England have been embarrassed in the first Ashes Test, losing to Australia by 9 wickets at the Gabba.
After being all out inside the first two sessions on Day 1 for 147, any hint of a comeback was ended early Day Four with the last eight wickets of the second innings all falling in the morning session for 77 runs.
Despite the embarrassment are there any positives to take or is it all doom and gloom?
Well maybe not all bad, but there is a lot to learn, and learn quickly from in time for the second test starting on Thursday.
Watching the Australia innings, the David Warner/ Marnus Labuschagne partnership especially, the vast difference in quality of the simple things was clear. Both Aussie batsmen left the ball extremely well on the outside of leg stump. Something that us England fans are not used to seeing in British conditions, every time the ball was left anywhere near the stumps, an audible gasp would have come out.
But for the England batsmen, it was a different story, 18 of the 20 wickets taken were caught behind or at a close fielder. Only the first ball of the series dismissal of Rory Burns and Mark Wood’s second innings wickets were clean bowled.
The Aussie bowlers are good, really good to be honest, but the wickets that fell, especially in the most important cases were nothing short of crap batting. Cameron Green got the prize wicket of Joe Root in the second innings for 89, with a ball that was aiming for seventh stump, a ball that the England captain had no right to reason to attempt to hit the ball. Buttler’s dismissal was equally as poor, in almost identical circumstances, fending at the ball with the gap between his bat and body as large as the gap in quality between the two teams.
Haseeb Hameed nicked to the slips in the first innings when the ball was aiming very wide if the stumps. Add the losses of Malan, Stokes and both openers in the second innings, the availability to avoid both collapses was there.
Spinners getting battered
It was clear to see that Australia’s tactic when Jack Leach came to bowl was to hit him out of the attack. The onslaught by Warner, Labuschagne and Travis Head was very disheartening to England’s front line spinner. Leach was battered for 102 off just 13 overs, going at a rate over seven.
His sole wicket of Labuschagne came with the eccentric number 4 mercilessly attacking him, giving no respect to Leach. Add in the fact that towards the end of the second day England were down two bowlers, with Stokes suffering with a knee injury he picked up in the field and Ollie Robinson looking exhausted for a day in the field, bowling options were at a premium.
There was a conversation about leaving out Leach completely and going into the test with all pace bowlers, a decision in hindsight that would probably have been more fruitful.
Normally in Australia, for the last test, when England are 4/5-0 down, we have seen a change in spinner; Mason Crane and Simon Kerrigan/Scott Borthwick in the past two series. Waiting in the wings playing for England Lions currently is Dom Bess; but he too has been hit all over the park against Australia ‘A’, going at over four runs an over.
With the day night tests coming up, would Joe Root go for an attack that lacks a front-line spinner?
Mental block and being on the defensive
Two collapses in the first two innings of the Ashes series is not what anyone would have wanted when the team travelled down under, especially with the main questions being about how strong the batting line up is, and if the weakness’ can be exploited by Aussies experienced bowlers.
Well they were.
Rory Burns looked so uncomfortable when at the crease (for the small amount of time he did bat), and then once the first wicket falls the Aussies are mentally on top.
It is a common phrase that ‘once one wicket falls, you can get two or three’, but when England bat it is always the worry. Joe Root and Dawid Malan put together a partnership of over 150, but after that the second largest partnership was 52 between Buttler and Pope in the first innings.
It is obvious to say that partnerships are key in cricket, but when no two batsmen are staying at the crease for long enough, the challenge becomes much harder.