The general consensus amongst observers during the current Ashes series has been that England have been well and truly outplayed in all of the first four tests. It’s also appears to be agreed however, that this England side is not a poor one. Out of form, down on their luck, underperforming, all of these have been used to explain and describe the dreadful performance of this England side. Despite the failure to control Australia’s vulnerable bating line up, numerous dropped catches and insipid batting displays this current England side has still not been labelled a poor side.
I’m here to tell you however, that they are and that’s coming from an England supporter. Its all well and good saying that England have been the premier test team for fielding and fitness during the last three years, and yes they have, but great teams, even good teams, don’t let as many chances slip by in the field as this side has. From Carberry’s terrible drop in Adelaide to Cook’s complete failure at first slip on the final morning at Melbourne, England have had all the hallmarks of a poor fielding side. They look bereft of all confidence under any high catches and their reactions have deserted them close to the bat. They have not been helped during the Melbourne test by the retirement of Swann and the selection of inexperienced keeper Johnny Bairstow. The first missed opportunity during the final innings of the fourth test would have been taken if England has been brave enough to stick with Matt Prior, he has played with Cook alongside him at first slip for the past year.
England’s confused selection policy has also been a contributing factor to them becoming a poor side. It started with the selection of the tall trio of Finn, Tremlett and Rankin, despite all the indications from the county game that Graeme Onions was streets ahead of any other bowler on the circuit. England defeated Australia during the previous Ashes series without any of their seamers consistently firing throughout the series and should have grabbed the opportunity to select Onions to add some consistent threat to their attack.
Good sides and good players make the most of the talents they have at their disposal, it’s the reason players such as Paul Collingwood and Simon Katich have always been so well respected. England have managed to do the complete opposite, squashing their own talent pool through bad team selection and clouded judgement. Admittedly one of the reasons this once great England side has become a poor one is through the absence of some of its most consistent performers from the last three years. Jonathan Trott’s absence is obviously unavoidable and there was nothing England could do about his personal troubles but their decision not to call a replacement into the squad was inexcusable. The situation was the perfect moment to recall Compton, a man who had been a part of England’s great sub -continent conquering team in 2012. Instead England struggled on with their flawed initial Ashes squad.
During the Melbourne test, England’s top seven batsmen only failed to reach double figures once in their fourteen combined innings; Ian Bell’s mental aberration being the only exception. This proves that they are good players and more than capable of playing against this Aussie attack. But what makes this side a poor one is there complete failure to convert their starts, Carberry has been most guilty of this during this series.
So… Are England a poor side? Yes, at the moment they are. Can they be a good side again? Absolutely, the raw talent is there but they need to be brave and select a young, vibrant and committed team.