As Joe Root slumped to his knees fielding at silly mid-on, one image depicted the sorry state of English test cricket better than any words. The test team is broken, and will be for a very long time. Root looked broken, devoid of any ideas; he was rightly embarrassed at the mess around him. This is not Root’s fault. At least not solely. Some of his decisions were wrong. Yes – why did he bat first? God only knows. But a captain can only do so much. Root is surrounded and limited by an exuberance of players simply not fit for test cricket.
Why can’t any other than Cook and Root bat? Are Anderson and Broad the only bowlers capable of taking a wicket?
The nine-wicket defeat to Pakistan was England’s eighth on the bounce. If Bess and Buttler hadn’t railed it could and probably should have been much worse. The team is broken, lacking any unity and quite simply we are hapless with both bat and ball- hardly the makings of competitive test side. To put it simply, Pakistan destroyed England. Completely. It was disconcerting. The eventual defeat sparked all too familiar questions. Why can’t any other than Cook and Root bat? Are Anderson and Broad the only bowlers capable of taking a wicket? Why are we playing a specialist batsman at seven? Why? What is going on? I don’t think Bayliss knows what is going on. It certainly doesn’t look like he does.
Basically, England are not good at test cricket. Not anymore. We struggle both away from home and lately, at home as well. Our batters can’t play spin or seam and we can’t bowl teams out. We can’t tour the sub-continent because we don’t have a quality spinner or win down-under because we lack express pace. We can’t even win a May test match at the home of cricket. It’s a sorry state to find ourselves in. Against Pakistan, we were outclassed, outperformed and quite frankly abysmal. Bowling, batting- it was all poor. We couldn’t even catch. We didn’t even do the basics. If you’re looking for a positive, you won’t find it – it was hopeless. (Ok, Dom Bess batted well but that’s it).
County cricket is a mess, and the test team is suffering as a consequence.
England were skittled for 184 in the first innings and 242 in the second. It was awful. No application, drive or determination – it was all too easy. Pakistan took 4-6 on the fourth and final day, having taken 4-19 the previous innings. It’s a mess. We simply can’t bat for a long period of time, and a batting collapse seems an expected part of an English scorecard rather than a shock. Sometimes there’s two in one innings. The state of the batting is perfectly described by England only having passed 400 twice in the past 17 innings. We’re a joke. We look incapable of batting ourselves into a position to win a test match. Our batting is atrocious. And we can’t do anything about it because we have no other options. Not one. A slight exaggeration, but the options are unduly limited by the state of red ball cricket at county level.
County cricket is a mess, and the test team is suffering as a consequence. If the ECB don’t give the County Championship any respect, then they can’t expect the players to. Why should they? Buttler’s being picked on IPL performances says it all really. Red ball cricket is dying at county level, and it’s rotting the test team as a consequence. The pool of selectable players is diminishing quickly. There are no options. At least not for red ball cricket. No serious test cricketers. We are left re-selecting dropped players, and the batting line-up looks completely unstable. Root at three, Malan now at four, a specialist batsman at seven. Can someone, anyone, opening the batting with Cook? We are chopping and changing constantly. Cook has had more partners than I’ve had dinners. Compton, Root, Carberry, Robson, Trott, Lyth, Ali, Hales, Duckett, Hameed, Jennings, Stoneman, and now Jennings again have all partnered Cook since Strauss’ retirement. The batting line up lacks any unity. It changes game by game. And this is a real issue. Test sides need to be cohesive. Yet, this takes time, and stability.
England have neither.England keep making the same mistakes and look unwilling and unable to learn
As Jennings is drafted into the squad for the second test of the summer at Headingley, the test team is as unstable as any I can remember. The selectors, management, and players look lost. They lack any unity. They simply don’t look like a team, rather seeming to be a collection of individuals. Root, Cook, Stokes, Bairstow, Anderson, Broad and five extras. The reliance on those six, especially Broad and Anderson is palpable. If they turn up we win, and if they don’t we lose. Simple. Of the many issues, our batting is the most prominent. The state of county cricket means options are running out. England keep making the same mistakes and look unwilling and unable to learn. We can’t find anyone to provide any stability in the batting, and the test summer looks as a consequence worryingly ominous. If you thought the test winter was bad, just wait for the test summer – it’s going to be horrendous. And this time it will be on during the day, and you won’t be able to just sleep through it.
We are in serious trouble for the final match of the series against Pakistan, which is the only start of our growing worries. The first test match defeat to Pakistan is the start of a long and potentially painful test summer. It’s going to be difficult. An imminent five match test series against India looks, well, less than promising. And then we travel to the sub-continent.