Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 2nd day December 6, 2013

Robo England suffer malfunction

A team that used to programme calculated destruction of the opposition has been reduced to making flawed, human gambles
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There was a time, not even that long ago, that watching England play was like watching a well-organized show dance at a major awards ceremony. Every single person knew their role. The moves had been well practised beforehand. It was entertaining without ever being fun. And behind the scenes you knew there was someone really angry, and focused, with a clipboard and walkie talkie.

It was safe, calculated and effective.

In Adelaide last time, England took wickets with the new ball on a good batting pitch, then kept Australia below three an over until they had picked them off for less than 300. With the bat, Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood batted with ease and put on a score that meant batting twice would probably not be needed. On a flat pitch they waited, used Graeme Swann perfectly and rotated the other end well, until Australia just faded away.

It was their first win of the series. It was their blueprint working exactly how they would want it: magic from KP, stunning effectiveness and professionalism from everyone else.

Now England are not that team. If their batting has showcased that for the last 18 Test innings - during which they have failed to reach 400 - their morning session in the field showed that their whole game was slipping away.

Australia started the day 5 for 276. In no one's estimation were they massively ahead of the game on this Adelaide pitch. Yet England played as if the pitch was completely dead and the only way to get wickets was through improvisation and enterprise. Essentially, England strayed away from the sort of Sensible Solutions cricket they play so well, and went a bit funky.

It very nearly worked. With the new ball still only 12 overs old, Monty Panesar had Michael Clarke dancing down the wicket and spooning the ball into the outfield. It could have gone anywhere. England's decision to bounce, and bounce, Australia with the short ball, also almost paid off as Brad Haddin skied a ball towards a slow-to-react Panesar.

But it is here where you start to wonder what is wrong with England. In their glory years, would they have tried to bounce a batsman out with two fielders in the deep if one of them was their worst fielder? And would they have played two of their attacking options at once, leaving them very little to fall back on with two quality batsman at the crease? It didn't seem like them.

Neither did the capacity to miss six chances in the field. Michael Carberry dropped a catch an eight-year-old would take, then followed it up with a failed run-out that a professional cricketer should have executed. Missing that many chances in one innings on a pitch like this is like headbutting a wall on the hottest day of the year while listening to death metal with the heater on. It's hard to imagine, let alone remember, a time under Andy Flower when they would have missed that many.

Despite Clarke's poor beginning, he soon got completely on top of Panesar and Swann had to be brought on. At the other end, the newish ball was continually brutalised into the pitch by Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Ben Stokes. Haddin and Clarke are essentially designed for pitches like this. England miscalculated and were far from effective.

Cook's captaincy had short covers, two men out for the short ball, a short cover and at times no one behind square on the off side. For Swann it was an in-out field that he rarely, if ever, uses. It was as if Cook was trying to throw every idea he had ever daydreamed about against a wall and hope it stuck. It did not.

If England won the last Ashes by using a formula; they are trying to win this one with random attacking events.

The one thing Cook never really tried was just drying the runs and bowling in the channel outside off. England's staple meal. When an England bowler did bowl a decent length ball in a good area, it looked like it could work. Clarke plainly just missed one and Haddin nicked behind from a no-ball. But that revolutionary tactic wasn't followed through with.

You could argue that they were spooked by Shane Warne's constant abuse of Cook's defensive ways. But despite the column inches and ratings they get, it's doubtful they care about anything Warne says. It could also be a classic case of fear of the flat Adelaide Oval pitch. This is the pitch that more than once turned South Australia's Jason Gillespie and Mark Harrity into giant flapping birds, because of the sheer lack of life in it.

The suspicion is growing that somehow, in a staggeringly short amount of time, England have lost faith in the way they play. It can happen to any team on a tour. Especially a hell tour, which this isn't yet, but which it is hinting it might be. From the professional robotic machine they have turned into flat desperate gamblers.

What is worse for them is Australia have changed too.

The flawed side who tried hard in the UK have (with help from England) started to look like the sort of aggressive beasts of doom they were in their heydays. Ryan Harris made a king pair in Adelaide in 2010, this time he blitzed a not-out 50. Doug Bollinger's career was all but ended the last time in Adelaide; he could be back next week in Perth. At this rate, Xavier Doherty will be a shock inclusion for Sydney and take a ten-wicket haul.

Mitchell Johnson was rested/rotated/dropped from this Test three years ago. Today it took only one over from Johnson to turn a jolly crowd into the angry mouth-breathers baying for blood from days of old. It was glorious. It was unscientific. It was brutal.

