After us, the cupboard is all but bare

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The Independent Online

The disappointing thing about the Ashes series, the aspect that will stay with me forever, is that we were never allowed to test ourselves. Not properly, not as we had planned to. That is not an excuse, and anybody who suggests otherwise is talking eyewash.

The disappointing thing about the Ashes series, the aspect that will stay with me forever, is that we were never allowed to test ourselves. Not properly, not as we had planned to. That is not an excuse, and anybody who suggests otherwise is talking eyewash.

Australia deserve to be 3-0 up. England have had their moments, but they were fleeting. It will endure as a sadness for me. For 18 months England had improved. We had a side, a close-knit one whose members knew their roles, realised what was expected of them. We were, in the parlance, a unit. Then, bit by bit (although it actually felt as if it had happened overnight), we were torn asunder.

Australia sensed where the delicate bits lay. That says something about a team's balance and maybe the shortage of true depth in the game here (although with our injury list we would have had to possess depth to the bottom of the Tasman Sea, which may be beyond even the Aussies' capacity).

In short, we will never know how good we could have been. We do know that the disturbance to the team proved terminal to our chances. To that extent, the reaction to the defeat at Trent Bridge which sealed our fate was disappointing. The expression "pie throwers" made one headline. Can't see it myself. With so few runs, the bowlers gave us our one chance in the series.

It may be that the team who were forged together under Duncan Fletcher and Nasser Hussain can regroup sometime, but it will not be in this series and it will not be for the Ashes again. Realistically, some pretty drastic conversion work, if not wholesale rebuilding, is imminent.

The pundits have been having a field day in the past week. They must pray for English defeats so they can have weeks like it. Naming the team, telling the selectors what to do and then telling them why they were wrong when they pick them and they fail.

It is difficult for me to join in the game, not least because it's a painful one but also because I have played so little county cricket over the past few years. I would say that the selectors' job is being made mighty difficult because nobody is exactly knocking down the door.

I know that David Fulton, the Kent opener (another opener) has made eight hundreds this summer. The selectors will need to weigh up his outstanding form this year along with his age, 29, and his record in previous seasons – nearly 200 matches and an average of below 30.

Of those I have seen, I reckon Owais Shah has an international future. When he was called up for this summer's one-day series there was something about him. It wasn't merely his range of shots and the way that he played them, it was his cockiness, his in-your-face approach.

Others I like include Fulton's fellow Kent opener, Robert Key, who is seven-and-a-half years younger than his partner and, like Shah, has something about him. He looks the part.

There are also others to be considered who have been tried before and been discarded, most notably the two all-rounders Ben Hollioake and Andrew Flintoff. They both have what it takes. Hollioake in particular has shown himself to be a big-game player.

Without pointing the finger at them or anybody else there is, I'm afraid, a culture of "too much too soon" in this country at present. The first thing an 18-year-old gets in England after a county contract is an agent, closely followed by a bat contract. They want for nothing, so they are no longer hungry. In the poor results of so many players of potential there may sadly lurk an element of, "Well, there's nobody else, so they'll have to pick me".

If there are precious few batsmen that I can really be confident of then I am not looking behind me at up-and-coming bowlers either. There is nobody out there with raw pace. I know young Steve Kirby has been talked about but, with all due respect to his fine form and his wonderfully aggressive approach, he has been most successful on the seamer-friendly pitch at Headingley. As for Headingley itself, I suppose I shall see for myself this week how seamer-friendly it is. I've talked myself into it now.

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