Action: fifth Test January 5, 2007

England's troubles turn to farce

History repeats itself, Marx said – the first time as tragedy, the second as farce
37

History repeats itself, Marx said – the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. And he was amply borne out this morning, as the lower half of England’s batting did their best to re-stage the nightmare they suffered in the first innings. The bigger picture was just as bad. The series began with England's bowlers conjuring up the first hour from hell, and here they were plumbing similar depths with the bat.

First the last batsman standing, Kevin Pietersen, lunged forward without thinking and nicked a ball from Glenn McGrath that was passing harmlessly outside his off stump. Pietersen is a huge talent, but he has shrunk before our eyes in the past couple of weeks. He has been able to stick around but his strike rate, usually so high, has plummeted. It’s almost as if two months in Australia have turned him into a fair-dinkum Englishman.

Then Monty Panesar and Chris Read blocked for 15 minutes. Finally they decided to set off for a run – or rather Read did, while Monty was slow out of the blocks. Andrew Symonds took out the middle stump with a ridiculously good throw. England were now, in effect, 12 for seven. You had to laugh.

When some runs did come, they were off the edge. Read soon flapped at a lifter, just like in the first innings. He’s an outstanding wicketkeeper and although he has played a few hapless strokes, it’s not his fault that he has been asked to bat at number seven in Australia, half-way through a series in which it had already become clear that an extra batsman was sorely needed.

Saj Mahmood, in surely his final appearance at number eight, was bowled off an inside edge. Steve Harmison mustered a little defiance, clouting McGrath back over his head. But it said an awful lot that England had reached the point where eight runs counted as defiance. The bottom five managed 29 runs in the innings, 33 in the match.

There is a terrible collective fragility about England now. They can have two decent days, and one bad one, and the bad one knocks the stuffing out of them, undoing all the good of the previous two. It’s as if each setback has taken them straight back to that awful morning in Adelaide. This game was the fourth in a row in which England have achieved some kind of parity, only to toss it – or have it wrenched – away. And if you think the Test team are in a bad way, bear in mind that over the past four years, the one-day team have been a whole lot worse.

But let’s not dwell on the losers of this grimly one-sided series. Australia have been awesome. The 5-0 scoreline that is half an hour or so away now is a great achievement, the crowning glory of a famous team, and another memorable chapter in the book of myths and legends that is Ashes history.

The Aussies have got into a few scrapes, as Ricky Ponting has said, but the way they have got themselves out of them has been phenomenal. Seven batsmen have made hundreds, and most of them have been either big ones or viciously fast ones. The fielding has crackled with predatory intent. The seam bowling, led from the back by Stuart Clark, has been a model of sustained professionalism. Two all-time greats have been given big emotional send-offs without the razzmatazz detracting at all from the job in hand. They have made the second best team in the world look like no-hopers.

England need to learn as much from the experience as the Australians did from 2005. Whether they will have the nous, the will, the nerve and the focus, remains to be seen.

Tim de Lisle is the editor of Intelligent Life magazine and a former editor of Wisden

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • nigel simms on January 18, 2007, 21:02 GMT

    Time has elapsed so perhaps we can see things clearer.To look forward we have to make hard judgements.We can see Cook has the mental strength and we know Vaughan is the best captain.Those are the openers we move forward with.There is no place for Strauss.Mental strength and grit are not words that come to mind when thinking of Strauss.A hit or miss player who will never erase those dreadful shots of Brisbane.The time has come to leave him behind and a spell in county cricket might re-ignite his desire to play sensible innings.We persevere with Bell at three,he has the abilty but there must be doubt over his stamina and determination.We need longer to judge him.Pietersen at four getting maturer all the time.I'd also go with Collingwood at five purely on his determination and that is something so missing in recent England sides.A fully fit Flintoff is a must.Wicketkeepers are a problem.Despite the pro-Read camps constant pushing he really fails the test at seven.Hopeless against decent pace we must move on from this cancer that has afflicted English cricket and try Davies or return to Foster. To the bowlers.There is no point in continuing with the mantally weak.So as with Strauss and Trescothick so with Harmison.If Simon jones returns all well and good,if not then Mahmood must continue with the advice that he is a fast bowler first and foremost not endlessly mixing it up.If he doesn't make it then try Tremlett.Plunkett and anderson are long term replacements for Hoggard and we will wait and see if Broad developes into anything worthwhile.Panesar is the only spin option but mus develope an arm ball and must be told that his faster one day form remains solely in that format. For Lord's against the West Indies-Vaughan,Cook,Bell,Pietersen,Collingwood,Flintoff,Foster,S.Jones,Mahmood,Panesar,Hoggard.

  • Matt Burrows on January 13, 2007, 3:51 GMT

    Well done Tim! As for the worst, I say you are right about Harmy's triple-wide wide. But a close second must be persevering with Geraint "Atrocious Body Language" Jones. Reluctant as I am to go a personal attack, GJ carries himself poorly when compared to his Aussie counterpart Gilly. Respectively they compare as meek versus assured, awkward versus polished and with the bat it's David versus Goliath. Read is the man, and yet now we see with hindsight Geraint's predecessor Nixon gets to squeeze his 36-year-old frame into a coloured uniform and call himself boss man behind the stumps in the Triangular (Bipolar) Series. When will it end?

  • 89notout on January 8, 2007, 14:54 GMT

    I have to take Odie's ridiculous comments about KP to task. For someone who has just averaged 54 against one of the best bowling attacks ever seen, there must have been quite a few egdes and biased umpires to allow such a shallow entity to make so many runs, or did they all come off Symonds? Perhaps he could have a chat to Langer and Hayden...both of who scored fewer runs at a lesser average over both series...not sure what about though. Having said all that, have to agree that his autobiography was vacuous in the extreme - a real no star bargain bucket stinker.

  • Adza on January 8, 2007, 1:14 GMT

    I think that too much has been made of England's performance and not enough credit given to the performance of the Australian team. In four tests out of the five, England had chances to take the game. The commentary has suggested that England capitulated of it's own accord, not due to the amazing amounts of pressure applied by the Australian team. Talent counted for little in this series, 2005 showed that England has the talent to play great cricket, they even showed that this tour and should hold their heads high. What they could never have prepared for was the determination and committment of the Australian team, they had a point to prove and no side in the world was going to stand in the way of that. I for one, have never seen any sporting team so determined for victory, i don't think we'll see that again in the near future. It's never a team of champions that make a champion team, we should never forget that...

  • Geoff B on January 7, 2007, 9:57 GMT

    I agree that Chris Read has kept wicket very well. While most of his dismissals were fairly straightforward, can anyone imagine Geraint Jones moving forward to take a catch where the ball was pitching in FRONT of him? Read managed to, twice.

    What is necessary now, I think, is for all this much-vaunted selectorial and Fletcherian loyalty to be extended to Read. He seems to be the only one not to have benefited from it yet. Quite the opposite in fact. If he is given a decent run against the West Indies, preferably without any snide pressure-inducing remarks from Fletcher, the he could well show us all that he's a more than capable batsman as well as one of the best keepers in the world. He is averaging around 26 with the bat since his comeback against Pakistan, after all.

  • Rod on January 7, 2007, 2:38 GMT

    That interview Harmison did with ex- captain Atherton, really showed the cricket public of Oz and England the mind set of this so called international cricketer, Harminson. He has the heart the size of a pea. There's no escaping the fact that this bloke lacks both the brain, strength of character and moral fibre that goes into making a test cricketer, not just talent.If he didn't want to be there for his team mates, what on earth was the point of dragging this imbecile along to this Ashes series. He should be shown the door, and," let it hit him in the arse on his way out running home to mummy".

  • Nick C on January 7, 2007, 2:25 GMT

    Good blog Tim. Sums up this horrible mess! Point well made by Ralph as well. Harmy is a useless liability who doesn't value playing for England. He openly said during the last test that he couldn't wait to get home. Well good, England will be better off without him and his self pity. Not sure about Odie's comment's about KP. Pretty irrelevant having a go at him saying he could take a leaf out of Hayden's book. Hayden's been over the hill for a long while. Congrats to Hayden on his one fortunate score the series at melbourne (plum lbw for not many on 2 occaisions). Congrats also to KP for making more runs and averaging more against a far superior bowling attack. KP, you've clearly let England down and this loss is all your fault!!!!!

  • KD on January 6, 2007, 22:31 GMT

    Thanks for fantastic summer of reading even if biased on occasions. I just want to say what if. What if in 2005 Glen McGrath didn't step on ball in 2nd test & what if Michale Hussey who'd been in terrific form in ODI series before test matches was selected & what if some of the bad umpiring decisions against Australia were reversed, if some missed chances particularly last test where KP was dropped a number of times before going on & putting game beyond Aussies. Would have Australia won that series? Who knows like this series if Michael Vaughan , Simon Jones were available some umpiring decisions were different if selections included Monty earlier there may have well been a difference in scoreline. Hindsight is a wonderful thing many believe under different circumstances Australia would have or could have won or at leats drawn series & kept ashes they didn't. This series may at least have been tighter it wasn't. I really hope England re-group 2005 was fantastic the final two tests here over in six days was terrible. Bring on 2009 changing of the guard for the Austrlians, a few years for Englands players to regroup gather back some sort of form & confidence really for the first time I can remember in 20 years this appears to be best potential rivalry in international cricket.

  • gordon conolly on January 6, 2007, 20:41 GMT

    Tim and others from the UK , they say down here..."no worries!" but in this case that is not quite true. Of course its fun for an Aussie to see a great team reach its culmination and that was what this was. But the feeling is not the same as it must have been for England in 05. That series was hard fought all the way with perhaps a fairytale ending. It was good for the game.The rebirth of English confidence in their ability at this wonderful game that they have given us truly caught our imagination and stirred things up particularly producing I felt, a misappreciation of the relative merits of the teams in England. Alas there is risk now that another incredible overreaction may occur equally out of perspective with the outcome. The reality always was in 05 that a concurrence of events ( the Ponting inexperience, too many years of success producing a lazy over confidence, some bad luck with McGrath, toss calls that went Englands way for a change ( we had the better of this for some years)...enough to offset the balance and then faced with a great and quite sudden 4 pronged seam attack that was well marshalled by Vaughan plus inspirational batting by one Freddie Flintoff and new man Pietersen on top of great aggressive opening essays from Trescothick and new man Strauss...we had as the yanks say " a real ball game!" But it was close even then and that was its fascination as this was unexpected ..a team with all time greats and an incredible track record over 10 years being beaten..it just could not happen..but it did! Now two years later the tables have been turned and a slightly more correct assessment of relative skills perhaps put in its place. ( but again exaggerated by the 5 nil outcome). Warne and Mcgrath deserve to be seen appropriately at the end of their incredible and long term careers as winners -just as Steve Waugh was. Ponting does not deserve to be remembered as the captain who lost the Ashes, and I daresay he now will have a quite different mark in crickets history! What is it then that has allowed this turnaround in 06/07? My view is that fundamental differences in experience and skills are always reflected in the test records. 100 + tests with so many great and aggressive all time great batsmen --I mean look at the career averages of Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Hussey, Gilchrist and and add successful and aggressive newcomers like Clarke and Symonds and that is before taking into consideration the much discussed lower order differences with Warne Lee and Clark all contributing.

    So batting prowess in the top order is a huge factor. I feel there has been far too much English concentration on the lower order.

    If that approach continues the seeds of further failure in 09 will be sewn. England failed big time with its opening batting here this season and number 3 in Bell is a number 5 or 6 at best against big time opponents.

    So the pressure was on new man Collingwood to rescue and he did well for a time, but until he and Pietersen managed ,for an all too brief period to get on the front foot in Brisbane and in Adelaide, the real story was unfolding.

    Of course Australia's task was made greatly easier by England's inept bowling-here the difference was also huge. Certainly England could not afford to lose any of its attacking potential and we all know about Harmisons poor start, the omission of Panesar and the writing off publicly of others by the coach- (incredible).

    My belief however is that the strength of the Australian batting when allied to the attack of Clark Warne and Mcgrath and later Lee -was any way, going to be too big a hurdle on our pitches for any contemporary opposition... but 5 zip??

    England made their job harder it is true and that is where they must improve - It must be time to change the coach. Some of the English players have to get a reality check (particularly Cook Strauss and Bell in the batting and Harmison and in the bowling). Then an aggressive approach with positive coaching not this negative "play not to lose strategy" such as we saw particularly in Adelaide and here in Sydney.

    "Not to worry" does not apply here-too many mistakes, too much misplaced sense of superiority ( something we get accused of too-but perhaps WITH MORE REASON!! Sorreeee), also made a great teams task easier.

    The story continues with a brand new Aussie team in 09..what will unfold? Who knows!

  • tony on January 6, 2007, 11:26 GMT

    I was disap[pointed that Flintoff did not say something like "we'll get them back" and I am guessing that he does not think England can. The whole scene in England needs to change, from the juniors upwards. One reform that is necessary is to create an elite domestic first class competition. The current county scene is a joke - it does not breed elite players. My suggestion: 8 elite teams based on the test grounds plus two others. They only play each other (in 4 day and 1 day). No promotion/relegation. The other counties join the minor counties competition and act as feeder. This is the only way to get the quality required - no easy games, no easy pitches - tough and hard every time they play. Each team must field at least eight players who are eligible to play for England. From this structure, over time, you will prodcue battle hardened competitors plus, and very importantly, back up to cover for injury, form loss, retirements. Below this elite competition you would then have an enlarged minor counties comp. this would blood young players with potential who would play alongside the older guys with experience. Below this you have the club competitions - also organised aloneg elite lines. Below this you have the juniors - starting at under 8's then 10's, 12's, 14's 16's. The best of these juniors would play representative regional games. Adopt this system and in 10 years, England will be up there with the best. Don't do it, stay with the current system and there will be no change.

  • nigel simms on January 18, 2007, 21:02 GMT

    Time has elapsed so perhaps we can see things clearer.To look forward we have to make hard judgements.We can see Cook has the mental strength and we know Vaughan is the best captain.Those are the openers we move forward with.There is no place for Strauss.Mental strength and grit are not words that come to mind when thinking of Strauss.A hit or miss player who will never erase those dreadful shots of Brisbane.The time has come to leave him behind and a spell in county cricket might re-ignite his desire to play sensible innings.We persevere with Bell at three,he has the abilty but there must be doubt over his stamina and determination.We need longer to judge him.Pietersen at four getting maturer all the time.I'd also go with Collingwood at five purely on his determination and that is something so missing in recent England sides.A fully fit Flintoff is a must.Wicketkeepers are a problem.Despite the pro-Read camps constant pushing he really fails the test at seven.Hopeless against decent pace we must move on from this cancer that has afflicted English cricket and try Davies or return to Foster. To the bowlers.There is no point in continuing with the mantally weak.So as with Strauss and Trescothick so with Harmison.If Simon jones returns all well and good,if not then Mahmood must continue with the advice that he is a fast bowler first and foremost not endlessly mixing it up.If he doesn't make it then try Tremlett.Plunkett and anderson are long term replacements for Hoggard and we will wait and see if Broad developes into anything worthwhile.Panesar is the only spin option but mus develope an arm ball and must be told that his faster one day form remains solely in that format. For Lord's against the West Indies-Vaughan,Cook,Bell,Pietersen,Collingwood,Flintoff,Foster,S.Jones,Mahmood,Panesar,Hoggard.

  • Matt Burrows on January 13, 2007, 3:51 GMT

    Well done Tim! As for the worst, I say you are right about Harmy's triple-wide wide. But a close second must be persevering with Geraint "Atrocious Body Language" Jones. Reluctant as I am to go a personal attack, GJ carries himself poorly when compared to his Aussie counterpart Gilly. Respectively they compare as meek versus assured, awkward versus polished and with the bat it's David versus Goliath. Read is the man, and yet now we see with hindsight Geraint's predecessor Nixon gets to squeeze his 36-year-old frame into a coloured uniform and call himself boss man behind the stumps in the Triangular (Bipolar) Series. When will it end?

  • 89notout on January 8, 2007, 14:54 GMT

    I have to take Odie's ridiculous comments about KP to task. For someone who has just averaged 54 against one of the best bowling attacks ever seen, there must have been quite a few egdes and biased umpires to allow such a shallow entity to make so many runs, or did they all come off Symonds? Perhaps he could have a chat to Langer and Hayden...both of who scored fewer runs at a lesser average over both series...not sure what about though. Having said all that, have to agree that his autobiography was vacuous in the extreme - a real no star bargain bucket stinker.

  • Adza on January 8, 2007, 1:14 GMT

    I think that too much has been made of England's performance and not enough credit given to the performance of the Australian team. In four tests out of the five, England had chances to take the game. The commentary has suggested that England capitulated of it's own accord, not due to the amazing amounts of pressure applied by the Australian team. Talent counted for little in this series, 2005 showed that England has the talent to play great cricket, they even showed that this tour and should hold their heads high. What they could never have prepared for was the determination and committment of the Australian team, they had a point to prove and no side in the world was going to stand in the way of that. I for one, have never seen any sporting team so determined for victory, i don't think we'll see that again in the near future. It's never a team of champions that make a champion team, we should never forget that...

  • Geoff B on January 7, 2007, 9:57 GMT

    I agree that Chris Read has kept wicket very well. While most of his dismissals were fairly straightforward, can anyone imagine Geraint Jones moving forward to take a catch where the ball was pitching in FRONT of him? Read managed to, twice.

    What is necessary now, I think, is for all this much-vaunted selectorial and Fletcherian loyalty to be extended to Read. He seems to be the only one not to have benefited from it yet. Quite the opposite in fact. If he is given a decent run against the West Indies, preferably without any snide pressure-inducing remarks from Fletcher, the he could well show us all that he's a more than capable batsman as well as one of the best keepers in the world. He is averaging around 26 with the bat since his comeback against Pakistan, after all.

  • Rod on January 7, 2007, 2:38 GMT

    That interview Harmison did with ex- captain Atherton, really showed the cricket public of Oz and England the mind set of this so called international cricketer, Harminson. He has the heart the size of a pea. There's no escaping the fact that this bloke lacks both the brain, strength of character and moral fibre that goes into making a test cricketer, not just talent.If he didn't want to be there for his team mates, what on earth was the point of dragging this imbecile along to this Ashes series. He should be shown the door, and," let it hit him in the arse on his way out running home to mummy".

  • Nick C on January 7, 2007, 2:25 GMT

    Good blog Tim. Sums up this horrible mess! Point well made by Ralph as well. Harmy is a useless liability who doesn't value playing for England. He openly said during the last test that he couldn't wait to get home. Well good, England will be better off without him and his self pity. Not sure about Odie's comment's about KP. Pretty irrelevant having a go at him saying he could take a leaf out of Hayden's book. Hayden's been over the hill for a long while. Congrats to Hayden on his one fortunate score the series at melbourne (plum lbw for not many on 2 occaisions). Congrats also to KP for making more runs and averaging more against a far superior bowling attack. KP, you've clearly let England down and this loss is all your fault!!!!!

