Nine Tests without a win leave England in a tailspin

…and a squad of 14 for Lord’s indicates they don’t yet know how to get out of it

On a glorious evening in Durham less than a year ago nobody could have foretold what would shortly happen to England. The turning point of the whole match, the fourth Test of the Ashes, came when Tim Bresnan produced a brutal lifter to David Warner to have him caught behind.

Australia never recovered from that moment. An hour or so later, England had won a deceptively convincing victory by 74 runs. The Ashes were already staying at home but that clinched the series and extended an unbeaten run of Tests to 12.

What a day it was. Here were a team who had forgotten how to lose. Looking back now it seems unreal that they should not only have beaten Australia for the third time in the series (as well as for a third successive series) but that it should have been achieved with such muted applause.

England would give anything for a win now, any win and if the back-slapping would still be underwhelming, the relief would be immense. The run without defeat has turned into another sequence, of nine Tests without a victory, the worst for 21 years.

There is no persuasive evidence that the end is in sight. That much can be gleaned from the squad of 14 chosen for the second Test of the Investec series against India, which starts at Lord’s on Thursday. When the summer started, the selectors picked 12 players, which was then increased to 13 for the last Test and now has another addition.

This is because they cannot be sure what their best team is but are fairly satisfied that they have not arrived at it yet because they are still not winning. With assistance from the system in which they are operating, the selectors have backed themselves into a corner. It is unquestionably a mess.

Of the concerns for England, the two gravest are precisely what they were when they went into the opening Test against India at Trent Bridge: the form of the captain, Alastair Cook, and the lack of a spinner worthy of the description in an international team. The fact that their only innings at Trent Bridge fell away so alarmingly, as two before them had already done this summer, simply exacerbates their deficiencies.

England coach Peter Moores gave handsome backing to Simon Kerrigan England coach Peter Moores gave handsome backing to Simon Kerrigan (PA)

It was wrongly presumed (perhaps hoped on a wing and a prayer would be a more accurate reflection of the policy) that an attack of four fast bowlers, albeit of different types, plus a part-time spinner could see off Sri Lanka and possibly India. With the sort of pitches provided this has proved impossible and in the case of Sri Lanka the policy proved terminal.

To address it, the Lancashire spinner Simon Kerrigan has been called up. There is clearly a view to playing him and he was given handsome backing by the England coach, Peter Moores, who was also his county coach for five years. Kerrigan was with the squad for a few days before the match at Trent Bridge and seems to have been potent enough to assure the selectors and Cook that he and they will not be embarrassed again.

If nothing else, it shows how inadequate the spin resources in England have become. To the eternal search for trustworthy leg-spinners should be added similar quests for slow left-armers, of which there has usually been one to get England out of a hole, and even off-spinners.

Moores said: “The way the season has gone for spinners there has not been a massive time to bowl because the seamers have held sway. The back half of the county season is a bit funny because there is not that much county cricket so I am not sure if the schedule fits the spinner at the moment.

“But Simon is bowling well. We looked at the last three or four days and he was certainly challenging our batsmen and we have some good players of spin so I say he gets his chance in the squad.”

Without a spinner, England may as well write off the Ashes next year and this series against India. But as a result of the squads they have so far selected they have given themselves a huge problem with balance. If Kerrigan plays he will presumably have to come in for one of the bowlers, perhaps Liam Plunkett or Ben Stokes, neither of whom deserve to be omitted.

On the other hand, they could ask Stokes, who made an unimpressive duck at Nottingham, to bat at six, the position where he made a deeply impressive hundred in Perth last winter. In that case they would have to drop a batsman and as the three novitiates, Sam Robson, Gary Ballance and Moeen Ali, have all scored hundreds that will be difficult.

If Kerrigan does not play, they will still expect Moeen to do a job for which he is patently ill-equipped. He has taken wickets but he offers no control. A glance at the aggregate wicket-taking and average lists for spin bowlers in the last three seasons shows that Moeen is the sixth among English qualified spin bowlers, but that sadly indicates the decline of a wonderful art.

Cook’s return to form would compensate for much. He remains determinedly relaxed about it, as does Moores. But 25 innings without a Test hundred tells its own grim story. To put the tin lid on it, Ian Bell has played 17 Test innings since his last hundred. That was at Chester-le-Street last August. The world was different then.

England’s options

Plan A

Omit one of their four seamers, presumably Ben Stokes or Liam Plunkett, on the grounds that rest may be needed, and put in the spinner. But that would place enormous pressure on Simon Kerrigan to bowl a hefty number of holding overs in the first innings and attack in the second. India would be certain to go after him, as they have already with Moeen

Plan B

Drop a batsman and enter extremely murky waters. It is unthinkable to leave out Moeen after his epic rearguard against Sri Lanka at Leeds but there is, just, a case for moving up Ben Stokes to six. Leaving out Sam Robson, who has a hundred and a 50, and asking Joe Root to open, which was where he played in the last victory, is an option they will also be anxious to avoid

Plan C

Leave it as it is and delay making the hard decisions. England have played with a four-man attack for long enough and when Stokes arrived last winter it seemed to give them another dimension

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

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy