In the space of a fortnight, it appears that England have turned into Australia and Australia, almost, have turned into England. The side that finished the Ashes shooting for the stars has plummeted into the gutter. The side that was in the gutter is heading once more for the stratosphere, helped, it is true, by the side coming the other way. The result is a 3-0 lead to the home side in a seven-match series, with plenty of reasons to think they can extend it.
England's captain, Andrew Strauss, knew where the blame lay, as he knew it in the previous two matches of the Commonwealth Bank series. Scientists may doubt the existence of post-Ashes syndrome but in the absence of any other explanation it must do.
"A score of 214 is not enough on a wicket like that," said Strauss. "Jonathan Trott did a good anchor job but he needed somebody to develop a partnership at the other end and too many of us got to 20 or 30 and didn't go on – 250-odd would have been a very defendable target but we lost too many wickets too early."
During the Ashes series, England's batting was resplendent in four of the five matches and yet the same men are now making abject errors of judgement. Form may help to explain it, but is the form itself explained by the fact that these tourists already have what they came for? Strauss is not for rushing to change. He may have a point."We have jiggled round the order a little bit already because of people being unavailable and form issues," he said. "It's not a time to panic. There are a couple of guys who aren't in brilliant form but that can change round very quickly and now is the time to show confidence in players rather than banish them.
"We have to regroup quickly before Adelaide. I still want us to play positive, aggressive attacking cricket because it is the only way you're going to succeed both in Australia and at the World Cup. I don't want too many of our batsmen scratching their heads wondering whether they should play a shot or not, I want them to play with freedom. If we keep doing that and keep believing things will change round."
England have, or at least had, improved as a 50-over side precisely because of the audacity of their approach. But the change at the top of the order followed by injudicious stroke-playing in the middle has led to a catastrophic sequence of results in this series so far. But Strauss was with the scientists on finding no proof of post-Ashes syndrome.
"It's the easy conclusion to jump to," he said. "We haven't been as smart as we should have been. I don't know the exact answer to it but we need to look forward and improve. There is no point in us crying into our cornflakes."
Australia suddenly believe they can win again. England have forgotten how and another match on Wednesday followed by three more in a week after that gives them precious little time to regroup. Strauss said: "The itinerary was there before we came on tour. It's our job to manage that as a management team. There is a lot of cricket played around the world every year. There is no point moaning about it, we are employed to play cricket, we are here to play cricket and that's what we'll do. You've got to manage these situations, you can't just throw your hands up and say we can't compete."
It was the appropriate response but it is how England react on the field in the next match in Adelaide, with the series already at stake, which will say more about England and what lies ahead all too soon.Reuse content