Ashes 2013/14 Review

After 3 consecutive Ashes series victories for England, the 5-0 Ashes whitewash to Australia has come as a shock to many cricket lovers. I’m going to try and analyse where England went wrong, where Australia excelled, and where England should go from here.

England’s Weaknesses:

  1. Captain Cook – We can’t blame Alistair Cook for losing 4/5 of the tosses, but we can blame him for his all-round captaincy during the series. Everything was just far too negative, whether it be not enough fielders in catching positions or a far too defensive mind-set at the crease, we never looked like winning a test (apart from Day 1 of the series).
  2. An Unsettled Order – Joe Root must have boarded the plane thinking he was going to open the batting with Cook, he started the first test at 6, played the next three at number 3 and then was left out of the last test. How can a player as young as Root find consistency if he doesn’t know what his role in the team is?
  3. Desertion – I can completely understand why Graeme Swann retired when he did, however he did leave England in the mire a little bit. After having 6/7 years of England having one of the best spinners in the world, his sudden retirement paved the way for a two-test trial in a dead rubber situation. Monty Panesar, a man well up to the job, occupied one of these tests but Scott Borthwick was drafted into the team for the other, and you could easily tell how inexperienced he was.
  4. The Short Ball – I’ve seen Suresh Raina play the short ball better than England’s batsmen did this series, and that’s saying something. I think, off the top of my head, that every English batsman was dismissed to a short ball during the series. Admittedly, some of these balls were very difficult to play and the batsman would have to turn around and say ‘I got a good ball, there wasn’t much I could do.’ But there were so many disappointing dismissals to the short ball, for example Cook, Carberry and Pietersen all stick in the memory for taking on the short ball at the wrong time.
  5. Picking The Wrong Bowlers – Anderson, Broad and Swann were the obvious choices for the England coaches but of the three other bowlers on the tour, they picked Tremlett for the first test. Tremlett hadn’t played a test in 3 years and since his injury had lost a significant amount of pace. Steven Finn would have been my pick of these three bowlers, a tall man with real pace and who has already proven that he can be a real wicket taking threat.

Australia’s Strengths:

  1. Raw Pace – With a bowling attack of Johnson, Harris and Siddle pace was not something Australia were short of this series. Johnson regularly clocked 91/92mph, whilst Harris and Siddle consistently bowling in the high 80’s. This constant pace barrage proved too much for several England batsmen and Bairstow especially looked like a rabbit in the headlights when Johnson was steaming in.
  2. Captain Fantastic – Michael Clarke is, for me, the best captain in world cricket. He constantly attacked the English batsmen and seemed to have plans for all of them. He bowled wide outside off-stump to Cook, round the wicket at the stumps to Carberry, targeted KP’s legs and ego. Everything he seemed to do, worked.
  3. A Settled Team – Australia fielded the same 11 players in five Ashes tests for only the third time in history. This meant for a solid batting order, a settled bowling line-up and a familiar fielding side. Any injuries seemed to be minor and easily recoverable so the team didn’t need to be changed.
  4. Attacking Intent – Compared to England’s pedestrian run rate, Australia looked like they were playing T20 cricket. Warner, Watson, Clarke, Smith, Bailey and Haddin all made an effort to attack the spinners and pounce on anything loose from the seamers. Warner opened the batting with intent, Clarke played in his naturally positive way and Haddin looked to attack at all times, even when on the back foot.
  5. The Best Spinner Of The Series – At the start of the series, if anyone told me that Nathan Lyon would completely out-bowl Graeme Swann and England’s spinners, I probably would have laughed at them. But, it happened. Lyon’s consistency, negative line and his bounce from all the ‘over spin’ he puts on the ball caused real trouble for the English batsmen. He claimed Pietersen a few times when he was trying to hit him over the top, and his 5fer in the last test was justly deserved.

If you look at the main roles of a cricket team and see who won that area in the series, the 5-0 result becomes very clear:

  • Captain  – Australia
  • Batting – Australia
  • Bowling  – Australia
  • Fielding – Australia

The statistics make for even worse reading:

  • 4 of the 5 highest totals were made by Australia
  • England were bowled out 6 times for less than 200.
  • It took Australia just 14 days to win the Ashes!
  Australia England
Runs Scored 3189 2158
Wickets Taken 100 67
Overall Run Rate 3.75 2.90
Centuries 10 1
Fifties 15 10
Five Wicket Hauls 5 2
Bowlers Used 6 10

Where Do England Go From Here?

Youth is the way forward for me. In my opinion, we should spend the next year or two encouraging more young players into and around the test team. I would love to see the likes of Joe Root, James Taylor, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Chris Jordan become mainstays in the English Test squad.

Joe Root looks like he is going to be the golden boy of English international cricket. A young Yorkshireman who has impressed on all stages, Root looks destined to play all forms for England for a long time. His 180 v Australia at Lords was a sublime knock at the top of the order, sadly he hasn’t done anything as spectacular. Once Root finds his role in the test side, I strongly believe he will go on and score thousands of runs.

Ben Stokes made his test debut in the second test in Adelaide; he didn’t make the greatest of starts, but more than made up for it in his next three tests. He scored his maiden test century in just his second test when all around him were failing, then took 6/99 in the final test of the series. The 22-year-old Cumbrian has well and truly proved that he deserves a place in this team, and after doubting his inclusion in Adelaide, I am more than happy to eat humble pie.

James Taylor is one of the finest county cricketers in the land. He averages 47.35 in First-Class cricket and is Nottinghamshire’s most reliable batsmen, in my opinion. Taylor had a very short run in the test team, playing just two tests against South Africa in 2012 and was unlucky to come up against the seam attack of Steyn, Philander and Morkel. Taylor added 34 in a partnership of 147 with Kevin Pietersen, which proved his dogged style of play can shine through even under huge pressure. I may be slightly biased when it comes to Taylor (due to our Leicestershire backgrounds) but it baffles me that Ravi Bopara has been given countless chances in the England side, and Taylor has been left overlooked so many times.

Jos Buttler is a fantastic one-day player, everyone in world cricket knows that, but his main goal is to play test cricket for England. The Somerset lad has recently made the move to up to Lancashire in the hope of regular 1st division cricket behind the stumps in the LV County Championship. Buttler has a first-class average of 31.73 with over 2000 runs under his belt, but has immense amounts of promise for bettering his 4/5 day cricket. Buttler scored a magnificent 119* last season in a televised LVCC Division 1 match against Warwickshire and the experts couldn’t stop raving about his future.

Chris Jordan is a very highly rated youngster who had been heavily linked with a test call up during the Ashes down under. The 25-year-old quick, who was born in Barbados, took 59 wickets last year for Sussex in the LVCC Division 1, just fourth on the list behind Onions, Magoffin and Murtagh. Not only can he bowl, he also chipped in with the bat and scored 400 helpful runs down the order. But, like most cricketers nowadays, he can field as well and will be remembered by a few specifically for this blinding catch to send William Porterfield back to the pavilion. Yes, I don’t think it will be long before Chris Jordan makes his mark on the international game either.

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One thought on “Ashes 2013/14 Review

  1. Great summary Charles – as an Australian cricket fan, I was as surprised as anyone at the recent Ashes results. Australia consistently made at least one good batting partnership in each innings, something I very much doubted would happening coming into the series. Johnson’s performance was one for the ages; sadly, I don’t think we will ever see him perform at that level consistently for the rest of his career.
    Great writing Charles, keep up the good work

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