Ashes 2013-14: England need evolution not revolution if they are to win back the Ashes in 2015
Time is short but England can rebuild before they meet Australia again
Tuesday 17 December 2013
When in the new year Captain Cook and his battered team sail for home, quite possibly wishing his historic namesake never bothered heaving to in Botany Bay, only a dozen Test matches will separate them from the opportunity to win the Ashes back. It means for all the cries for revolution – and the appeal that holds – the 18 months until England meet Australia again will need to be about evolution.
The Aussies land to defend the urn in June 2015 by which time Ben Stokes will have played a maximum of 16 Tests, his career still in its infancy. A new spinner, new wicketkeeper, new opening bowler, new opening batsman – say for example Scott Borthwick, Ben Foakes, Tymal Mills and Sam Robson – would still be feeling their way at the highest level.
There is another consideration to stifle calls for wholesale change. Australia will be coming back to England, back to conditions that suited their opponents so well just this summer. England may have been fortunate to have won that series 3-0, but they were not fortunate to have won.
Nevertheless, however much the England camp may deny it, laurels look to have not just been rested on but slept upon and squashed beyond obvious recognition. There is need for change, not just in the immediate for the fourth Test in Melbourne but for the English summer too; time, in terms of those dozen Tests, is short. Alastair Cook must remain as captain. He is evolving as a leader – Allan Border led Australia for a decade becoming a better and better captain in the process. Cook has improved, and besides there really is no alternative.
Alongside him Michael Carberry should be persevered with into next summer and the two Tests against Sri Lanka, barring disaster in the final two Ashes Tests. He will be closing on his 35th birthday come 2015 but is a fit man and England need only look to the careers of two Australians, Adam Gilchrist and Michael Hussey, to see how players can bloom in the autumn of their careers.
Joe Root and Ian Bell follow with Stokes at six and Bairstow, again barring a sub-Prior performance in the last two Tests, at seven and keeping wicket. That leaves one batting place and Gary Ballance is first in line after earning his selection for the squad by scoring heavily for Yorkshire – no-one scored more than his six first-class hundreds last season. Robson, the Middlesex opener, has his supporters – not least Chris Rodgers, who after batting alongside him at Lord’s, bemoaned Robson’s decision to choose England ahead of Australia, the land of his birth. Robson also offers an alternative to Carberry.
Kevin Pietersen is the same age as Carberry. If simply selecting the six best English batsmen Pietersen would still be among that number. But it is no longer as simple as that; it is time to move on.
The bowling attack could conceivably be the same as in Perth. In England James Anderson will remain a threat. But the years can quickly catch up with a fast bowler, especially one who has shouldered the workload Anderson has. Stuart Broad leads the attack, backed by Tim Bresnan, whose usefulness in home conditions and reliability tick worthy but necessary boxes.
Bresnan’s presence is required given a gamble on a potential strike bowler such as Mills, Chris Jordan or Jamie Overton. Mills is the young Essex left-armer who has impressed in practice with pace and hostility, though he is desperately inexperienced. Overton is quick; coach David Saker believes the Somerset teenager will consistently bowl at 90mph plus.
The spin option is the most difficult. Borthwick, a leg spinner with all-round potential, tours Sri Lanka with England Lions in the spring. England host Sri Lanka and India next summer and that would be a tough baptism for a young spinner. Swann is 35 in March and has been outbowled by Nathan Lyons in Australia. Monty Panesar is three years his junior and, although his fielding remains frustratingly inadequate, is still more likely to win a Test match than Borthwick within the next couple of years. In an English summer there may be occasions for including an extra seamer and relying on Root’s improving off-spin.
Teams for the first Ashes Test in England 2015...
1 A N Cook (capt)
2 M A Carberry
3 J E Root
4 I R Bell
5 G S Ballance
6 B A Stokes
7 J M Bairstow
8 T T Bresnan
9 S C J Broad
10 J Overton
11 M S Panesar/T S Mills
1 D A Warner
2 S R Watson
3 P J Hughes
4 M J Clarke (capt)
5 S P D Smith
6 N J Maddinson
7 M S Wade
8 M G Johnson
9 P J Cummins
10 J L Pattinson
11 N M Lyon
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