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
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
News
British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking
people
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence