The blame game over England’s Ashes disaster has begun, with a former Test fast bowler taking aim at captain Joe Root and calling for the new-ball pairing of James Anderson and Stuart Broad to be dismantled.
Martin Bicknell, who played four Tests for England and claimed more than 1000 first-class wickets, has criticised Root for his post-match comments in Perth after the tourists ceded cricket’s little urn and became only the eighth side to have lost a Test by an innings having made 400 or more in their first knock.
Root said his inexperience as captain had not had a negative impact on him, declaring he was only guilty of “trying too hard”. Bicknell said that explanation would not wash.
“I don’t understand how you can try too hard. You are trying or you are not. I don’t think trying too hard is the right message that he should be talking about,” Bicknell told RSN on Tuesday.
“I think the bottom line is that we haven’t played well enough. I think we have had opportunities in matches and we haven’t capitalised and, consequently, if you don’t play decent enough cricket for a long period of time, you get found out and that is what has happened.
“We have run into a perfect storm with Australia having three fit bowlers who bowl 90 miles an hour (145km/hr) and Nathan Lyon who is probably the best spinner in the world at the moment.”
Root, who this year replaced Alastair Cook in the top job, had stressed the added responsibility and focus that comes in such a marquee series had not derailed his batting.
“It’s an experience to have had to deal with it all but I don’t think it has taken away from the way I have prepared in terms of my training and stuff like that. You have just got to learn from it,” Root said.
“The thing with it is, I am not someone who is going to make excuses and hide behind stuff that is irrelevant really in terms of the way I have prepared. Probably the thing that has been my biggest detriment is probably trying too hard.”
Ranked the world’s third-best batsman, Root has only 176 runs at 29.33 in six innings, adding to his woes on the tour here four years ago when he was dropped because of poor form. He made only 20 and 14 and, according to former captain Michael Vaughan, appears a “tired, drained captain”.
Root’s poor form, paired with the troubles of veteran Cook (83 runs at 13.83), who could be in his final series, have compounded the tourists’ woes. There have only been two centuries by England batsmen and the tourists’ average score per wicket is 26.3 compared to Australia’s 46.24.
England coach Trevor Bayliss insists Anderson and Broad, who stepped out in Perth for their 100th Test together, have a future beyond this series but their troubles have highlighted the tourists’ key issue – a lack of pace required in Australian conditions to intimidate the locals. South Africa’s success in Australia last summer was built on a balanced pace attack, with Kagiso Rabada providing the threatening speed.
Broad and Anderson are two greats of the game but neither averages 140km/h, unlike sizzling Australian counterparts Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. Broad, after a horror WACA adventure where he finished with 0-142, and Anderson have combined for 17 wickets in the series, two less than Starc.
“The Broad-Anderson partnership, obviously, won’t tour Australia again. They have played a lot of Test matches, bowled a lot of overs, they are just looking a little bit tired at times,” Bicknell said.
“As a partnership it might be time to say: ‘Let’s try someone else with the new ball and Broad slip down to first change’. I think Anderson still takes the new ball, he looks fit and fresh, but Broad has been disappointing – one of the senior players you would expect that would stand up in this series has not even featured.”
Bicknell said England’s problem was that while they did have quicker bowlers at home they were not considered frontline selections, aside from Mark Wood. He was initially overlooked for the tour because of an ankle injury but is now with the squad and could come into the frame in Melbourne, particularly as Craig Overton is in doubt because of a cracked rib.
“It’s very hard for them (selectors) to say to one of those guys you are not playing because we are going to play someone who is not as good as you but bowls quicker. That doesn’t really work,” Bicknell said.
“One of the biggest problems the England selectors faced was the fact they haven’t brought over anybody who could bowl at 90 miles per hour in the squad. I think Mark Wood would have been the obvious choice but his injury record is not great and he probably wasn’t fit at the start of the tour. Bringing over more bowlers like (Chris) Woakes and like Broad hasn’t really worked. When they look back at it, they probably will think they maybe have got the squad wrong.”
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