six of them, whereas Australia only once failed to reach 200, and that was following a declaration in Adelaide. In the end that lack of runs made a huge difference, and experienced Test batsmen averaging under 30 in a 5-match series is inexcusable. The six Australian batsmen whose batting averages were higher than England's best were also their six centurions, with 10 tons between them: by contrast England's only century-maker was the Test novice Ben Stokes.

In the bowling department there is not much room for optimism either. Anderson: 14 wickets at just under 44; Swann, before his premature exit, 7 at 80 - indeed England's main spin attack took a total of 14 wickets at 64.21, compared to Nathan Lyon's 19 at 29.36. There may be a glimmer of hope in Broad's 21 at 27.52, and in Stokes' 15 at 32.80 in the 4 games he played. Compared to Australia's attack of a not-that-impressive Siddle (who still managed 16 wickets at just over 24), Harris (22 at 19.31) and the suddenly unplayable Johnson with 37 at just under 14, it's easy to see the huge disparity between the two teams.

These two teams are blessed with world class coaches in Andy Flower & Darren Lehmann, but only one has proved able to bring the best out those in his charge. The ECB have, I understand, committed themselves to Flower for the immediate future, which may or may not be a good thing. If he has the confidence of the team, and they are willing to play as we know they are capable for him, then England may well be able to turn things around in time for the summer series against India & Sri Lanka. But there needs to be a major look at the make-up of the team, and a number of 'fixtures' in that side may well have come to the end of their international journey: there must be serious questions hanging over the futures of Pietersen, Bell & Prior (whose first 3 innings in the series lasted a total of 13 deliveries and produced one scoring shot).

To go back to my initial question: is there any consolation from this debacle? Perhaps the overall showing of Ben Stokes, who came into his own following the early departure of Jonathan Trott, gives us some reason for optimism. 279 runs at 34.87 and 15 wickets at 32.80 have shown him (at the moment at least) to be a promising all-rounder. Maybe there is a light, however faint, glimmering in the darkness.