England’s win in the final Test at the Oval on Sunday may not have made a difference to the destination of the Ashes, but in other ways it still had a profound effect.
It ensured they ended the summer on a positive note, with a different feeling, and reminded everyone just what they are capable of.
Australia were the better side over the five Test matches and deserved to retain the urn, but England now have plenty of positives to reflect on.
The result was particularly important for Joe Root. If they hadn’t tied the series at 2-2 I think he might have considered stepping down as captain because his batting has been negatively affected by the responsibility.
However, the fifth Test victory lifts that weight off him. At 28, Root is a young captain who is still learning. He deserves more time to lead a talented but inconsistent side.
Top order solidity needed
Root’s position is far from the biggest problem that needs to be addressed.
The batting line-up’s frailties have seen them collapse far too often in recent years. They must be eradicated because they undermine everything else.
Tough decisions need to be made. The top order has to be the priority. England need to go back to a traditional Test style, which means picking players suited to playing it.
Joe Denly is a good example. He showed promise with half-centuries at Headingley and Old Trafford and 94 at the Oval and yet the selectors need to look at the bigger picture. It’s not that he’s too old at 33, it’s that he’s not best suited to opening.
I’d like to see someone like Warwickshire’s Dominic Sibley given the chance to open alongside Rory Burns on on the upcoming tours of New Zealand and South Africa, with another solid player at No3, so Root can go back to his preferred No4 spot.
I think that if the top order can become solid it would go a long way to solving the middle order collapses because players like Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler would come in later, in a stronger position and against an older ball, allowing them to play their natural games.
If England can sort out the top order it’ll make appointing Trevor Bayliss’s successor as head coach much easier.
Overall, Bayliss has done a good job and I think director of cricket Ashley Giles should choose someone with a similar outlook who can pick up where he left off.
A new coach and staff can take time to settle in, so a relaxed person who is happy to let the players take ownership of their preparation would make sense.
The best coaches I’ve played under haven’t been too regimented and have always had good man-management skills. Someone coming in to implement new ideas and shake things up could disrupt the work that has already been done.
Someone like Graham Thorpe, who has been involved in the set-up for a while as batting coach, might work nicely because he already has the respect of the players.
Alec Stewart has also been touted. He’s a great man-manager and communicator, but he’s currently Surrey’s director of cricket, so it would be a change of role. In reality, he might be better suited to Giles’s job.
For me it’s more about selection and tactics. If England can get that right then whoever is appointed should have all the ingredients to build towards success.
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