  • KD on January 6, 2007, 22:31 GMT

    Thanks for fantastic summer of reading even if biased on occasions. I just want to say what if. What if in 2005 Glen McGrath didn't step on ball in 2nd test & what if Michale Hussey who'd been in terrific form in ODI series before test matches was selected & what if some of the bad umpiring decisions against Australia were reversed, if some missed chances particularly last test where KP was dropped a number of times before going on & putting game beyond Aussies. Would have Australia won that series? Who knows like this series if Michael Vaughan , Simon Jones were available some umpiring decisions were different if selections included Monty earlier there may have well been a difference in scoreline. Hindsight is a wonderful thing many believe under different circumstances Australia would have or could have won or at leats drawn series & kept ashes they didn't. This series may at least have been tighter it wasn't. I really hope England re-group 2005 was fantastic the final two tests here over in six days was terrible. Bring on 2009 changing of the guard for the Austrlians, a few years for Englands players to regroup gather back some sort of form & confidence really for the first time I can remember in 20 years this appears to be best potential rivalry in international cricket.

  • gordon conolly on January 6, 2007, 20:41 GMT

    Tim and others from the UK , they say down here..."no worries!" but in this case that is not quite true. Of course its fun for an Aussie to see a great team reach its culmination and that was what this was. But the feeling is not the same as it must have been for England in 05. That series was hard fought all the way with perhaps a fairytale ending. It was good for the game.The rebirth of English confidence in their ability at this wonderful game that they have given us truly caught our imagination and stirred things up particularly producing I felt, a misappreciation of the relative merits of the teams in England. Alas there is risk now that another incredible overreaction may occur equally out of perspective with the outcome. The reality always was in 05 that a concurrence of events ( the Ponting inexperience, too many years of success producing a lazy over confidence, some bad luck with McGrath, toss calls that went Englands way for a change ( we had the better of this for some years)...enough to offset the balance and then faced with a great and quite sudden 4 pronged seam attack that was well marshalled by Vaughan plus inspirational batting by one Freddie Flintoff and new man Pietersen on top of great aggressive opening essays from Trescothick and new man Strauss...we had as the yanks say " a real ball game!" But it was close even then and that was its fascination as this was unexpected ..a team with all time greats and an incredible track record over 10 years being beaten..it just could not happen..but it did! Now two years later the tables have been turned and a slightly more correct assessment of relative skills perhaps put in its place. ( but again exaggerated by the 5 nil outcome). Warne and Mcgrath deserve to be seen appropriately at the end of their incredible and long term careers as winners -just as Steve Waugh was. Ponting does not deserve to be remembered as the captain who lost the Ashes, and I daresay he now will have a quite different mark in crickets history! What is it then that has allowed this turnaround in 06/07? My view is that fundamental differences in experience and skills are always reflected in the test records. 100 + tests with so many great and aggressive all time great batsmen --I mean look at the career averages of Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Hussey, Gilchrist and and add successful and aggressive newcomers like Clarke and Symonds and that is before taking into consideration the much discussed lower order differences with Warne Lee and Clark all contributing.

    So batting prowess in the top order is a huge factor. I feel there has been far too much English concentration on the lower order.

    If that approach continues the seeds of further failure in 09 will be sewn. England failed big time with its opening batting here this season and number 3 in Bell is a number 5 or 6 at best against big time opponents.

    So the pressure was on new man Collingwood to rescue and he did well for a time, but until he and Pietersen managed ,for an all too brief period to get on the front foot in Brisbane and in Adelaide, the real story was unfolding.

    Of course Australia's task was made greatly easier by England's inept bowling-here the difference was also huge. Certainly England could not afford to lose any of its attacking potential and we all know about Harmisons poor start, the omission of Panesar and the writing off publicly of others by the coach- (incredible).

    My belief however is that the strength of the Australian batting when allied to the attack of Clark Warne and Mcgrath and later Lee -was any way, going to be too big a hurdle on our pitches for any contemporary opposition... but 5 zip??

    England made their job harder it is true and that is where they must improve - It must be time to change the coach. Some of the English players have to get a reality check (particularly Cook Strauss and Bell in the batting and Harmison and in the bowling). Then an aggressive approach with positive coaching not this negative "play not to lose strategy" such as we saw particularly in Adelaide and here in Sydney.

    "Not to worry" does not apply here-too many mistakes, too much misplaced sense of superiority ( something we get accused of too-but perhaps WITH MORE REASON!! Sorreeee), also made a great teams task easier.

    The story continues with a brand new Aussie team in 09..what will unfold? Who knows!

  • tony on January 6, 2007, 11:26 GMT

    I was disap[pointed that Flintoff did not say something like "we'll get them back" and I am guessing that he does not think England can. The whole scene in England needs to change, from the juniors upwards. One reform that is necessary is to create an elite domestic first class competition. The current county scene is a joke - it does not breed elite players. My suggestion: 8 elite teams based on the test grounds plus two others. They only play each other (in 4 day and 1 day). No promotion/relegation. The other counties join the minor counties competition and act as feeder. This is the only way to get the quality required - no easy games, no easy pitches - tough and hard every time they play. Each team must field at least eight players who are eligible to play for England. From this structure, over time, you will prodcue battle hardened competitors plus, and very importantly, back up to cover for injury, form loss, retirements. Below this elite competition you would then have an enlarged minor counties comp. this would blood young players with potential who would play alongside the older guys with experience. Below this you have the club competitions - also organised aloneg elite lines. Below this you have the juniors - starting at under 8's then 10's, 12's, 14's 16's. The best of these juniors would play representative regional games. Adopt this system and in 10 years, England will be up there with the best. Don't do it, stay with the current system and there will be no change.

  • Narayanan Subramaniam on January 6, 2007, 10:35 GMT

    2005: England had home conditions, they played out of their skins, bad performance from quite a few Aussies, bad decisions, the result was 2-1 in favour of England, as close as the score line indicated.

