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PARTAB RAMCHAND | 25 DECEMBER, 2017

Tough Questions For England But Do They Have the Answers?

Tough Questions For England But Do They Have the Answers?


It is a situation England are not unfamiliar with. Twice in the last three Ashes series `Down Under’’ they have been three down after three Tests and then have had to endure the humiliation of a whitewash. Will they be able to stave that off at least now?

To be candid not many would have expected England to go down so tamely. The Australians were the favourites going into the series but not the prohibitive kind. On the face of it there seemed little to choose between the sides though the Aussie attack appeared to be the more penetrative. It was on the basis of this that the Aussies had their noses in front for there was nothing much to choose between the batting of the two teams. Each team had two world class players – Alastair Cook and Joe Root for England and Steve Smith and David Warner for Australia.

And yet England have lost all the Tests by emphatic margins – ten wickets, 120 runs and innings and 41 runs. Obviously in such a dismal scenario both the batting and bowling has failed. Simply put England have not performed up to their potential while Australia have performed above their potential.

England face tough questions as they approach the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne but do they have the answers? How can they reverse the trend? How can they fly in the face of recent history that suggests a whitewash is the only possible outcome? So much has gone wrong for them that there has to be some sort of metamorphosis before England can turn things around at Melbourne and Sydney.

When the series commenced it was taken for granted that Cook and Root would have to come good with the bat and hopes were pinned on the well established duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad to come off with the ball. Any other contributions would be a bonus. Unfortunately it was not worked out that way. Cook a pale shadow of the once mighty run getter has got just 83 runs at an average of 13.83. Is this the end of the road for England’s highest run getter and century maker? The clamour is growing for him to be axed and unless he is able to be among the runs at Melbourne and Sydney it could well be the end of an all time English cricketing great.

Root is clearly feeling the pressure of being at the helm of a losing outfit. His batting otherwise so assured and bearing the stamp of class is strangely hesitant and the result has been a poor series by his lofty standing as one of the world’s leading batsmen. A return of 176 runs at an average of less than 30 is not only denting his confidence but is also having an adverse effect on the side. It does no good for the morale of the team when the two leading batsmen are struggling at the crease though to their credit it must be said it has not affected Johnny Bairstow and Dawid Malan who have notched up the only two hundreds for England in the series.

The bowling too has been a major disappointment symbolized by Broad’s inability to be among the wickets. Five wickets at almost 62 apiece is ample proof of this. Chris Woakes has been unable to fulfill the third seamer’s slot adequately while the Australian batsmen have feasted on the innocuous spin bowling of Moeen Ali. The saving grace has been Anderson. ``He can take wickets only in England’’ has been a common refrain but with 12 wickets in three Tests at an average of 25.83 with a five-wicket haul the 35-year-old spearhead is going all out to prove his detractors wrong.

There is no doubt that England are missing the utility qualities of Ben Stokes. The dynamic cricketer would have bolstered the batting and bowling and the proceedings would not have been as lop sided as they have been though it is a moot point whether his presence would have made any difference to the ultimate result. Anyway he is not around and England will have to solider along without him though they seem to have discovered a cricketer of some talent in Craig Overton.
 

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