Joe Root struggles and four other reasons for England's Ashes defeat

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England’s hopes of hanging on to the Ashes urn Down Under have disappeared after Australia took a decisive 3-0 series lead on day five in Perth.

The tourists were spared 28 of the scheduled 98 overs on the final day of the third Test but had to contend with the mental – and potentially physical – consequences of a pitch left with soft patches around the worn cracks at the Lillee-Marsh end.

They were unable to keep Josh Hazlewood (five for 48) at bay as they folded from 132 for four to 218 all out in under 35 overs to lose by an innings and 41 runs, with a session unused, and hand Australia an unassailable 3-0 series lead.

Here, Press Association Sport considers how and why the defence has evaporated with two Tests still to play.

Discipline

The moment Ben Stokes was arrested over a late-night incident in Bristol the entire tenor of the Ashes shifted.

Stokes was more than England’s vice-captain, more than their fourth seamer and more than than their most effective counter-attacking batsman.

He was the side’s heart and soul and the pivot around which the rest of the side balanced.

The precise details are yet to be established by police but at the least he fell short of the highest professional standards in the midst of an international series against the West Indies.

Jonny Bairstow took a loose view of the management’s subsequent warnings over behaviour when he bizarrely, but apparently playfully, greeted Australia opener Cameron Bancroft with a bar-room headbutt.

By the time Lions batsman Ben Duckett poured a drink on Jimmy Anderson’s head in the same Perth bar, the tour was more derailed off the pitch than on it.

Jonny Bairstow came under fire for headbutting Australia opener Cameron Bancroft.

Jonny Bairstow came under fire for headbutting Australia opener Cameron Bancroft.

Cut to the quick

England proved in 2010-11 that a raw pace barrage was not essential to victory in Australia, but the greater weight of evidence suggests it is certainly pretty handy.

Australia’s seamers are uniformly quicker than their counterparts, with others waiting in the wings, and in the absence of sustained movement through the air the touring attack has looked pedestrian and repetitive.

James Anderson and Stuart Board are champion bowlers but have not threatened the top order consistently, while it is hard to imagine a youngster of Craig Overton’s physical dimensions being allowed to settle for 80mph nibblers were he taught in Sydney rather than Somerset.

Craig Overton.

Craig Overton.

Root cause

A successful tour for England always required a major showing from their captain, Joe Root.

Widely accepted as the class act in a hastily-assembled top six, he has mustered just 176 runs in six innings.

His opposite number and peer on most pundits’ ‘best in the world’ lists, Steve Smith, topped that in a single knock at the WACA.

While Smith has been imperious and immovable, Root is beginning to face questions about whether the captaincy of a side in transition is too much to place on his shoulders.

Draining spells in the field cannot have helped him at the crease and his failures have fuelled the Australian surge.

Root scored just 176 runs in six innings.

Root scored just 176 runs in six innings.

Moeen missing in action

Moeen Ali was England’s go-to man in the domestic summer, a match-winning presence in the lower order and an increasingly reliable attacking spinner against South Africa and the West Indies.

What Root would have given to harness some of that in Brisbane and beyond.

A side strain and a cut spinning finger saw him struggle for meaningful practice before the series and he has never really found his feet since.

Unable to match Nathan Lyon for threat or control, his bowling has hit a nadir, while he is yet to add any meaningful runs.

Moeen Ali.

Moeen Ali.

Missing piece

As well as being short on express pace, England’s bowling attack boarded the plane without a full-time bowling coach.

To make up for their lower speeds, flawless planning and the ability to adapt on the hoof would have been key.

Instead, their long-standing pace mentor Ottis Gibson left to take charge of South Africa and his replacement, Chris Silverwood, is not due to start until the new year.

Filling the gap, for the first two Tests at least, was former New Zealand quick Shane Bond.

He did not know his charges well enough to present a ready-made game plan, did not boast a stellar personal record in Australia and was gone after Adelaide, with Paul Collingwood effectively adding the burden to his existing duties.

When the tale is told of this tour, this will look a costly oversight.

Chris Silverwood is not due to take charge of England's bowling department until the New Year.

Chris Silverwood (L) is not due to take charge of England’s bowling department until the new year.

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Australia regain Ashes with innings victory over England in third Test

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England have lost the Ashes before Christmas despite Dawid Malan’s late, lone-hand resilience and a controversial three-hour delay after overnight rain got underneath the WACA’s leaky covers.