    2006: Aussies had home conditions, England's performance was rather average, every one in Australian team contributed (when was the last time in a series did one see such a even performance - all 7 in the Aus top order scored centuries and 4 bowlers took more than 20 wickets), the result was 5-0 in Australia's favour, a thrashing as indicated by the scoreline.

    Expectations... hmmm...

  • pat on January 6, 2007, 9:59 GMT

    Look at the early posts for this blog - I stated my belief that England would struggle with the bigger grounds, the different balls, and the various pitches. I'm happy for 5-0

    Tim, you and 60 million other Englishmen owe one GD McGrath an apology for your comments on his predictions :p

    We deserve to gloat after the endless gloating after 2005. Get over it, and play better cricket in 09 to stop it happening again

  • David P on January 6, 2007, 7:03 GMT

    I've been here for the Melbourne and Sydney Tests and have heard numerous reports from people who have stayed at the same hotel as the England players that all was not well in the camp. Apart from 5 players declining the traditional Xmas team lunch, it seems that Mahmood and Panesar were always on the outside edges of the group. This was reflected in how Flintoff seemed to treat them both on the pitch. Pietersen is clearly a loner and Harmison is a disgrace to call himself an international cricketer. The game has been very good to him but he makes no bones that he'd rather be sitting at home in Ashington. Its time he was shown the door if he is not prepared to make some sacrifices to reap the rewards. The nucleus of Strauss, Cook, Bell, Flintoff, Anderson, Hoggard, Read, Panesar and Pieterson should be around and together for several years to come, supplemented (and led) by Vaughan plus probably Collingwood, but we must now be looking for the likes of Broad and Tremlett to replace Harmison and Mahmood, Bopara and Shah to come into the batting mix and Rashid to provide some vital leg-spin variety. Davies or Prior should come in as back-up keepers and fingers crossed that Simon Jones will make a comeback, even Trescothick as well although that seems unlikely. Add the ODI specialists of Dalrymple, Lewis and maybe Gough (for this coming World Cup) and whoever surely takes over from Fletcher has a lot to work with in both forms of the game. This group of players should be enough to enable us to compete with and beat every other country and to give us a solid chance of regaining the Ashes in 2009 and retaining them in 2010/11. Oh, and very importantly, we need a complete change of attitude and approach to go with everything else, compared with what we have seen in this series. Better preparation, less pandering to the players, more prudent selections and better body language from all concerned would go a long way. Indeed, more of what we saw under Vaughan until his injuries. Flintoff should never be allowed to captain an England side again. An Ashes series is not the place to learn the art of captaincy with L-plates. If Flintoff had captaincy potential then he would have had ample opportunity at age group level but it never materialised. Strauss must be the man if Vaughan is not fit enough to resume.

  • Gabbar on January 6, 2007, 2:14 GMT

    Talk about farce. What about the "farce" of the Ashes Urn? Now you see it now you don't, you've won it but you don't get it. Is there anything to the rumour that a certain official switched the real thing for a copy?? Not one of the myraid of little copies you could buy for 20 or 30 bucks but a fair dinkum real good effort at replicating the original. The mail on this was pretty strong at the SCG on Thursday afternoon, so I guess we have to wait and see. Will we ever find out?

  • Justin on January 6, 2007, 1:37 GMT

    What a farce indeed! I honestly think England should: 1) Get rid of Harmison, he has talent, but no interest in the game. 2) Get rid of Mahmood too! His pathetic attempt to run Warne is a disgrace to the game of cricket. You should never see such sloppyness at school cricket, nevermind international cricket! 3) Give up the notion of keeping on Flintoff as a captain. Good soldiers do not necessarily make good officers. Strauss is the man for the job if Vaughn is not available. 4) Duncan Fletcher's use-by-date is well past. Good luck England and your 2009 campaign to regain the Ashes!

  • Josh on January 6, 2007, 1:31 GMT

    Yes Australia did make England look hopeless, but no England surely aren't the "second best team in the world". Regardless of the rankings or statistics, after this performance England sit below South Africa, and perhaps one or two from the sub-continent...

  • Mashood on January 6, 2007, 1:00 GMT

    One thing we must understand is that England went into this series with their team severely depleted. Marcus Trescothick, who is a solid and composed batsman experienced enough to withstand Australia's new ball attack withdrew himself before the first test even got under way. Michael Vaughan, Englands middle order hero has still not regained test match fitness. Simon Jones, probably the only England bowler who can get one over the Aussies is still injured. Harmison seems never to bowl in top form in the Ashes, and Mahmood, Panesar, Cook, Read are all new to the test scene. Which ever way we look at it, if England had the same team they did in 2005 they might be in serious contention. Kevin Pieterson is the only Englishman who showed some resistance against the australians, even Paul Collingwood couldnt keep up the performance on the back of his double century. We cant blame the Inexperienced England batting line up for being thrashed 5-0. We dont have Ponting, Hayden, Langer, Hussey or Gilchrist. We dont even have two of our own key batsmen. And we certainly cant blame KP, he made 500 odd runs in the series and is by far the best batsman England have produced since Michael Vaughan in 2002. Remember that 158 at the oval in 2005? and the two composed fifties in his first test at Lords? He made some decent scores this time around and If it wasnt for him in this series, England would have been much worse than a laughing stock.

  • Ruby Alaska on January 5, 2007, 19:24 GMT

    I think England lost the Ashes because the injuries turned them into a young, inexperienced team in the process of rebuilding! They'll become very good, but were not yet ready to tackle a fully mature Australian side. Take away Hoggard, Harmison and Flintoff, and the remainder of the team is not experienced enough (not that Flintoff had sufficient experience as captain). Bell and Strauss made their debuts as recently as 2004, Pietersen in 2005 and Cook, Mahmood and Panesar in 2006. Anderson and Collingwood first played for England in 2003 but haven't appeared much. Man for man, the Australians had about forty more Test matches' worth of experience, and made it count. Never mind, we'll get it right in a couple of years time.

  • Matt Barber on January 5, 2007, 14:11 GMT

    I think England would be foolish to jettison any of their current players based on the ashes series. Rather they should learn from the lessons that Australia gave them in cruelly exposing flaws with both bat and ball. For the most part it is a young team and they should be better players given appropriate retraining and a few confidence building tours against lesser opposition. Cook, Harmison, Mahmood and Anderson all have a lot of work to do, and perhaps some of them should be sidelined temporarily whilst they do it, but they should all be a part of England's future.

