News, Culture & Society

Ashes: Sportsmail’s experts answer the big questions with tourists two down in Australia

England are two down after two Tests and need a miracle to avoid another crushing Ashes loss.

Where do they go from here? 

Sportsmail‘s experts – former England captain Nasser Hussain, former England player and coach David Lloyd and Cricket Correspondent Paul Newman – attempt to provide the answers.

With England two down in the Ashes, Sportsmail‘s experts look to answer the big questions

Has anything changed since England lost in Australia in 2017?

Nasser Hussain: Not a lot. This Test had a very similar scorecard to Adelaide 2017. The decision-making off the field has been more indifferent this time. There was the toss in Brisbane and not picking Jimmy Anderson or Stuart Broad. Then going to Adelaide and selecting five medium-fast right armers with no variation and no spinner. And the batting is so vulnerable. It is in a bad place.

I don’t know about four years ago, but I can’t think of a lower point for English cricket’s Test batting. That’s the issue.

David Lloyd: No, it’s just a pattern of making the same mistakes. There’s no firepower, using medium-pacers as bowlers, and we’re trying to block our way around Australia as a batting unit. It’s exactly the same as four years ago and the tour before that, with the same results. Australia’s all-round game is staring England in the face. The batters have technique and bat properly while the attack has firepower and a wonderful spinner. We can’t match that.

Paul Newman: Sadly not. Nor the four years before that. Chris Silverwood made all the right noises about this Ashes when he took over as coach and he was right to try to peak for this because it still is the series that most matters. More than any World Cup, too. But everything that could go wrong has done so and much of it has been self-inflicted.

The decision-making off the field has been more indifferent, with England at a very low point

The decision-making off the field has been more indifferent, with England at a very low point

Joe Root says England are making the same mistakes. Isn’t that very frustrating?

Lloyd: I’m not worried about the bowling. I found it extraordinary that Root said the bowlers hadn’t bowled the right lengths. He has to sort that out. Australia got 473 in the first innings. That was about right. It’s what you would expect. Not bowling a bit fuller is a minor problem when England can’t score runs. They should get 400-450 batting first.

Newman: I found Root’s post-Test comments interesting because, for the first time, he seemed to be criticising his senior players, particularly the bowlers. Does that suggest they are not completely behind him, as has always appeared to be the case before now? The time is fast approaching, I’m afraid, when someone else will need to be making these decisions and trying to ensure the same mistakes are not made.

Hussain: England have lost 11 out of their last 12 Tests in Australia, with the other drawn, so it’s not all down to this side. This is about England in Australia since 2010-11. You have to get everything spot on in Australia to even give yourself a sniff and the most frustrating thing is, with all the long-term planning, they arrived at the first Test with a different new-ball attack and slip cordon.

If they give themselves the best chance and still lose then fair enough, because it’s a tough place, but the off-field decision-making is not giving them that.

It was extraordinary when captain Joe Root said his bowlers hadn't bowled the right lengths

It was extraordinary when captain Joe Root said his bowlers hadn’t bowled the right lengths

How can England get back into this series?

Newman: I don’t think they can. We have seen this story three times in the last four away Ashes and we know how it ends. I said before the series I felt England could win one Test, but I’m starting to worry they can’t. Australia are not a great side, but they are a better one and England are not even a good side in their own conditions now. Those heady days of three victories by an innings in 2010-11 seem a very long time ago.

Hussain: Runs. It’s as simple as that. You cannot win in Brisbane with 147 in your first innings or in Adelaide with 236. This was a pretty flat pitch and you saw yesterday how much Australian toil was needed to get the last six wickets. Jos Buttler’s character was phenomenal, but the discrepancy in Test average between Joe Root and the rest tells you everything you need to know about England’s batting.

Lloyd: They have got to have a real belief that they can. They have to win three Tests which is nigh on impossible but Melbourne, even though it’s now a drop-in pitch, has been a good place for England. If they could just get one back now, we would then see what Australia have got. Will they have a bit of a panic? To do that, every aspect of England’s game – batting, bowling, fielding, energy, intensity and attitude – has to improve tenfold.