In one ball, Johnson beat Cook in almost every way possible. Last time in Adelaide, Cook made 148. This time he missed the ball by what seemed like 148 metres.

Adelaide is different from three years ago. Australia are different from three years ago. So, too, are England.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY Rufus_Fuddleduck on | December 7, 2013, 6:26 GMT

    @humdrum, if England are to rise to the occasion, they had better start rising. Australian lead is above 450 and unless England can bundle them out before lunch tomorrow - which in 50 overs is a big ask - that lead will be closer to 600

  • POSTED BY humdrum on | December 7, 2013, 5:55 GMT

    Actually,this is a devilishly cunning plan to lull the Aussies into a false sense of complacency and security.The grand revival will start anytime now and we will witness one of the game's grand spectacles as the English steamroll the Aussies and Clarke will realise he has been done by a master of the game.

  • POSTED BY Rufus_Fuddleduck on | December 7, 2013, 5:00 GMT

    And now we wait for the usual litany - bad travel plan, bad lodging, bad food, bad wind direction, inefficient sunrise and sunset mechanisms ... at least its good that Australia are batting. Watson and a couple more might go quickly and give them an illusion of potency

  • POSTED BY humdrum on | December 7, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    Well,rattled by sheer pace on a flat,flat 'belter'.Blown away with the wind. The only things on fire are the pants of the eng batsmen.

  • POSTED BY heathrf1974 on | December 7, 2013, 4:26 GMT

    Finn and Bresnan should play in Perth. KP has been very disappointing.

  • POSTED BY xylo on | December 6, 2013, 23:41 GMT

    England surely look like they are coming off of an IPL season. They can surely do better than this with the resources at their disposal.

  • POSTED BY on | December 6, 2013, 22:55 GMT

    "entertaining without ever being fun" pretty much says it all about English cricket

  • POSTED BY on | December 6, 2013, 20:58 GMT

    I have to say that England started behind the eight-ball here with their team selection. Stokes was picked on the tour for as a development project and for the one dayers - the rest of the squad must have been bemused by his selection in front of a specialist batsmen.

    As for the selection of Monty Panesar, mmm. This bloke was very accurately described by Shane Warne as having played 30 first tests. His inability to learn anything from past experience is epic. Whilst I like him as a character, a third seamer would have been a better option. (Finger spinners tend to struggle in Australian conditions anyway)

    From the point of selection, everything has unravelled. You'd have to say that the evident disunity in the team has seeped into their performance - a lot of backbiting in evidence in the field. The captain and coach won't be able to fix it - 5-0 beckons!

  • POSTED BY nareshgb1 on | December 6, 2013, 20:44 GMT

    Would be great if KP and Bellsy hammer 150s. And the rest get runs too - then we will see how many OZ bowlers get through without an injury.

  • POSTED BY chitti_cricket on | December 6, 2013, 18:42 GMT

    England captain was for sure spooked by Shane Warne's comments about him. Cook started to fill in the shoes not for him. England under him and his predecessors was not known for aggressive brand of cricket but clinical brand of cricket and yielded results on that. When ever you try to prove something to world that you are not what you are, that is when the problem starts. Cook absolutely was a great captain when he adopted clinical, methodical cricket. But Aussies sowed a seed of doubt in him with their pre-series comments that he may not have success with his approach. That is what they very cunningly call mental disintegration. Aussies have successfully done that. From here on only some heroic acts only can save England from defeat is what my gut feeling. Otherwise they are half lost this test match as well.KP or Bell one of them should step up and prove the world wrong.

  • POSTED BY Rufus_Fuddleduck on | December 7, 2013, 6:26 GMT

    @humdrum, if England are to rise to the occasion, they had better start rising. Australian lead is above 450 and unless England can bundle them out before lunch tomorrow - which in 50 overs is a big ask - that lead will be closer to 600

  • POSTED BY humdrum on | December 7, 2013, 5:55 GMT

    Actually,this is a devilishly cunning plan to lull the Aussies into a false sense of complacency and security.The grand revival will start anytime now and we will witness one of the game's grand spectacles as the English steamroll the Aussies and Clarke will realise he has been done by a master of the game.

  • POSTED BY Rufus_Fuddleduck on | December 7, 2013, 5:00 GMT

    And now we wait for the usual litany - bad travel plan, bad lodging, bad food, bad wind direction, inefficient sunrise and sunset mechanisms ... at least its good that Australia are batting. Watson and a couple more might go quickly and give them an illusion of potency

  • POSTED BY humdrum on | December 7, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    Well,rattled by sheer pace on a flat,flat 'belter'.Blown away with the wind. The only things on fire are the pants of the eng batsmen.

  • POSTED BY heathrf1974 on | December 7, 2013, 4:26 GMT

    Finn and Bresnan should play in Perth. KP has been very disappointing.

  • POSTED BY xylo on | December 6, 2013, 23:41 GMT

    England surely look like they are coming off of an IPL season. They can surely do better than this with the resources at their disposal.

  • POSTED BY on | December 6, 2013, 22:55 GMT

    "entertaining without ever being fun" pretty much says it all about English cricket

  • POSTED BY on | December 6, 2013, 20:58 GMT

    I have to say that England started behind the eight-ball here with their team selection. Stokes was picked on the tour for as a development project and for the one dayers - the rest of the squad must have been bemused by his selection in front of a specialist batsmen.

    As for the selection of Monty Panesar, mmm. This bloke was very accurately described by Shane Warne as having played 30 first tests. His inability to learn anything from past experience is epic. Whilst I like him as a character, a third seamer would have been a better option. (Finger spinners tend to struggle in Australian conditions anyway)

    From the point of selection, everything has unravelled. You'd have to say that the evident disunity in the team has seeped into their performance - a lot of backbiting in evidence in the field. The captain and coach won't be able to fix it - 5-0 beckons!

  • POSTED BY nareshgb1 on | December 6, 2013, 20:44 GMT

    Would be great if KP and Bellsy hammer 150s. And the rest get runs too - then we will see how many OZ bowlers get through without an injury.

  • POSTED BY chitti_cricket on | December 6, 2013, 18:42 GMT

    England captain was for sure spooked by Shane Warne's comments about him. Cook started to fill in the shoes not for him. England under him and his predecessors was not known for aggressive brand of cricket but clinical brand of cricket and yielded results on that. When ever you try to prove something to world that you are not what you are, that is when the problem starts. Cook absolutely was a great captain when he adopted clinical, methodical cricket. But Aussies sowed a seed of doubt in him with their pre-series comments that he may not have success with his approach. That is what they very cunningly call mental disintegration. Aussies have successfully done that. From here on only some heroic acts only can save England from defeat is what my gut feeling. Otherwise they are half lost this test match as well.KP or Bell one of them should step up and prove the world wrong.

  • POSTED BY tickcric on | December 6, 2013, 18:32 GMT

    @cricmatters England should fire before hiring. They have a contingent of support staff, including a team psychologist.

  • POSTED BY SevereCritic on | December 6, 2013, 17:37 GMT

    Hope Johnson stays fit enough for Perth. Johnson at Perth is going to be a whole different nightmare altogether.

  • POSTED BY on | December 6, 2013, 17:05 GMT

    Good cricketers playing poor cricket is not fun to watch. 18 months ago Anderson was 88mph and Broad was often over 90. Finn was clocking 96 in India in the ODI series in 2011. Swann's revs are down. His dip has almost gone, he isn't getting the turn that either Panesar or Lyon are.

    The fielding is the worst I can remember from England since the 1980's. Seems the longer these bowlers play for England the slower they get. Stokes and Panesar were the pick. What's Saker doing? Too much emphasis on "skill" not enough on power! Fletcher wanted pace and it worked. Why have we goner back on that? I would pull Anderson and Broad out now. Watching Broad's medium pace half trackers. I bet in his own mind he thinks he's Englands answer to MJ - he's not - he's a full 10mph slower and that makes all the difference in the world.

    For all that, England aren't in this position today due to bad batting or bowling. They are their due to consistently bad fielding and really lacklustre captaincy. Ouch!

  • POSTED BY Alexk400 on | December 6, 2013, 16:17 GMT

    One of the thing i see is always matchup. When australia trying to knock england players with MJ effective shortball at neck height. I do not think england have resources to return the favor. England looking around but except broad there is no one there. They should have picked finn if you ask me. England will lose ashed even white washed.

  • POSTED BY Alexk400 on | December 6, 2013, 16:14 GMT

    England bowling is weak. England do not have 3rd 4th effective bowler. After anderson and broad , no body putting hand up.

  • POSTED BY on | December 6, 2013, 13:21 GMT

    Also, the ball that dismissed Cook was clocked at 148.1 km/h, which is rather apt I think!