    Of the older players Ashley Giles still has a role to play, albeit as second fiddle to Panesar now, when two spinners are needed on the subcontinent. Even Geraint Jones shouldn't be counted out, as he showed great potential as a batsmen and I don't see that it couldn't be rekindled in the next year or so.

    However, one man has to go and that is Duncan Fletcher. He's done a lot for English cricket over the years - the 2005 Ashes being his peak - but with them now lost and the World Cup a virtual write-off before it has begun I think he's reached the end of the road in terms of what he can offer.

  • John Roach on January 5, 2007, 13:46 GMT

    Thanks Cricinfo for the wonderful ball by ball updates on your website, they were a pleasure to watch when I was at work during the first three test matches. Anyone who missed them certainly missed a fantastic part of the game.

    What a 2006-2007 Test series. I'm no cricketer but this series is what Test Cricket is all about regardless of the 'talent'. The fire in the belly of the Aussies clearly demonstrates how proud a nation we are in the cricket arena.

    I agree with the all above postings and their implications. Never have I seen an Aussie team (regardless of the sport) perform as one so well.

    When certain members of the Aussie team failed (at various times during all five tests), others stood tall, picked up the cudgel and ran with it. Where do I start or end?

    Finally, farewell to our three legends of Australian cricket, Warne, McGrath and Langer, you have achieved the pinnacle in your career that the rest of us only dream of. I dips me hat to all of you, (with a tear in my eye).

    Onya boys - the whole test team.

  • Billabong on January 5, 2007, 13:06 GMT

    Congratualtions to Australia. A well deserved 5-0 whitewash. Harmmison? Why blame him? The ECB dumped Troy as the bowling coach because they were too tight to give give a contract extension. Guess what? He went to OZ. Poor Harmmison was not supported fully and sent on tour in need of desperate help. KP? In it for himself? So what? Geoff Boycott was the same but still produced outstanding innings. The greatest of them all was Viv Richards who to me is the greatest and most thrilling batsmen of all time (too young to have seen Bradmen play). Self interest has nothing to do with performance. It's a captains job to get everyone playing as best as they can. Remember Mike Brearley? Not the best with the bat but a superb motivator and shrink on the field and in the dressing room. England need to come home and have a deep think. Heal the wounds and injuries and get Vaugh back as captain (not a slight on Freddie) and Simon Jones back too. Finally, the ECB need to look at how they sent the England out to OZ after India in such a shambolic manner. England were never going to retain the Ashes with such a woeful preperation and tour schedule. And finally, OZ are the best team right now, have been for the last 15 yearsbut nothing comes close the Windies' teams of the late sixties to late 1980's.

  • Jeremy Thomas on January 5, 2007, 12:33 GMT

    The tone in the series was set in the first test when England selected Jones and Giles ahead of Read and Monty. It was the signal that we were scared and Australia picked up on that - and never looked back. Credit where credits due, Australia played amazing cricket and in Warne and Mcgrath, the game has lost two unique players. As for England, the most important thing is that we do not make rash decisions. I have seen people say that Jones, Read, Anderson among others should not play for England again. That's rubbish. They are talented players but we need to get the most out of them. We can do that by providing the right support and by some consistency of selection. Some of the older players - Tres, Giles - may be on their way out and we have a good crop of young players coming through but they need to be given a chance - not thrown in at the deep end, then dropped when they don't make big runs or wickets. We have the nucleus of a good side but we need to learn from this Ashes whitewash.

  • Bobby on January 5, 2007, 12:27 GMT

    What a sad indictment that Steve Harmison played his 50th test at Sydney and nobody as much as battered an eyelid.

    I'm afraid to say this might be the beginning of the end for him. How can anybody justify a bowler who performs on average once in 10 innings (that's performance, actual results probably equal something like 1 in 20) is something I'd like to hear.

  • A Flintoff on January 5, 2007, 12:13 GMT

    FOR SALE: 1x 4 hour rental of a Double Decker Open-Top Bus (Ideal for celebratory parades through Trafalgar Square) 200 tonnes of confetti, ideal for ticker tape parades. No longer required 15x MBE's, OBE's etc. Chests to pin them on are scarce at present 1x Trophy Cabinet, only 14 months old. No longer required, unlikely to be required in the future. 5000x miniature Union Jack flags. Ideal for fans to congratulate victorious Engish side. Not likely to be needed in future.

    Urgent sale required, any reasonable offer considered. Contact A. Flintoff at the ECB for details

  • Dan on January 5, 2007, 12:04 GMT

    We lost a series of Test cricket to a very good team. Very disappointing, and mistakes were made made which need to be looked at carefully to prevent a repeat. But we are not a terrible test team and there is much promise for the the future, so let's not take the gloomy autposies too far and keep some perspective. Here's to reclaiming the Ashes in 2009.

  • Rehan on January 5, 2007, 10:52 GMT

    While I agree with nearly everything that Mr de Lisle has said, I take some exception to the last sentence of the second-last paragraph, "They have made the second best team in the world look like no-hopers." The second best team in the world? I think a more appropriate line would have read "The team currently ranked second in the ICC Test Championship". Even if England were the second best team in the world after the 2005 Ashes, which they may well have been, without Vaughan, Trescothick and (Simon) Jones, and with a Steve Harmison who is a shadow of his former self and an overburdened allrounder (Flintoff) who should not have been given the added pressure of captaincy, calling this team the second best team in the world is simply ludicrous. The fact that the only series they won since the last Ashes was at home against a second string Pakistan bowling attack (if memory serves me correctly, Mohammed Asif's return in the fourth test made an immediate impact and Pakistan were on top in that game before the infamous forfeit incident occured) bears ample testimony to this fact. Mr de Lisle, please don't insult the intelligence of cricket lovers by calling the current England set-up the "second best team in the world". As a fan of English cricket, I feel that the performances of players such as Strauss, Cook and Harmison, of whom much was expected, has been hugely disappointing, not to mention England's poor selection for nthe first two tests which is inexcusable.

  • Si Baker on January 5, 2007, 10:48 GMT

    There's a very simple solution to England's captaincy dilemma - & one that I'm amazed I haven't heard from any other quarter: appoint Pietersen as captain with immediate effect. No doubt many will think this an outlandish suggestion, but he's by far the most competitive member of the team, he has a fine cricket brain (his post-Sydney interview on Sky provided ample evidence of this: unlike Fletcher, Flintoff et al, he didn't just spew platitudes: he offered a blueprint for future success), he fights to the last, he'll be an automatic choice for years to come, his batting is the only other element of his game he has to focus on & - last but not least - his putative 'distance' from other members of the team can be used to England's advantage.

    Our best leaders - Jardine, Illingworth & Brearley spring to mind - never allowed themselves to become part of any inner clique (contrast this with the current Flintoff/Harmison/Hoggard gang); nor - partly BECAUSE of their comparative aloofness - were they ever afraid to make unpopular decisions re selection, tactics, etc. Let's not forget that before Hussain, the best of our post-Brearley captains, was given the job, he was - like Pietersen - regarded as an over-individualistic maverick.

    Consider the three alternatives: Vaughan may never be fully fit again - & in any case lost his potency as a batsman several years ago; Flintoff has proved he can do no better than captain by numbers &, just as importantly, should be focusing purely on his batting & bowling; & Strauss, on current form, isn't worth his place in the side.

  • Justin B on January 5, 2007, 9:24 GMT

    Well said in defence of Chris Read, Tim. He's been out cheaply three times and twice to prods outside the off stump, but that is no worse than a lot of the rest of the team and he was placed in a very difficult spot coming in to the series when he did. If you read these innings negatively, then you have to read his three innings against Pakistan equally positively. Plus, his keeping was immaculate.

  • Hasan on January 5, 2007, 7:55 GMT

    Tim, the delivery that McGrath got Pietersen on wasn't innocuous - it plays on the batsmen's mind and I'd like to think he deserves a little more credit on it. You still truly believe that it was England playing badly and not Australia playing extraordinarily that decided these Ashes. I really really think you need a rethink.

  • george ludford on January 5, 2007, 7:14 GMT

    This is my second post - the first called for a complete re-tooling of the England set up; this one - just to express my total embarassment and shame at England's non-performance! Congratulations to the Aussies on a job well done. My one and only regret is that I will probably not be around for the next ashes tilt. At least I can say I was around to see Sir Len do his thing in 1938. And finally, thanks Tim for some great observations - you sure know your cricket. Happy New Year everyone.

  • David Allen on January 5, 2007, 2:56 GMT

    Sublime display of fast bowling this morning from Harmison (briefly managing to reverse his erstwhile tag of Harmlesson). Langer called it correctly, "the best he has bowled in the series". Alas, it would seem Harmison needs a sub 50 target to produce the goods - disgraceful. Marx also said the revolution would occur in the most industrialised of nations - it didn't. England have reconfirmed this point once again.

  • Odie on January 5, 2007, 2:50 GMT

    The difference for KP this time around. Large grounds and challenging pitches.

    No half-sized half-dead cow paddock pitches to tap the ball for an easy six around here, KP.

    The other problem for KP: KP is in the game for KP's sake.

    Still, there are those among you who squawk on about how KP is a talent with immense potential and I (sometimes) find myself agreeing...to an extent.

    Then I watch as KP (complete with gob-smacked tailender at the other crease) slashes at anything and everything as he strolls disrespectfully down the pitch and I remember that the sporting world is littered who those whose abilities failed to live up to their potential.

    I suggest that KP goes back to Merry Olde England and works on two atrributes that are seriously lacking in his game: character and selflessness. And make no mistake, despite all of the talent in the world, if you don't have these two, you will ultimately become the flash in the pan that you deserve to be.

    Perhaps KP could have a little chat to Matty Hayden, Michael Hussey or one Justin Langer about how to approach the game. Who knows, this might even delay KP inflicting his next biography on us...at least until after he has played his 25th test match.

  • Virginia Miller on January 5, 2007, 2:46 GMT

    Many people have said this Australian team is not the best, well considering it is a team game they are the best team. A great team will beat a team of great individuals everyday.

    Even when the top order didn't make the runs there were other players to help out. The bowlers bowl to their field, they keep it tight and they bowl well in tandem. The fielding is outstanding, you only had to see the non runout of Warne yesterday to see the difference.

    Finally, one reason why England collapse so often, is not because of talent or the desire to win, it is because of the medioracty of the County game. I have spent plenty of time in England to witness how easy it is to make a county team, the money the lifestyle, does it breed hunger to succeed? Compare this to Australian state cricket. It is terribly difficult to make it, the money is far less, to the point there are many cricketers who struggle to earn a buck. For example, Glenn McGrath (who came from country NSW) lived in a Caravan in Sydney so he could make it in the NSW team when he first started. You have to make it, the prestige of playing for the team over the pay check will win out every time. Can someone tell me how Shane Warne is able to play for county teams. Is he playing for the jumper?

  • Caz on January 5, 2007, 2:29 GMT

    The sight of England's celebrations after the 2005 Ashes series can now be replaced by the sight of the Aussies celebrating a 5 - 0 whitewash. The Australians were outstanding and gave the England team no let up from the relentless pressure of playing a team that certainly deserves this result. At one time or another, each member of the team stepped up to do what was required to win the match. If the England team received OBE's for winning 2 -1 in 2005, what should the Australians get for 5 -0. I still wonder how on earth we lost last time??

  • Aditya on January 5, 2007, 2:10 GMT

    Finally, McGrath gets that 5-0 scoreline that he'd been predicting. As far as England was concerned, the Ashes were lost at Adelaide, the same way that Australia lost them at Edgbaston in 2005. A great farewell for Warnie, McGrath and Langer; just wish that Langer had scored the winning runs.

  • Ralph on January 5, 2007, 1:56 GMT

    The biggest casualty of the Ashes post-mortem must be Harmison. He should be jettisoned for good. He may win a match every now and then, but no way near frequently enough to justify the baggage he brings with him.

    It is his attitude that is ridiculous - he has repeated many times that he'd much rather be playing and watching football than cricket. Every tour, he makes blatantly obvious he'd rather not be there. I'm not necessarily criticising Harmison per se - if he holds those views, fine, but they're not the views of an international cricketer.

    The fact that Harmison is so friendly with Flintoff is undoubtedly detrimental to the side - because Flintoff is such an important figure for England, he will be one of the most respected figures in the dressing room. Harmison gets respect at least partly by association, and he is an incredibly bad role model for the younger fast bowlers.

    He has been given enough time, and will clearly never turn into the rounded spearhead England crave. Time to invest in the future.

  • Rich on January 5, 2007, 1:36 GMT

    All very true. All rather sad, also, of course.

    In such instances a thousand things can be thought, of course - watching Buchanan, Langer, McGrath, Warne and - I hope - Gilchrist, walking off a Test field for the last time is a happy moment in many ways. I really wonder if we'll ever see anything quite like this again. Certainly I've never seen anything like this on a cricket field before.

    Let me say this one thing: England will be a better side if we see Trescothick and Vaughan back on the sheet next summer, along with one SP Jones. And, maybe, a Steven Davies too.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Rich on January 5, 2007, 1:36 GMT

    All very true. All rather sad, also, of course.

    In such instances a thousand things can be thought, of course - watching Buchanan, Langer, McGrath, Warne and - I hope - Gilchrist, walking off a Test field for the last time is a happy moment in many ways. I really wonder if we'll ever see anything quite like this again. Certainly I've never seen anything like this on a cricket field before.

    Let me say this one thing: England will be a better side if we see Trescothick and Vaughan back on the sheet next summer, along with one SP Jones. And, maybe, a Steven Davies too.

  • Ralph on January 5, 2007, 1:56 GMT

    The biggest casualty of the Ashes post-mortem must be Harmison. He should be jettisoned for good. He may win a match every now and then, but no way near frequently enough to justify the baggage he brings with him.

    It is his attitude that is ridiculous - he has repeated many times that he'd much rather be playing and watching football than cricket. Every tour, he makes blatantly obvious he'd rather not be there. I'm not necessarily criticising Harmison per se - if he holds those views, fine, but they're not the views of an international cricketer.

    The fact that Harmison is so friendly with Flintoff is undoubtedly detrimental to the side - because Flintoff is such an important figure for England, he will be one of the most respected figures in the dressing room. Harmison gets respect at least partly by association, and he is an incredibly bad role model for the younger fast bowlers.

    He has been given enough time, and will clearly never turn into the rounded spearhead England crave. Time to invest in the future.

  • Aditya on January 5, 2007, 2:10 GMT

    Finally, McGrath gets that 5-0 scoreline that he'd been predicting. As far as England was concerned, the Ashes were lost at Adelaide, the same way that Australia lost them at Edgbaston in 2005. A great farewell for Warnie, McGrath and Langer; just wish that Langer had scored the winning runs.

  • Caz on January 5, 2007, 2:29 GMT

    The sight of England's celebrations after the 2005 Ashes series can now be replaced by the sight of the Aussies celebrating a 5 - 0 whitewash. The Australians were outstanding and gave the England team no let up from the relentless pressure of playing a team that certainly deserves this result. At one time or another, each member of the team stepped up to do what was required to win the match. If the England team received OBE's for winning 2 -1 in 2005, what should the Australians get for 5 -0. I still wonder how on earth we lost last time??

  • Virginia Miller on January 5, 2007, 2:46 GMT

    Many people have said this Australian team is not the best, well considering it is a team game they are the best team. A great team will beat a team of great individuals everyday.

    Even when the top order didn't make the runs there were other players to help out. The bowlers bowl to their field, they keep it tight and they bowl well in tandem. The fielding is outstanding, you only had to see the non runout of Warne yesterday to see the difference.

    Finally, one reason why England collapse so often, is not because of talent or the desire to win, it is because of the medioracty of the County game. I have spent plenty of time in England to witness how easy it is to make a county team, the money the lifestyle, does it breed hunger to succeed? Compare this to Australian state cricket. It is terribly difficult to make it, the money is far less, to the point there are many cricketers who struggle to earn a buck. For example, Glenn McGrath (who came from country NSW) lived in a Caravan in Sydney so he could make it in the NSW team when he first started. You have to make it, the prestige of playing for the team over the pay check will win out every time. Can someone tell me how Shane Warne is able to play for county teams. Is he playing for the jumper?

  • Odie on January 5, 2007, 2:50 GMT

    The difference for KP this time around. Large grounds and challenging pitches.

    No half-sized half-dead cow paddock pitches to tap the ball for an easy six around here, KP.

    The other problem for KP: KP is in the game for KP's sake.

    Still, there are those among you who squawk on about how KP is a talent with immense potential and I (sometimes) find myself agreeing...to an extent.

    Then I watch as KP (complete with gob-smacked tailender at the other crease) slashes at anything and everything as he strolls disrespectfully down the pitch and I remember that the sporting world is littered who those whose abilities failed to live up to their potential.

    I suggest that KP goes back to Merry Olde England and works on two atrributes that are seriously lacking in his game: character and selflessness. And make no mistake, despite all of the talent in the world, if you don't have these two, you will ultimately become the flash in the pan that you deserve to be.

    Perhaps KP could have a little chat to Matty Hayden, Michael Hussey or one Justin Langer about how to approach the game. Who knows, this might even delay KP inflicting his next biography on us...at least until after he has played his 25th test match.

  • David Allen on January 5, 2007, 2:56 GMT

    Sublime display of fast bowling this morning from Harmison (briefly managing to reverse his erstwhile tag of Harmlesson). Langer called it correctly, "the best he has bowled in the series". Alas, it would seem Harmison needs a sub 50 target to produce the goods - disgraceful. Marx also said the revolution would occur in the most industrialised of nations - it didn't. England have reconfirmed this point once again.

  • george ludford on January 5, 2007, 7:14 GMT

    This is my second post - the first called for a complete re-tooling of the England set up; this one - just to express my total embarassment and shame at England's non-performance! Congratulations to the Aussies on a job well done. My one and only regret is that I will probably not be around for the next ashes tilt. At least I can say I was around to see Sir Len do his thing in 1938. And finally, thanks Tim for some great observations - you sure know your cricket. Happy New Year everyone.

  • Hasan on January 5, 2007, 7:55 GMT

    Tim, the delivery that McGrath got Pietersen on wasn't innocuous - it plays on the batsmen's mind and I'd like to think he deserves a little more credit on it. You still truly believe that it was England playing badly and not Australia playing extraordinarily that decided these Ashes. I really really think you need a rethink.

  • Justin B on January 5, 2007, 9:24 GMT

    Well said in defence of Chris Read, Tim. He's been out cheaply three times and twice to prods outside the off stump, but that is no worse than a lot of the rest of the team and he was placed in a very difficult spot coming in to the series when he did. If you read these innings negatively, then you have to read his three innings against Pakistan equally positively. Plus, his keeping was immaculate.