Ashes 2013-14: Snapped bat says it all about series of English disasters

Carberry's broken bat was the most symbolic moment of the series

Sydney

In mid-afternoon on the final day of England’s worst Ashes series came the most symbolic moment. Michael Carberry, the opening batsman, played a regulation defensive shot to a good length ball from Ryan Harris. And his bat simply snapped in two, the bottom half flapping forlornly against the top.

England were utterly broken. For 10 weeks their batsmen had shown no resistance and now their bats had given up the unequal struggle as well. That image will pervade the memory of this whole sorry campaign. Carberry smiled. There was not much else he could do save break down in tears and scream for mercy.

Soon after, 110 minutes later, at 4.23pm to be precise, England had lost the fifth Test by 281 runs on its third day and the series by 5-0. It was the third such margin in history and this one came from nowhere. Only three months ago at home, England had won 3-0. They felt like kings of the world then.

The fight had gone out of them on Sunday. There had not been much of it in the preceding weeks as potentially winning positions were surrendered and Australia’s bowlers ran rampant.

Read more:

Ashes 2013-14: The Aussie Angle - Darren Lehmann deserves more credit than he will admit  

Ashes 2013-14: Which players should England stick with going forward, who is playing for their future and who should hang up the pads?

Ashes 2013-14: ‘We let you all down,’ Alastair Cook tells England fans after whitewash

Ashes 2013-14: Alastair Cook ‘desperate’ to show he’s still the right man for England

Ashes 2013-14: Ian Botham 'embarrassed' by Alastair Cook's 'spineless' England after series whitewash  

No one alive expected England to make the 448 runs required to win after Australia were bowled out in their second innings for 276, a total reached at well above four runs an over. They were in the business of plundering and England were not in the business of stopping them.

ASHES PODCAST: Stephen Brenkley and Tom Collomosse discuss the third day of the Fifth Test. Listen below…

Chris Rogers, whose place was in jeopardy before the fourth Test, scored his second hundred of the series and became the leading runscorer of the two series between the sides. It was a finely appointed innings of 119, full of measured strokes, containing 15 fours and spanning 169 balls.

There were three wickets for Scott Borthwick as the tail thrashed, which may have counted for almost nothing but were the best figures by an England leg spinner for 20 years. He did not quite look the part but you never know.

Reaching the target was a different proposition from taking the match into the fourth day. It proved well beyond them. Alastair Cook was the first wicket to fall, as he has been in seven of the 10 innings; he has been out six times before the 11th over has been complete.

If he is the right man to take England on from this – and he probably is – he has to take a long look at himself, at his team and at its simplest how he balances the demands of batting with those of captaincy. He has an enduring weakness around and just outside off stump but the majority of his dismissals in this series have been caused by careworn strokes attached to limited foot movement.

Cook’s average in the past 10 Tests is 25.7. If he were not captain, a player, even one with a record as illustrious as his, would be under serious scrutiny by the selectors. He followed a ball outside off stump from Mitchell Johnson and kept following it until he made sure he had edged it to Brad Haddin.

Before tea, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen, the men who should have been his senior lieutenants in this rubber, had departed to lamentable errors of judgement, a cut to point and a prod to short leg. Without any performances of note from these three, a tough task has been made impossible.

The final seven wickets fell in 64 balls in the evening session, by now the calamity approaching risible proportions. Johnson, Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon were all among the wickets, probably finishing a career or two, some of them almost before they had started.

Australia celebrate victory during day three of the Fifth Ashes Test Australia celebrate victory during day three of the Fifth Ashes Test  

It is difficult to think that Jonny Bairstow will be called to the colours any time soon, or Boyd Rankin, or that Borthwick will be asked to start the summer. There was a flurry of resistance at the end from Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad, the only two players remotely to have done themselves justice.

Stokes is a real find who may be the fulcrum of this side for 10 years. He bowls too short and his batting sometimes lacks rigour, which may tell against him on the bad days. But he has a fearlessness about his play which means that he is always standing up to be counted.

Johnson, the man of the series, should perhaps have applied the coup de grâce but it was fitting enough it was done through a combination of Harris and Michael Clarke. Rankin, one of the three debutants, essayed a drive which went high to slip where Clarke took it above his head.

Clarke was immediately engulfed by his colleagues and they joined in the ubiquitous huddle. Australia had picked the same XI for the entire series, something they had never done before. By contrast, England used 18 players, Steve Finn the only member of the original party who did not have a game.

Had anybody suggested on that first day at Brisbane when Australia were 132 for 6 and staring down the barrel that Scott Borthwick of Sunderland would be bowling for England before the series was out they would have been laughed out of the ground.

Borthwick himself, happily playing club cricket in Sydney, would doubtless have been aghast. But that was where England had plummeted in a little over six weeks of cricket. At least the SCG, unlike the Oval in August, was spared a drenching. It was England who had been urinated all over.

Five steps: To disaster how it all went wrong

1 Alastair Cook’s stiff back

It seemed a piffling thing at the time when the captain disembarked at Perth and found himself unable to play in the first game, a long flight having taken its toll. But it meant the team for the opening game changed, which meant the intended Test team changed, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

2 The Johnson factor

As soon as he was unleashed at Brisbane it was clear that England had to respond quickly. Trouble was that Mitchell Johnson had become a bit of a joke, a fast bowler who could perform in patches but swiftly fell apart. Instead he was a constant and rapid menace.

3 Jonathan Trott’s illness

Poor Trott was worked over by Johnson in the first Test and was clearly suffering as, it transpired, he had been for some time. He went home and the balance of the team, nurtured carefully over four years, was terminally destroyed.

4 Graeme Swann’s retirement

Swann was targeted mercilessly by Australia’s right-handed batsmen and eventually decided enough was enough, announcing his retirement after the third Test. He deserves better than being remembered for being hit for 22 off his final Test over.

5 Kevin Pietersen’s disengagement

Despite all his protests and his determination to show otherwise, Pietersen never quite convinced that he meant business on the grand scale. It is possible to wonder if he will ever again be as good as he was. Ashes 2013-14: The Aussie Angle - Darren Lehmann deserves more credit than he will admit

Suggested Topics
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

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor