Runs, wins, wickets, score lines – cricket is a game of numbers. It’s also a sport where you can at least attempt to control the controllables. You make a conscious decision whether to block or play, pitch short or full, run or hold. So in this Ashes series, over before the halfway point, why do the numbers look so static for England?
Few were realistically expecting England to travel Down Under with such little preparation and challenge for the urn, but few expected the capitulation we’ve witnessed over the last three weeks.
In getting all out and losing the series before lunch on the third day of the third Test, England put their chances of winning beyond reach in just 12 playing days and one session – that’s less than half of the potential 25 days in this series.
England finished with 38 dismissals where the batter scored under 20 runs, 11 of those were ducks. England surpassed 20 Test ducks and 50 in total in a calendar during this series.
Beyond that, just five knocks reached 50 or above. The Australians, in contrast, had just the one duck and achieved 10 scores of a half century or better – including Travis Head’s series high 152.
England were all out six out of six times, the Australians took 60 wickets in the opening three Tests. England took just 38 wickets in the same time. In theory, Australia has two innings worth of wickets in hand after just three tests.
It speaks volumes of bowling struggles, sure, but the Australian creases are renowned for suiting Australian batters. It makes you wonder why England are unable to identify a specific playing style and turn every English pitch into a suitable one.
Whenever England lose the Ashes the County game comes into question, when Australia fail to perform some call for their domestic game to use an English Dukes ball.
Rarely do the Australians call into question their depth and domestic game, though that’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but in so often calling out the County game, England stars past and present are admitting that English schedules and systems just aren’t up to scratch.
With the ball, Australia are streaks ahead. They bowled a total of 443.2 overs across the three Tests, with an economy of just 2.46. England, on the other hand, had an economy of 3.37 from their combined 409.1 overs.
When it comes to runs conceded per wicket, Australia – including Scott Boland’s six wickets for seven runs in the third Test – averaged 18.18 runs. England averaged 36.29.
It’s not too difficult to uncover the very basic things that have gone wrong in this catastrophic series which comparing those figures.
England head coach said following the series loss: “It’s disappointing for us all, the lads will be feeling that in the dressing room.
“But I’ve got to give some credit to the Australian attack as well, especially Boland.
“That said, we need to find a way of competing with these [Australia]. We have to find a way of scoring runs and pushing back against them.
“That’s certainly something we will be reflecting on in the dressing room.”
It is genuinely difficult to see where England goes from here. Some would say it can only get better but this isn’t England’s first rodeo – they know it can very much get worse.
Two Tests to complete in Australia – a country where England spent more days isolating than keeping the series alive – to see out the year.
Next year, England play Tests against New Zealand, South Africa and India at home and the West Indies away.
It’s an awful lot of five-day games, with an ever growing Twenty20 and one-day fixture list too.
England need to push the reset button on their Test team if it is to remain competitive in an era of white-ball cricket and The Hundred. But before that, Joe Root and his side need to avoid an Ashes whitewash.
And the chances of that are slim… at best.