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English cricket needs to reflect carefully on its defeat

But sacrifices driven by panic ought to be resisted

Australians are not known for passing up the chance to rub the noses of their old colonial masters in the dirt on the playing field. The feelings of satisfaction in Australia is, therefore, complete following the England cricket team’s catastrophic defeat in the Ashes on day three of the fifth Test in Sydney, thereby consigning them to a 5-0 series whitewash.

After being bowled out for 166 in fewer than 32 overs to suffer a 281-run defeat, the England captain, Alastair Cook, has fully recognised the scale of the debacle. “If it was a boxing match, it would have been stopped,” he said. As failures go, it invites comparison with the disastrous tour of 2006-7, and before that in 1920-21, which were the last times, until now, that Australia defeated England in five Tests. 

When Michael Carberry’s bat simply snapped in two on the last day, leaving the England batsman staring forlornly at the stumps, it was hard not to see this tragicomic setback as somehow symbolic of the entire tour. After the players trail home, accompanied by their angry fans, the temptation will be to appease the sense of national frustration by blaming everything on Cook and on the coach, Andy Flower.

Sacrifices driven by panic, rather than serious reflection, ought to be resisted. Unpalatable as it may be to dwell on this point right now, we should all try to remember that losing is part of the game.

Clearly, England need to learn lessons, but until there is some agreement about precisely what those lessons should be, hasty personnel changes alone will not necessarily assist the task of rebuilding the England team’s shattered morale.