  • POSTED BY Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on | December 6, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    Excellent read Jarrod, nice article. @Englandhavenojohnson, I think the reason we can comfortably predict an easy series win is because England can't match us, it's just too easy and it hasn't happened overnight. @Hatter_Mad, that's cricket, people drop catches. Root would have been dropped from the team if we caught him on 8 at Lords but we didn't. He made the most of it, scored 180,, won he game and kept his spot. I don't think anyone could argue the form of these teams is even, there's a gulf between them at the moment.

  • POSTED BY thejesusofcool on | December 6, 2013, 12:15 GMT

    I find the sloppy fielding the most galling, because it isn't what you associate with us in recent years. Even when we were right on top of Aus at times last summer, their fielding didn't go into meltdown, though the batting was another story!!

    And once you start grassing chances in Tests-well, just look at Windies over the last 10 years & how everything started going wrong from sloppy fielding starting the slide-it gives you the impression they can't be arsed to practice it & if that is the case, we are in a mess.

  • POSTED BY Big_Chikka on | December 6, 2013, 12:09 GMT

    series isn't over yet, those who watched the aussie side in england will appreciate they were getting better as a unit, and now most surely have the momentum. sadly, don't see any england player playing anything other than robotic cricket, sometimes plans need to be binned!

  • POSTED BY xtrafalgarx on | December 6, 2013, 11:12 GMT

    @Englandhavenojohnson: You will never know how long you will be on top mate, make it count when you are, if we somehow lose this series, you would never been happy. Make hay while the sun shines if you are truly an Aussie supporter...

  • POSTED BY cricmatters on | December 6, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    England has to find a way to get past the current form of Michael Clarke, Haddin and Mitchell Johnson to win this series. Australia is on a roll and it looks like they will carry this momentum to win the series comfortably. It is interesting to note that what an impact self-belief, or lack of it, makes on individuals playing professional sports. Dropping so many catches never helps a team trying to win a Test match. Probably England should have hired a sports psychologist to mentally prepare the team instead of worrying about their nutrition.

  • POSTED BY Hatter_Mad on | December 6, 2013, 11:01 GMT

    Thanks "England-Have-No-Johnson" - some of comments on here are hard to take seriously (especially as the mods don't seem to want to allow a right of reply). Yevghenny's summary is spot on - Australia put on 300 runs thanks to dropped catches - the line between Ashes success and failure is a fine one.

  • POSTED BY on | December 6, 2013, 10:53 GMT

    @Chicko, whilst I agree mate, I think there are a lot of biased people out there or even just the general public that believed England didn't play at their best either so if they played their perfect game, they would be on top, wrong I think, I would go as far to say that if both teams had a perfect game, we would win!!

  • POSTED BY Front-Foot-Lunge-Looks-Silly-Now on | December 6, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    As happy as I am about the way Australia is playing, I must say I am disappointed in some of my fellow Aussie fans commenting on this site. The way they are already proclaiming a series win and jumping on any english person who says anything slightly negative against Australia is a let down (although I do enjoy the FFL barbs). I still remember when our guys went 2-0 down after Lords how silly the english fans on here looked when they proclaimed it would be 5-0 and how they berated our team. Aussie supporters were quick to attack them over this and yet now I see our supporters doing the exact same thing! All these claims of 5-0 and how bad England are seem to be in every comment section. Can you guys see not see the hypocrisy? It feels like we have become hostile because of all the beatings we took earlier this year. Let's just wait until our guys get the urn back otherwise we look as cocky as the very people we chastised. It's still only 1-0 for crying out loud. Good luck guys.

  • POSTED BY Yevghenny on | December 6, 2013, 9:51 GMT

    I thought it was a fairly standard day's play. England needed wickets, tried some things outside of their comfort zone, but generally this is how play goes on this pitch. England created the opportunities, but Australia made their reprieves count

  • POSTED BY chicko1983 on | December 6, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    Well said Jarrad, this is beginning to look like a Hell tour for the Poms. However, I dislike that many of the Journo's keep downplaying how well Australia played in England most recently. They lost the series 3-0 but could have just as easily won a couple of tests if they won the 3-4 sessions which England did. The seeds of this series were sown in that English summer. Aussies knew that England were beatable seeing how close they came to victory in a few tests there. Warner, Smith, Watson, Johnson, Haddin etc. these players were/are highly rated because they are very good players. It was just their confidence that was lacking.

