MAYBE there’s an element of complacency to England’s woeful Ashes – clearly Australia are more hungry; to a man, desperate to win – but the biggest factor looks to be that they have been badly prepared.
As unsettling and consistent as Mitchell Johnson has been, it was no secret he was bowling straight and fast. Yet England’s batsmen don’t seem to have a gameplan and so resort to desperate cricket. Alastair Cook was out hooking to deep square leg – he’s far from dumb but that’s dumb batting.
Ian Bell has said they have to deal with this as a group. Wrong. Cricket is the individual team game and everyone has to prepare a strategy they feel comfortable with. Only Michael Carberry, and to some extent Joe Root and Ian Bell, appear to have done that.
While I wouldn’t question Cook being the right captain even if England lose 5-0 – which they might – it’d be a huge boost if he could lead from the front with big scores.
The buck has to stop with team director Andy Flower, though. I’ve never criticised him before but, as the two specialist batting coaches, he and Graham Gooch are responsible for players being underprepared.
Talk of omitting both spinners for this week’s third Test is suicidal. Graeme Swann should stay in, for his batting if nothing else, and I think the Perth track might suit Ben Stokes, who bowled fairly well in Adelaide, or even Boyd Rankin over Tim Bresnan, Steven Finn or Chris Tremlett for the final seamer’s place.
The fact is that if Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Johnson were in the England team then it would be 2-0 to the tourists. Flower needs to summon those kind of individual performances. They can still save the Ashes, though I’m not sure they will.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who has been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.