So…. England have suffered another crushing defeat at the hands of a resurgent Aussie team. Never have I seen an England team be so soundly outplayed over two tests. The strange and confusing shot selection on the fifth morning just about summed up England’s mental state. With a day to save the game and rain in the air England need to be watchful and keep the Aussies in the field for as long as possible. What actually happened was Stuart Broad hooking his fourth ball of the morning for six and then transpiring to play the same shot to the very next delivery to help the ball down to fine leg where Lyon took another fine catch. Prior also played many hook shots in a bright and breezy innings. Although England will be glad he found some form, it was not the right innings for the situation from a man who batted a whole day to save the Auckland test earlier in the year.
Indeed it was the hook shot that was, as in the first test, England’s downfall. Time after time batsmen just couldn’t cope with the pace generated by Mitchell Johnson. You really would have thought that after the first innings Cook and Flower would have sat the team down to formulate some kind of plan to at least post a respectable fourth innings score. The problem at the moment with England’s top order is that Alastair Cook looks mentally shot, as the old saying goes – you can see in his eyes that he’s gone. Cook looks like a man who has been intimidated and harassed by Johnson and doesn’t know where his next run is coming from. His dismissal in the second over yesterday, getting out hooking (surprise, surprise!!) was truly awful. England needed him to guide them to some sort of respectability. At Perth Cook needs to go back to what he does best; make himself hard to get out. He needs to defend much closer to his body and avoid playing short deliveries that he can’t control. Alongside Michael Carberry, who has actually shown some form and a method against Johnson, he has to make a big first innings score to calm the series down.
England also dropped a number of catches in this test particularly on day one. Although England would have been pleased with the score after day one, they could have been in complete control if it wasn’t for 3 spilled chances. Root’s diving effort at mid-wicket was admittedly a tough chance but Monty’s return catch and Carberry’s absolute dolly at point were unforgivable. The dropped catches cost England over 200 runs in this match and if they had held those catches they would have been in complete control at the end of day one.
There were a few, tiny encouraging signs before Perth though. The way Joe Root played at number three was pleasing, reaffirming the beliefs I expressed here. https://jackvittles.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/root-at-3/
Michael Carberry also played nicely in the first innings and was unlucky to be dismissed by a superb catch from David Warner. Also in the first innings, Ian Bell showed he hasn’t lost his summer form and offered hope that he could once again hold England’s frail batting together.
If England have any hope of retaining these Ashes they have to win at Perth, a feat they have only achieved once in their history –in fact in their last six visits to the WACA they have lost heavily every time and only passed 300 once. I will be outlining the way in which I think England have the best chance of grabbing a surprise win in Perth in the next few days on here… so keep an eye out.