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


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.

footballHe started just four months ago
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, was among those to be archived
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect