England lost the fourth and final test match of the series by an innings and runs this Saturday morning, with a further two nightmarish batting displays haunting the England fans that woke up at 4am to watch.
After winning the first test in such comfortable circumstances, how can an England team so high on confidence after six consecutive away wins be so poor?
- Top Order Failings
Out of the five players used in the top three in this series, the overall average is less than 15. No top order batsman in this series has looked anywhere near competent enough to face the spin of Ashwin and Axar Patel, especially in the opening overs of an innings when the ball is harder.
This series has seen the second lowest average for England’s second wicket since 1906, standing at only 24 runs. (The lowest by the way as Sri Lanka 2021, the series before this) Dom Sibley gave false hope on the opening day of the series with a well played 87, with a total of 49 runs coming from his last seven innings, failing to reach double figures on his last five attempts.
Rory Burns sandwiched two ducks with 33 and 25, Jonny Bairstow has three ducks in his four innings whilst Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence have not had a score.
Out of the 24 Innings from the top three, they have failed to reach double figures on 15 occasions, including eight, (yes 8) ducks.
If its playing for spin that is not there or simply just playing shots that Jimmy Anderson would be embarrassed to play, it has been anything but pretty for the top order batsmen in unfamiliar conditions.
- Rotation Policy has not worked (for this series)
This year is almost too busy a year for England cricket. 17 test matches, that include an away Ashes series, and trips to Sri Lanka and India, before a return to the latter for a T20 World Cup a month after the English summer concludes.
With many of the nations players being multi-format, rotation will be key this year, whether that is per match or series.
With the series in India having a tight schedule, changes to the team were needed, but the extent of the team chopping and changing has clearly not helped anyone. In four matches, players have been in an out of the team 18 times. Rory Burns and Dan Lawrence played the first two then dropped, with the latter being drafted in for the final match of the series, dropping from number three to number seven in the batting order. Moeen Ali played one match on the whole tour and was sent home after the second test, whilst Dom Bess was dropped for the second and third. Ollie Stone played once, Stuart Broad was dropped twice. Chris Woakes did not even get a game on either series before being sent home. Whilst the pre-planned departure of Jos Buttler after the first test has proved to be the wrong decision.
In the eyes of the ECB, it made since to allow Buttler, who will play a large part in all of England matches this year, some time off, but why not in the matches later on in the year against Sri Lanka or even India at home?
- Bowling attack has been untrustworthy
Throughout a bowlers career, it is obvious they will have spells that just don’t click. Jack Leach in the first test was battered Rishabh Pant, yet went on to have a decent series. But it is the inability to first put a batsman under pressure with consistent bowling and then bowl them out which has shown the gulf in class between the two teams spinners. India are currently without Ravi Jadeja, yet the spin attack of Ashwin and Axar Patel have looked even more threatening. Debutant in the second test Axar has taken 27 wickets with his dot ball percentage at 80%, whilst the ever reliant in India Aswhin has taken 32 wickets. This means throughout the four tests, Indian pace bowlers have taken 13 wickets between them, compare that to the visitors 21 wickets, which equates to over a third of the wickets taken.
The reliance on seam and pace is not the only worrying aspect, Joe Root has had to chip in with the bowling. Taking his first 5-fer in the third test, but that was mainly England had only chose one spinner for the match, which even now just seems unfathomable. Jack Leach has 16 wickets, Moeen has 8 from his one match and Dom Bess has five. The latter being hit for over four runs an over in two of his three innings whilst having picked up four of his wickets in India’s first innings.
England’s frustrations with bowling can been seen further with the lower order scores from the Indians. Ravi Ashwin hit a very well played 106, Washington Sundar has hit a 96* and Axar Patel has a 43 to his name, all scores have taken the game well away from England who look like they can’t score a run.
A promising start to the year, and this series was blanketed over by the runs of Joe Root, and now with the Limited Overs games coming up, England need to drastically improve there batting.
When test match cricket resumes for England in June against New Zealand, a more clear plan will be needed