Friday, 13 December 2013

The Ashes So Far

Watching the Ashes, England not managing to get through the Australian batting line up, and I thought I'd talk about how the series has gone so far. England have lost the first two tests, so what has gone wrong?

The first point I should make is that it says a lot that we now think in terms of things going badly wrong when England aren't winning in Australia. We expect them to win there, where once we expected them to get beaten 5-0.

A lot of what is happening is down to Australia doing things right, not England's failures. Mitchell Johnson's pace (and even his batting) has been crucial. Indeed, the generally high pace of the Australian attack means that they can take wickets in conditions that make other seamers look ordinary. The aggression of their batting line up has been able to take games away effectively.

And yet, there are worrying signs from England. Their fast bowlers remain consistently slower than Australia's, despite having picked their pace up a little since the first Test. Their default setting seems to be to bore people out, too, which rarely produces cheap wickets. Graham Swann seems not to be getting the turn that Nathan Lyon is for Australia, when before this tour it seemed so obvious that Swann would be the superior bowler.

Several England players look, frankly, a bit old and tired. Anderson feels like he is coming to the end of his best. Broad feels like he never showed more than flashes of it, settling for being a grumpy mid-80s bowler rather than the fast bowling hope we thought he might be and not producing consistently with the bat. KP's batting has become more inconsistent, with the result that he now averages the high forties of a good test player rather than the mid-fifties of a potential great.

England's batting line up has been blown away at least once in each of the previous two games. Their lower order hasn't handled Johnson's pace, but that's understandable. What's less understandable is the way the top order has crumbled. There are promising signs, in Carberry's form and Root's score last time around. They'll certainly need to bat well in Perth.

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