The Reuters global sports blog
It’s not only the on-field performances that let England down in the Ashes. The selectors too got it wrong starting from the initial announcement of the squad to the playing XI that was chosen for the third Test. The team management must also share the blame for going 3-0 down and losing the urn.
They made their first mistake in denying paceman Graham Onions a place in the touring party, a move that then came under harsh criticism in the English media. He has long been considered the second best swing bowler in England after James Anderson and his omission especially after a good season with Durham was baffling if not downright foolish. Instead, Onions is now in South Africa, playing for the Dolphins.
Of course, it is easy to criticise the selectors on the basis of hindsight but there were early signs that should have been heeded.
England were drained after winning the home Ashes 3-0 in August and it would have only been prudent to inject some more firepower into the playing XI for the return series, knowing that Australia would fight back hard.
According to International Cricket Council statistician David Kendix’s calculations, three England sides before Andrew Strauss’s present team would have topped the test world rankings too if the current format had existed.
In reverse chronological order, they are Mike Brearley’s side of 1979-80, Ray Illingworth’s 1970-3 team and the 1955-9 squad led first by Len Hutton then Peter May.
The retirement of Paul Collingwood from England’s test team was beautifully timed, leaving the selectors with the dilemma of who to replace the versatile batsman but with a long time to contemplate the decision and from a pretty lofty perch.
The 34-year-old brought options with the ball and was arguably the team’s best fielder, so although he has struggled with the bat of late whoever steps into the team has some big boots to fill.
England moved closer to bringing the Ashes back from Australia for the first time in 24 years on Tuesday as they reduced the battered hosts to 169-6 at stumps on day three of the fourth test, needing just four more wickets to wrap up victory and still with a lead of 246.
In all likelihood England will require just three more wickets with Ryan Harris off the field with a stress fracture to his foot and unlikely to be forced to bat in such dire circumstances for the home side.
With the fourth test steaming up on us like Santa’s sleigh with an inebriated Rudolf at the helm, time is running out for England to decide on what to do about a problem like Paul Collingwood.
Is it me or does “Brigadier Block” always seem more out of form than in form?
England won the first day honours in the third Ashes test to the delight of their ‘Barmy Army’, bowling Australia out for 268 and reaching 29 without loss before the close of play.
Australia’s tail wagged hard to get the hosts to respectability and their four fast bowlers will be keen to get back into the English batsmen on Friday on a pitch that looks to have plenty of life in it. Mitchell Johnson’s fine knock of 62 will be a big boost to the Queenslander – a confidence player returning after being dropped for the heavy defeat in Adelaide – and he has plenty to prove with the ball.
Did somebody call for a doctor? A psychiatrist more like! A serious amount of surgery is needed on the Australian cricket team to help them turn around their fortunes in the third Ashes test starting on Thursday.
Australia could make five changes for the Perth test as they shuffle their pack in an attempt to find the magic combination to take 20 English wickets and take advantage of the “Freemantle Doctor” (the term given to the breeze that blows across the WACA ground which can be a useful asset to any bowling attack).
“Bowling, Shane” are not words English batsmen would want to hear ever again, but how would the Australians react to Shane Warne making an astonishing return to answer his nation’s plea for help in the wake of the second test defeat to the ‘Poms’?
To say Warne was England’s primary Ashes tormentor for years and years is an understatement. Every time the leg spinner had the ball in his hand he had the opposition quaking, and even off the pitch he was a handful.
England have been in far worse positions at the end of a first Ashes test in Brisbane. Although being bowled out for 260 is far from ideal Andrew Strauss’s team should believe they are still in this contest.
Having been 197 for four half an hour into the final session of the day and with the Australian bowlers barely able to hit the cut strip, England will rue the batting collapse which saw the last 6 wickets fall for just 63 runs and included a stunning hat trick from Peter Siddle.
With Australia’s current cricket team seemingly keen on proving they can be just as hopeless as any cricket team England produced circa 1990-2000, what better time to go Down Under and watch England defend the Ashes?
I was meant to go four years ago after the epic 2005 series, only to pull out at the last minute and buy a house instead.