England’s bid to save the Perth Test, and with it, the Ashes, got off to a three-hour delayed start due to a wet pitch at the WACA. The 28 overs lost in play might have given the tourists a boost in their hopes to pull off a last-ditch miraculous save but despite the game not getting underway until after lunch, Joe Root’s men had been dislodged as the holders of the Ashes before tea arrived.
Steve Smith’s men have performed an encore of what Michael Clarke’s side did at the WACA in the last Ashes Down Under in 2013-14 by capturing the urn at the earliest with three wins in three. They look well on course to inflict a similar 5-0 whitewash.
The 2013-14 series ended some careers in the English dressing room, a point Nathan Lyon did not fail to reiterate before the start of the series. An Ashes defeat, let alone a possible whitewash, brings with it an autopsy led by former players, media, boards and the fans alike. This one will be no different for England.
There might not be an exodus of the scale in the previous loss this time but serious questions will be raised over the places of a few. Before the start of the tour, England’s soft belly seemed to be the inexperience of its batsmen making their Ashes debuts. The likes of Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan pitted against Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood would have made a large portion of England fans nervous.
However, after three Test defeats and six innings, it has been the failing of its senior and more experience batsmen in Alastair Cook, Root and to a certain extent Moeen Ali that had undermined the tourists’ efforts.
Cook’s failures have been the most apparent and perhaps the saddest. A man whose orthodox and sound technique could bail him out on any patchy surface has been left poking tentatively in a bid to survive. A man once destined to break Sachin Tendulkar’s run-scoring records in Tests has not even completed a century of runs in his six outings so far with the bat. His seems to be head that will be the first on the chopping block but it will be a difficult decision for the England selectors to make.
He has gone through a multitude of partners in the opening department since the retirement of Andrew Strauss denying him the luxury of a settled opening pair but his disappointments in the Ashes suggest Cook is firmly on the decline.
While Cook’s horrendous run makes for an easy scapegoat, his successor in the English captaincy has fallen short of expectations by a country mile. The pre-series debate had been built around the leading two batsmen in Test cricket leading their team against the other in a battle for cricket’s oldest prize. Three test matches in, Smith has confirmed his status as the clear greatest in the format and approaching legendary status while Root has emerged a distant second in both the batting and captaincy departments.
Smith has led from the front bailing Australia out of trouble in the opener at the Gabba with his 141 while his epic 239 at Perth has condemned England to their third defeat since December 2016 after having scored more than 400 runs in their first innings.
Root on the other hand, was handed his chance to prove his credentials in the final innings at Adelaide but could not grasp it unlike his opposite counterpart. His failure to convert his two fifties into something big like Smith has been the difference between the two sides. The burden of England’s expectations was always going to be on Root in Ben Stokes’ absence and the Yorkshire man has fallen short of those to a great extent.
Similarly, Moeen Ali’s failure with both bat and ball so far in the series has been befuddling, greater so have his deficiencies with the former. He got decent starts in both innings at Brisbane but failed to convert either. He had dismal returns subsequently at Adelaide before mirroring that performance at Perth. His vulnerability to Nathan Lyon’s off-spin is now bordering on the silly with five dismissals in six innings to the Aussie spinner.
For a man known for his ability to take on spin, Moeen’s weakness to it has been shocking. Together the failure of these three batsmen has left the debutants with too much to do. Stoneman, Vince and Malan have all given a good account themselves in patches throughout the tour with the latter surprisingly being England’s best batsman so far.
However, the failures of the seniors have left the debutants with too much to do. England’s bowling will also be up for a review post the Ashes after not having set the world alight but it is in the batting department that the visitors have disappointed the most.
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