Ashes 2013/14: England’s Ashes shambles is uglier than ’06 whitewash

Cook’s reckless men who are a fading force are being outplayed by average side

Adelaide

Seven years ago, England were swept away in Australia. It was a demolition which led to a radical change in the structure and management of the team. The idea behind it, undeclared but sonorously felt, was that it must never happen again.

In its way, what has taken place in this Ashes series so far seems worse than its recent forebear. Then the Australian side contained great players. Some of the best to have adorned the game studded it from top to bottom.

This team are not of that ilk. There is one authentically outstanding player for the ages in the captain, Michael Clarke, a magnificently hostile fast bowler operating at the peak of his powers in Mitchell Johnson and a group of other men hell-bent on revenge and the desire to prove themselves.

In 2006, England came out aware that they might be walking to the gallows despite their marvellous deeds of the previous year. In 2013 they arrived as favourites, strolling in the sunshine created by being three-time Ashes winners.

The discord between these sides is growing by the day. Whatever they say about mutual respect it is evident that they have a fervent dislike of each other. Throughout the fourth day, as England batted vainly to save the match, praying for rain, Australia were sledging.

While Joe Root tried to smile his way into their affections (a tougher ask than fending off a Johnson bouncer at full tilt), the old campaigners, Stuart Broad and Matt Prior, were embroiled in bitter altercations towards the end of the day. They continued the discussions leaving the field. They might have thought that as ye sow, so shall ye reap.

Joe Root is hoping England can Joe Root top scored for England with 87 runs It can be stated with certainty after the bulk of two Tests are complete that England are sliding down the other side of the mountain from the summit they reached two years ago. The events of the past few weeks have shown that the 3-0 victory over Australia last summer was a chimera.

Senior members of this team have frequently told us that they pride themselves on their honesty. This means that on the occasions they have been up against it there has been plenty of straight talking in the dressing room. It is time for the boys to fess up again and this time there may be no going back.

The second Test has been dreadful for England. If the fourth day was better than the third it was a matter of fine margins. Bowled out for 172 on Saturday, they were left with a purely nominal 531 to win yesterday when Australia, wary of impending rain, declared their second innings at 132 for 3.

There was a modicum of resistance but it was surrounded by some strokes that in the circumstances beggared belief. For the second day in succession, the tourists’ batting was imbued with stupidity, fear and a desperation not to show fear. Johnson is stalking England. In recognising that, they are dealing badly with the others. That is the effect dominant bowlers have had throughout history.

England were left 180 overs to bat, either to win or save the game, which was 112 more than they managed in their first innings, 28 more than they lasted in their epic draw at Brisbane three years ago and 32 more than South Africa held out for in achieving their own improbable draw at Adelaide last year. It was stretching the bounds to suppose there could be a reprise.

To suggest that England were not prepared for this series is completely to undervalue the meticulous nature of their coach, Andy Flower. He does not have a middle name but if he did it would be Preparation.

The attempt to counter the threat of Johnson was carefully planned. Two English left-arm seam bowlers, Tymal Mills and Henry Gurney, accompanied the squad for the first month of the tour. They peppered England’s batsmen in the nets and Mills won particular plaudits.

But there is only one Johnson, of course. Perhaps Mills and Gurney should have grown drooping moustaches to capture the menace more precisely.

The depth of the tourists’ discomfort, starkly exposed on Saturday when Johnson took 7 for 40, including a breathtaking burst of 5 for 12 in 18 balls, emerged quickly again yesterday. Alastair Cook, the captain on who so much depends, hooked in Johnson’s first over and was splendidly caught at long leg.

It was a stunning shot for a man attempting to save a Test match, unless he really thought England should be trying to win it, in which case his brains really are scrambled. Yet there was still a repeat of it 10 overs later.

Michael Carberry had seemed composed yet he, too, decided to take on the short ball and he, too, was well caught on the leg-side boundary. Australia were dangerous enough without gifted wickets.

The partnership between Root and Kevin Pietersen that followed demonstrated that not all the fight had gone out of England. Pietersen struck three sixes, including the 19th of the match, making it a record for the number of sixes in an Ashes contest.

Before he could add more, he became the victim of Peter Siddle for the ninth time in Tests. He played Johnson like a virtuoso but Siddle, rather more unsung, has his number.

Root seemed set for a hundred before he also was dismissed by a bowler who was not Johnson. It was unfortunate as he edged Nathan Lyon into his body for Brad Haddin to react quickly and take a one-handed diving catch. It was a memorable 200th Test catch.

Ian Bell, who had batted sublimely in the first innings, was guilty of a woeful lapse yesterday, hitting a Steve Smith full toss in the air. Ben Stokes was out to the second new ball after a decent but uncertain vigil. It was something that England made the second new ball.

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

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?