Unless the private reality is different from the public statements made by their captain Joe Root, the English cricketers are, to revive an old quote about them by former Australian fast bowler Jeff Thomson, “on a roller coaster at the s *** house” – a place of ablution in Australia but no absolution.
Two to three with three to go, England must win any remaining tests to regain the Ashes, a moot task at best given they haven’t won any of their last 12 games in Australia.
If that is the positive outlook ahead of Boxing Day Melbourne’s test, the way these things normally go, as recriminations and soul-searching escalate, is that they will do well to avoid bleaching. .
Playing the Australians on their home turf has always been difficult. Realism is required, which is why Root’s post-match claim that he doesn’t think Australia are much better than England under the conditions is an insult, even to the gullible.
Maybe the captains have to say things like that in public, but the hard facts are that England’s Brains’ Trust identified the pink ball test in Adelaide as their best opportunity to win and adapted their entire strategy around that. -this.
Those chances were further boosted when Australia lost captain Pat Cummins and quick pitcher Josh Hazlewood before the game. And yet defeat has always been for England, by 275 points, which makes you hate to think about what could happen when the Brains’ Trust don’t see it so well.
So what went wrong? The simple answer is that England, for the umpteenth time, didn’t score enough points in their opening innings, 236 barely winning you a T20 game these days, let alone a five-day test. .
Nothing new there. In fact, this has been happening for quite some time and without Root’s extraordinary year with the bat, in which he clocked 1,630 points to 62.7, and the excellence of the English bowlers, at least at home, the results over the past 18 months would have been much worse.
The failures at batting in Australia so far have been due to a lack of discipline and judgment, with a strange technical glitch.
Rory Burns has a lot of moving parts in his trigger moves, but so does Steve Smith, Australia’s acting captain in Adelaide.
The difference is that Smith knows which bowling lines to play and which to leave, something Burns has yet to master although he seemed more skilled in the second inning in Adelaide.
This is crucial. Batsmen need to know where the stump is and only play on those balls, no more than a bat’s width outside, at least until they are set.
If you can start in Australia and maintain your focus afterward, that provides the best hitting conditions as the Kookaburra ball does very little except for spinners like Nathan Lyon who give the ball a tear.
But you have to be patient because Australian bowlers are the personification of the discipline, something Jos Buttler managed to be in his second round where he sheathed his usual attacking instincts to graft a funeral 26 on 207 balls.
Some, among them Sir Alastair Cook, were very excited saying that the stroke, which ended when Buttler stepped on his stumps, would make him become a test drummer.
Hopefully this will be because Buttler has a rare knack for kicking the ball, but they seem to forget that if Alex Carey, his counterpart, hadn’t inexplicably waved the right edge that Buttler gave Mitchell Starc, the England keeper would have noted. his second duck of the match.
As it stands, instead of carrying the drinks next week, everyone will be intrigued to see how ‘Blocker Buttler’ goes at MCG, possibly promoted to No.6 instead of Ollie Pope with Jonny Bairstow, possibly taking off the wicket-keeper’s gloves at seven.
Changes are usually what defeat brings in the Ashes series, where the stakes are exaggerated to the max. But can England risk making it for the third test given that the substitutes have only had clean training to prepare them?
At least those in harness have been toughened up by a tough cricket match, although this can start to have a mental impact that needs to be taken into account when selecting teams to take on a confident Australia.
This is where Root has to act on instinct rather than data, which can be difficult when you’ve become a slave to the data.
You need players who like junk, not those who are intimidated and no algorithm will tell you who it is in the middle of an Ashes streak.
It was this lack of us in cricket that also led England to choose the wrong bowling attack for the second test in a row.
Not that it would have made a big difference considering their lack of points in the first set, but Mark Wood had to play and maybe a spinner too. There will be another pitch at the MCG, and they can be bland, but that shouldn’t rule out Wood who can rush and hurry.
Where Root was right, in his post-match comments, was to identify that the English bowlers had not thrown enough.
But why didn’t he address it at the time? James Anderson and Stuart Broad are rightly revered, but they’re still the Captain’s worker bees and are there to do whatever he wants.
Watching England play the bowl on day one, albeit from a distance, felt like a deliberate tactic to hit hard early on and give as few points as possible.
It was if they were waiting for Godot, the play by Samuel Becket where two men wait around a third who never arrives. In the case of England, they were waiting for the spotlight of the evening session; a trigger, according to tradition, for the pink ball to start moving Headingley-style.
This never happened to them (another flaw in relying on data from past events). Instead of looking for wickets when the ball was new, which is best done in Australia with full length, they allowed the home batsmen to establish themselves and post a total of 473 opening innings.
It was still too much and England’s stick, as you might expect, collapsed under the pressure it exerted.
MORE: ‘I almost fell out of my seat!’ – Australian legend Ricky Ponting castigates Joe Root’s comments after second Ash test
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