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  • POSTED BY chicko1983 on | December 6, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    Well said Jarrad, this is beginning to look like a Hell tour for the Poms. However, I dislike that many of the Journo's keep downplaying how well Australia played in England most recently. They lost the series 3-0 but could have just as easily won a couple of tests if they won the 3-4 sessions which England did. The seeds of this series were sown in that English summer. Aussies knew that England were beatable seeing how close they came to victory in a few tests there. Warner, Smith, Watson, Johnson, Haddin etc. these players were/are highly rated because they are very good players. It was just their confidence that was lacking.

  • POSTED BY Yevghenny on | December 6, 2013, 9:51 GMT

    I thought it was a fairly standard day's play. England needed wickets, tried some things outside of their comfort zone, but generally this is how play goes on this pitch. England created the opportunities, but Australia made their reprieves count

  • POSTED BY Front-Foot-Lunge-Looks-Silly-Now on | December 6, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    As happy as I am about the way Australia is playing, I must say I am disappointed in some of my fellow Aussie fans commenting on this site. The way they are already proclaiming a series win and jumping on any english person who says anything slightly negative against Australia is a let down (although I do enjoy the FFL barbs). I still remember when our guys went 2-0 down after Lords how silly the english fans on here looked when they proclaimed it would be 5-0 and how they berated our team. Aussie supporters were quick to attack them over this and yet now I see our supporters doing the exact same thing! All these claims of 5-0 and how bad England are seem to be in every comment section. Can you guys see not see the hypocrisy? It feels like we have become hostile because of all the beatings we took earlier this year. Let's just wait until our guys get the urn back otherwise we look as cocky as the very people we chastised. It's still only 1-0 for crying out loud. Good luck guys.

  • POSTED BY on | December 6, 2013, 10:53 GMT

    @Chicko, whilst I agree mate, I think there are a lot of biased people out there or even just the general public that believed England didn't play at their best either so if they played their perfect game, they would be on top, wrong I think, I would go as far to say that if both teams had a perfect game, we would win!!

  • POSTED BY Hatter_Mad on | December 6, 2013, 11:01 GMT

    Thanks "England-Have-No-Johnson" - some of comments on here are hard to take seriously (especially as the mods don't seem to want to allow a right of reply). Yevghenny's summary is spot on - Australia put on 300 runs thanks to dropped catches - the line between Ashes success and failure is a fine one.

  • POSTED BY cricmatters on | December 6, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    England has to find a way to get past the current form of Michael Clarke, Haddin and Mitchell Johnson to win this series. Australia is on a roll and it looks like they will carry this momentum to win the series comfortably. It is interesting to note that what an impact self-belief, or lack of it, makes on individuals playing professional sports. Dropping so many catches never helps a team trying to win a Test match. Probably England should have hired a sports psychologist to mentally prepare the team instead of worrying about their nutrition.

  • POSTED BY xtrafalgarx on | December 6, 2013, 11:12 GMT

    @Englandhavenojohnson: You will never know how long you will be on top mate, make it count when you are, if we somehow lose this series, you would never been happy. Make hay while the sun shines if you are truly an Aussie supporter...

  • POSTED BY Big_Chikka on | December 6, 2013, 12:09 GMT

    series isn't over yet, those who watched the aussie side in england will appreciate they were getting better as a unit, and now most surely have the momentum. sadly, don't see any england player playing anything other than robotic cricket, sometimes plans need to be binned!

  • POSTED BY thejesusofcool on | December 6, 2013, 12:15 GMT

    I find the sloppy fielding the most galling, because it isn't what you associate with us in recent years. Even when we were right on top of Aus at times last summer, their fielding didn't go into meltdown, though the batting was another story!!

    And once you start grassing chances in Tests-well, just look at Windies over the last 10 years & how everything started going wrong from sloppy fielding starting the slide-it gives you the impression they can't be arsed to practice it & if that is the case, we are in a mess.

  • POSTED BY Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on | December 6, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    Excellent read Jarrod, nice article. @Englandhavenojohnson, I think the reason we can comfortably predict an easy series win is because England can't match us, it's just too easy and it hasn't happened overnight. @Hatter_Mad, that's cricket, people drop catches. Root would have been dropped from the team if we caught him on 8 at Lords but we didn't. He made the most of it, scored 180,, won he game and kept his spot. I don't think anyone could argue the form of these teams is even, there's a gulf between them at the moment.