England need runs to get back into the series, but every aspect of their game has to improve

England need runs to get back into the series, but every aspect of their game has to improve

Any changes for Melbourne?

Lloyd: Loads! I’ll give you a 12 which should include Saqib Mahmood straight from the Big Bash. Ollie Pope survives as he’s a better player than we have seen and I’d play Jack Leach because it should be a feather-bed and they will need the spinner. Crawley, Bairstow, Malan, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Wood, Robinson, Leach, Anderson, Mahmood.

Hussain: It was very flat there last time but they say it’s a little quicker now. Wood has to come in, probably for Chris Woakes, and one out of Broad and Anderson misses out for Leach. The same batting line-up, with Pope getting one more go, partly because the others haven’t had a hit. Burns, Hameed, Malan, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Robinson, Wood, Leach, Anderson (or Broad).

Newman: Time is up for Rory Burns and, I am afraid, Ollie Pope, who is not training on to be the great player we thought he would be. We can’t just keep on changing the attack when the batting is the problem. Jos Buttler stays on the back of his last-day defiance but I still wouldn’t pick Jack Leach because, outside Asia, he’s not an international spinner. Nor is Dom Bess. England should have had Matt Parkinson there, on potential as much as anything.

I like Bumble’s thinking on Mahmood but sadly he’s not in the squad, yet. Crawley, Hameed, Malan, Root, Stokes, Bairstow, Buttler, Robinson, Wood, Broad, Anderson.

Jack Leach (R) was a popular choice among our experts to come back into the tourists' plans

Jack Leach (R) was a popular choice among our experts to come back into the tourists’ plans

You have a blank piece of paper. How do you resurrect English Test cricket?

Hussain: This is the crucial point. We always look at the captain and management, but the problems are deep rooted. My main point is pitches. Speak to any first-class cricketer and they will say batting has become so tricky in England. Then you get all these weird and wonderful techniques where they’re trying to re-invent the wheel. And county cricket should be more about quality, not quantity.

Newman: Rip it up and start again, as Orange Juice once sang. It was understandable Andrew Strauss wanted to prioritise white-ball cricket after the 2015 World Cup, but we have gone too far in that direction and have neglected our bread and butter, Test cricket. And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we didn’t need another format in the Hundred. Get rid of that and prioritise first-class cricket in mid-summer.

Lloyd: I’m not too worried about England’s bowling. On top of what’s in this squad, Jofra Archer will come back and Mahmood is going to be an international bowler. We could do with a wrist-spinner but Matt Parkinson and Mason Crane seem to be coming on OK.

I’m looking at batting techniques and far too many of them play around the front pad. Australia have a proper stance and the bat comes down straight. Domestically, we need better pitches because every county is crying out for them. And we need to play first-class games in summer, not the arse-end of winter and then autumn.

England cricket may need ripping up, with batting techniques off and problems deep-rooted

England cricket may need ripping up, with batting techniques off and problems deep-rooted

Are Root and Silverwood under threat if this carries on in Melbourne?

Lloyd: Yes, most definitely. I’ll tell you why because I’ve been there. I know what will be going on behind the scenes and questions will be asked. It happens. There will probably be another report. It’s a results business. They have to get something from Melbourne.

Hussain: History tells you there is so much emphasis on the Ashes because it is such a big series and, yes, much of the decision-making has been poor. They will have to turn that around and captain and coach their socks off over the last three games. I didn’t agree with Silverwood taking on all selection when it happened and it does leave him accountable now.

I’d love to know why England played a spinner on a green seamer in Brisbane and then a five-man seam attack on a dry, flat one in Adelaide.

Newman: They have to be. I said before the series this should be Root’s last in charge, and that’s definitely the case if his third Ashes in charge ends without him lifting the urn. Just concentrate on your batting, Joe. And we need you as a bowler too!

Sadly, Silverwood has to come under scrutiny too because the buck stops with him. And far too many mistakes have been made.

Root's captaincy is in danger if his side's misfortunes stretch into the fourth Test in Melbourne

Root’s captaincy is in danger if his side’s misfortunes stretch into the fourth Test in Melbourne