The tourists were spared 28 of the scheduled 98 overs on the final day of the third Test but had to contend with the mental – and potentially physical – consequences of a pitch left with soft patches around the worn cracks at the Lillee-Marsh end.

They were unable to keep Josh Hazlewood (five for 48) at bay as they folded from 132 for four to 218 all out in under 35 overs to lose by an innings and 41 runs, with a session unused, and hand Australia an unassailable 3-0 series lead.

Malan’s 54 held the hosts up for 135 balls, but even the best efforts of England’s sterling first-innings centurion could only delay the inevitable.

There were farcical scenes at times before play got under way as captain and coach on either side gave differing mid-pitch opinions to the umpires, with attempts to remedy the effects of rain having somehow seeped under the covers the previous evening hampered by more showers blowing across the ground.

England coach Trevor Bayliss voiced his concerns to broadcasters, during morning deliberations, that conditions had been rendered too “difficult … maybe even a little dangerous”.

Repeatedly, groundstaff and their covers were blown across the square as one squally shower after another surged in from the south-west – and a soggy hessian rug was relaid on the pitch each time, before leaf-blowers of increasing size were commandeered to aid the drying process.

Umpires Chris Gaffaney and Marais Erasmus finally decided play could get under way after an early lunch at 1pm – and, within a handful of deliveries, it was clear England were going to be up against it.

Jonny Bairstow departed to the first he faced, Hazlewood instantly locating the problem area and finding enough deviation and low bounce to utterly defeat the Yorkshireman’s tentative forward-defensive and knock back his off-stump.

Three balls later, new batsman Moeen Ali survived on four only after third umpire Aleem Dar concurred with the soft signal on the pitch that an edge to Steve Smith at second slip had not quite carried.

The Australia captain did not appear amused, but must have been heartened again in Hazlewood’s next over with another delivery to Malan that hit a crack and looped off at an angle of a metre or more into the hands of slip.

Moeen has had a poor tour, and did nothing to improve his or England’s fortunes.

He narrowly escaped his early edge off Hazlewood, then would have run himself out chancing a dodgy single if David Warner had managed a direct hit from cover.

It made little difference, because he was then lbw on the forward-defence to Nathan Lyon – falling to his opposite number for the fifth time in six innings this winter.

There was still distant hope for England while Malan held firm.

But, after he was seventh out gloving an attempted pull behind off Hazlewood, there was only the tail left, and it was soon waving goodbye to the urn.

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Afridi offers throwback with bat but bowling ineffective - Analysis of Pakistan star in T10 semi-finals

Denzil Pinto 17/12/2017
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Shahid Afridi produced big-hitting with the bat, making 41.

It wouldn’t have been a T10 League without Shahid Afridi’s presence especially as the tournament is played at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Having made a big impact at the venue with the bat and ball in T20s and ODIs throughout his glittering career with Pakistan, the stage was set for ‘Boom Boom’ to showcase his talent again in the new shortest format.

Despite Afridi’s star turn with the bat, in something of a throwback, his Pakthoons side were beaten by nine-wickets in Sunday’s semi-final against Punjabi Legends.

Here, we look closely at the 37-year-old’s showing.

STATS

Overs bowled: Two

Wickets: None

Economy: 11.50

Figures: 0-23

Runs: 41 from 17 balls, including five sixes and one four.

EFFECTIVENESS WITH THE BAT AND BALL

A man who thrives on the big stage, Afridi didn’t disappoint at all with the bat. Coming in at No.3, the Pakthoons skipper faced only 17 balls but more importantly struck five sixes and one four in his 41-run knock – all of which were met by a roar of cheers at the crowds.

His first spell with the ball saw him concede three runs as well as three extras but his return in the 8th over, ultimately helped Punjabi Legends to victory. It all started well with three singles and a two but his final two deliveries saw Shoaib Malik hit back-to-back sixes.

VERDICT

Seven. Superb effort with the bat but was outdone with some brilliance batting from Punjabi Legends.

SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 14:  Shahid Afridi of Pakhtoons celebrate with team mates after taking a hat-trick during the T10 League match between Maratha Arabians and Pakhtoons at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on December 14, 2017 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Afridi was wicketless but still made time for a trademark appeal.

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