Ashes 2013-14 comment: Alastair Cook is a problem, and his lack of runs are costing England

England's batting deficiencies well exposed by Australia on day two of the First Test

So much for whitewash theory, or at least as it pertains to England. It could be that this is just a nasty one-off, an unrepresentative disintegration born of rust, a lack of exposure to hostile enemy fire so early in the series. After all England climbed out of a deeper hole at the Gabba three years ago, recovering a 221 first innings deficit with a mountainous 500-plus in the second for the loss of only one wicket.

But much has happened since. England have been fried by Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, stuffed at home by South Africa. And if you peel away the euphoria of the 3-0 Ashes win of last summer, you begin to see how Australia might have left with a share of the urn or even as victors.

The first Test went to England by just 14 runs, the third would have been Australia’s were it not for a Manc monsoon. Australia looked well set to make the 298 target to win the fourth Test but for a late collapse and had much the better of the drawn final encounter at The Oval. In four of the five Tests Australia led after the first innings, and this is a poor batting side. Only in the second Test at Lord’s were they decisively beaten.

The Australian batting line up is all over the place, lacking an established opening partnership, no fixed abode for Shane Watson and a skipper in Michael Clarke who is peerless at five but frequently exposed at four. Just as well they teased Brad Haddin back to the gloves. It is this weakness with the willow as much as anything that led some to predict another drubbing for Australia, utterly ignoring the quality of the Aussie attack.

If Mitchell Johnson bowls straight and Ryan Harris stays fit the Australian strike weapons are quicker and more dangerous than our own. Couple this with the failure of the pre-match hyperbole to acknowledge England’s own batting ills.

England have yet to satisfactorily replace Andrew Strauss at the top of the order. Michael Carberry was one of the plusses of that first innings debacle. He is not the problem. Alastair Cook is and his lack of runs is costing England, who have not posted one 400 in the last dozen innings.

Jonathan Trott managed only two 50s in ten Ashes innings in England, averaged fewer than 30 and looked anything but a Test class operator when poking tentatively at Johnson to gift a catch down the leg side.

Matt Prior did brilliantly with his reverse clatter of the stumps to run out Haddin yet he is not in the team for his prowess with the gloves but for his ability to stiffen the middle order with his robust batting. That is where he makes a difference, or rather used to. His first baller would have disappointed a school boy rabbit. In nine knocks in the summer he averaged 19 with a highest score of 47. Nowhere near good enough.

Without Graeme Bell you could argue that the Ashes would have returned to Australia. He failed here and so did England. Of course Johnson’s left arm could lower and the spray gun return. The shoulder, back, hip, knee, ankle or Achilles of Ryan Harris might fail at any time. The bounce might desert Nathan Lyon. All fair ‘ifs’, perhaps, but irrespective of that, the evidence tells us that England are going to have to reverse a batting trend that goes deeper than the Gabba collapse.

Sport
footballLIVE: All the latest from today's Premier League matches
News
newsNew images splice vintage WWII photos with modern-day setting
Arts and Entertainment
The star dances on a balcony in the video
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines