James Lawton on the Ashes: England must put away the hangdog look and rediscover their old bite

The vibrant cricketers at Old Trafford were those in green caps

If anyone ever did a sense of injustice better than Kevin Pietersen we would probably have to go back to the Maid of Orleans when they lit the flame or Anne Boleyn just before the blade came down. But then to be fair to the old dear he has responded to cheating charges with some considerable coherence.

He is right to be indignant about the loose claim that he taped his bat to sabotage Hot Spot, pointing out convincingly that the much-maligned device detected the inside edge that wiped out an lbw decision and preserved his progress to an excellent century in the first innings of the Old Trafford Test.

It is also true that if Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann and young Joe Root chose to take a cigarette break during a celebratory meal in a Manchester restaurant after retaining the Ashes they might, having reached the age of majority and generally displayed impressive levels of both fitness and career dedication, reasonably have hoped to do so without a splash of pictures and the accusation that they had undermined the health of the entire nation.

The Monty Panesar affair is, sadly, a much different matter and one that in any circumstances would have come with serious repercussions.

Yet there is another point to make at the end of cricket's turbulent week and the dawn of the fourth Test in Durham. It is that England need to come out today without the merest hint that they are being weighed down by a touch of persecution mania.

Pietersen, for all his brilliance down the years, has largely created his own reputation for extreme subjectivity, a near genius for seeing every contentious situation in which he has found himself entirely through the prism of his own injured feelings.

Swann, an interviewee of startling surliness during the last Test, appears to have swiftly forgotten the extent of the all-round celebration of his bowling prowess down the last few years.

What we have here is an overwhelming impression that England have become inordinately prickly in the face of anything less than universal acclaim.

That feeling was surely re-enforced the other day when the coach, Andy Flower, whose work with Andrew Strauss to build a new and resourceful England could scarcely have received higher levels of general approval, stared down the author of an essentially mild question about whether he regretted his decision not to pick either Panesar or Chris Tremlett at Old Trafford.

The question received the Sir Alex Ferguson glare and a dismissive answer. England are a cricket team of formidable accomplishment, fine talent and have many reasons to take pride in their achievement of guaranteeing possession of the Ashes at the end of a third straight series.

The rest is simply somebody else's opinion, something they can best shape, if they care to, by producing superior performances and the clear understanding that the most important judges of their work, its commitment and its integrity, are themselves. Put another way, they need to step out of the bunker and play the kind of cricket of which they have long proved capable.

They didn't do this at Old Trafford. They were outplayed at almost every phase by the widely ridiculed Aussies. Their reaction was at times hangdog and negative. They dragged their feet and waited for the rain. It was not the profile of champions, a team recently ranked No 1 in Test cricket, and if they do not face up to this in Durham the Australian recovery of self-belief could well accelerate over the next few days.

At Old Trafford the Aussies came out to fight. It was almost as if they had absorbed the advice of their great old hero Keith Miller, the wartime fighter pilot who advised: "Cricket isn't pressure. Pressure is having a Messer- schmitt up your arse." You might also say they had nothing to lose but their chains and that it was better to die on their feet than live on their knees.

It is interesting, certainly, that the great Australia captain Allan Border, a man of formidable pragmatism who in the eighties led his nation out of an earlier malaise, believes that a corner has been turned. Border also has a suspicion that something may have gone wrong with England, that a siege mentality has replaced what before was an extrovert belief in their ability to beat anyone they faced. Certainly if you had to choose the most vibrant cricketers at Old Trafford you couldn't avoid going to the men in the green caps.

Michael Clarke, a captain of sharp instincts and considerable passion, was head and shoulders the most impressive batsman. Chris Rogers laid an unanswerable claim to Test cricket at a time in his career when less resolute and able men would have given up hope. Ryan Harris bowled with unswerving intelligence and bite. Peter Siddle reminded us that few men in the game are more prepared to die hard in pursing their ambitions.

Steve Smith made a rite of passage. Even David Warner came out of his exile and a mountain of scorn with considerable wit and aggression. He also looked like a cricketer of considerable talent and will.

That makes a spine of impressive resistance for the fourth Test, one that might suggest that come the Austr-alian leg of the 10-Test engagement we could indeed see an unanticipated fine level of competition. Certainly England's incentive for a sweeping series win here remains huge.

Captain Alastair Cook's refreshingly open performance in his press conference was for some observers the clearest evidence that England may well have also concluded that it is time to stop nursing wounds real or imagined and go back to the offensive certainties they produced at Lord's.

The truth is that if there was heartening signs of an Australian revival at Old Trafford it is one that must inevitably remain brittle for some time. The requirement for England is to explore each one of the lingering doubts in a battered psyche.

This is, of course, something best done when you have re-asserted the right to be your own worst critics.

Why Mitchell Starc's kid brother is set for the high jump...

simon turnbull page 71

the vibrant cricketers were those in green caps

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
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

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss