Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 3rd day December 28, 2013

England's quick-fix a total failure

Lulled into a high-risk counterattacking approach, England squandered an opportunity to finally take control of a Test match in this series
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Players most in need of a hug

With the logic of a man driving faster in fog to end their journey more quickly, England's batsmen suffered another day of missed opportunities and self-inflicted wounds.

This Test will, barring a most unexpected quirk of fate, end with more than a day to spare. Yet England, sucked into a high-risk counterattacking approach by months of muddled thinking and Australian propaganda, squandered several of their wickets in a misguided attempt to hit their way to an impregnable position. It was reckless, naïve and foolish cricket.

It was not that they did not graft for a time. Michael Carberry, for example, resisted admirably for more than two hours in making 12. But far too many of their batsmen fell to unnecessarily aggressive strokes when they would have been far better served occupying the crease and allowing themselves time to accumulate.

It was a wasted opportunity. Batting for a second time with a first innings lead of 51, England had the chance to punish an Australian bowling attack that was starting, for the first time in the series, to look jaded. Certainly Ryan Harris, given little time for recuperation between innings due to the failure of his batting colleagues, looked stiff and less dangerous than usual, while Shane Watson looked so immobile that, were you to see him on a bus, you might offer him your seat.

Not only that, but the pitch was still playing pretty well. It is slow, certainly, and offering just a little turn. But had England batted for another day, it would have deteriorated and worn further. Not one of their wickets was due to an unplayable delivery.

But instead of forcing the bowlers into spell after spell on a hot afternoon, England looked for quick-fix solutions. Ben Stokes was caught at long-off, attempting to drive over the top when he could easily have pushed a single, Ian Bell spooned his first ball to mid-off, Joe Root was punished for attempting a reckless single and Jonny Bairstow was drawn into a footless waft at one he could have left. Every one of them will reflect on the large part they played in their own dismissal.

Only Kevin Pietersen, again stuck with tailenders for company, could be excused his stroke: caught at long-off as he attempted to thrash some quick runs. Indeed, while Pietersen will again attract criticism despite being England's highest run-scorer of the match, you could argue that a less committed team man might have pushed a single, completed his half-century and allowed James Anderson to face the next delivery.

Pietersen's lack of faith in the tail is hardly unreasonable; in the first innings, England's final five wickets added only 39 runs. In the second they contributed just six. Confronted by the pace of Mitchell Johnson, England appear to have the tail of a diplodocus.

It may well be that the tail's weakness is contributing to the reckless approach of the upper-order. The final five batsmen added only 17 in the second innings at Brisbane and the final six batsmen contributed just 10 runs between them in the first innings in Adelaide. With the final four making just 1 between them here, it is hardly surprising that a "score as quickly as you can while you have the chance" culture has developed.

There is no hurry in Test cricket. England have only contested two draws where rain or bad light did not play a part since the end of 2009: at Auckland in March and in Nagpur in December 2012. Yet somewhere along the line they have lost the ability to bat as they did against Australia in 2010-11 or India in 2011. They have stopped investing in long periods of defence and instead opted for the "get rich quick" approach, trying to hit their way out of trouble.

The greatest myth of our time is that teams need to steal the initiative by batting aggressively. Initiative can be earned in many ways. In a previous age, it was earned by batsmen refusing to offer the opposition any opportunity, by declining risks and by gradually building strong positions.

Such skills have largely been lost. Teams no longer dare to be dull. They are not prepared to be patient. They are not brave enough to block. Perhaps as a result of limited-overs cricket, perhaps as a result of poorer techniques, perhaps as a result of fashion, the game has changed. It is, in some ways, more entertaining, but it would be hard to argue that some of the valuable qualities that made the likes of Ken Barrington or Geoff Boycott such valuable players have been lost.

The counter argument is that slow scoring builds pressure which results in wickets. There is truth in it, too. But if a side is mentally strong and prepared to graft, a dry period need not lead to wickets. If a batsman has confidence in his defensive technique and has the ability to concentrate, he should have no need to take chances. And if he does not, he may need to rethink his occupation.

England's enduring weakness with the bat must also raise questions about the coaching set-up. Andy Flower, Graham Gooch and others may be offering the best technical and tactical advice available, but unless they are able to find a way to make the players utilise it, there can be little value in their contributions. The time for change is upon us.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • balajik2505 on December 29, 2013, 16:47 GMT

    What happened to England's technique of playing out time. What I think went wrong is that they are not rotating the strike. Carberry playing 81 balls for 12 is not acceptable. He and Cook could have rotated the strike. Australia bowled well; but if you don't rotate the strike, you are asking for trouble.

  • on December 29, 2013, 6:29 GMT

    England have forgotten the difference between losing and being beaten. The latter is no disgrace -- being vanquished by a superior team despite giving one's all. The former is not acceptable -- giving the opposition, no matter how good or bad they are, the game. Somewhere in the management of this team, the message "Don't Lose" has been ignored. Test cricket is such a mental game that this simple psychological factor has to be considered a major advantage that Australia now has, and which England has thrown away carelessly. Australia didn't beat England as much as England simply lost. Is there a solution? New coach? New captain? Less regimented system that takes away all of the fun? Hmmm.

  • on December 29, 2013, 6:25 GMT

    English batsmen (and Aussies too quite often) - rocket science alert - keep it on the ground and you won't get caught.

  • on December 29, 2013, 5:40 GMT

    Agree with neil99, Couch is not connecting with players, and time for new blood, even thoses on tour, Ali & Robson, Rankin have nothing to loose now

  • RandyOZ on December 29, 2013, 5:07 GMT

    Crushed. This England side is one of the most spineless we have seen, including India last time they were in Australia. The cupboard is bare though so I am not sure how they are going to rectify it.

  • Simoc on December 29, 2013, 4:38 GMT

    The criticism of Carberry is valid. He is good but must work singles from the start to turn the strike over. Nothing irritates a bowler more. Bell has always been the obvious first drop but as Clarke should be for Oz it doesn't always happen. Boycott was never a valuable player for England. He was always played for himself first and the team later and it was never about winning, it was about Boycott. He was pretty much the dregs so it is amusing to see him glamorised now as somebody worthwhile.

  • on December 29, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    So Mr Dobell, when Bradman scored 3 centuries in a day way back when and then there are the following: Roy Fredericks (WI) 71 at Perth 1975 John Gregory (Aus) 67 Johannesburg 1921 GL Jessop (Eng) 76 at The Oval 1902 Majid Khan (Pak) 74 New Zealand Karachi 1976 Kapil Dev (Ind) 74 at Kanpur 1986 all from an era circa or previous to your players you mention. I am sorry but aggressive batting taking control of a game as a tactic is not modern. It quite clearly has been around for a while. Look at Haddin in the first innings, it was him moving up the gears that allowed some pressure to be relieved and most importantly the scoreboard moving.

  • Lord_mac on December 29, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    @Jared Hansen: Long-hops and wide deliveries go to the boundary on a slow wicket - in fact they sit up and ask to be hit. Slow wickets require disciplined bowling at third or fourth stump to restrict the score. England did this very well on Day Two, but lost the plot against the Australian last wicket pair on Day Three, and throughout their second innings.

  • Lord_mac on December 29, 2013, 4:16 GMT

    GD is absolutely right. With two and a half days to go, the way to winning this Test for England was through occupying the crease and supporting the established batsman. Not by taking stupid risks in the name of entertainment.

    There are times for dominance and times for playing carefully. It is the variety of situations that Test cricket throws up that makes it entertaining, not purely the number of runs that can be thumped off a small number of overs.

    Those who don't understand the wider dimensions of Test cricket should stick to watching one-day cricket, rather than criticising those who do.

  • on December 29, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    @mensan : Wicket looked pretty quick today!

  • balajik2505 on December 29, 2013, 16:47 GMT

    What happened to England's technique of playing out time. What I think went wrong is that they are not rotating the strike. Carberry playing 81 balls for 12 is not acceptable. He and Cook could have rotated the strike. Australia bowled well; but if you don't rotate the strike, you are asking for trouble.

  • on December 29, 2013, 6:29 GMT

    England have forgotten the difference between losing and being beaten. The latter is no disgrace -- being vanquished by a superior team despite giving one's all. The former is not acceptable -- giving the opposition, no matter how good or bad they are, the game. Somewhere in the management of this team, the message "Don't Lose" has been ignored. Test cricket is such a mental game that this simple psychological factor has to be considered a major advantage that Australia now has, and which England has thrown away carelessly. Australia didn't beat England as much as England simply lost. Is there a solution? New coach? New captain? Less regimented system that takes away all of the fun? Hmmm.

  • on December 29, 2013, 6:25 GMT

    English batsmen (and Aussies too quite often) - rocket science alert - keep it on the ground and you won't get caught.

  • on December 29, 2013, 5:40 GMT

    Agree with neil99, Couch is not connecting with players, and time for new blood, even thoses on tour, Ali & Robson, Rankin have nothing to loose now

  • RandyOZ on December 29, 2013, 5:07 GMT

    Crushed. This England side is one of the most spineless we have seen, including India last time they were in Australia. The cupboard is bare though so I am not sure how they are going to rectify it.

  • Simoc on December 29, 2013, 4:38 GMT

    The criticism of Carberry is valid. He is good but must work singles from the start to turn the strike over. Nothing irritates a bowler more. Bell has always been the obvious first drop but as Clarke should be for Oz it doesn't always happen. Boycott was never a valuable player for England. He was always played for himself first and the team later and it was never about winning, it was about Boycott. He was pretty much the dregs so it is amusing to see him glamorised now as somebody worthwhile.

  • on December 29, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    So Mr Dobell, when Bradman scored 3 centuries in a day way back when and then there are the following: Roy Fredericks (WI) 71 at Perth 1975 John Gregory (Aus) 67 Johannesburg 1921 GL Jessop (Eng) 76 at The Oval 1902 Majid Khan (Pak) 74 New Zealand Karachi 1976 Kapil Dev (Ind) 74 at Kanpur 1986 all from an era circa or previous to your players you mention. I am sorry but aggressive batting taking control of a game as a tactic is not modern. It quite clearly has been around for a while. Look at Haddin in the first innings, it was him moving up the gears that allowed some pressure to be relieved and most importantly the scoreboard moving.

  • Lord_mac on December 29, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    @Jared Hansen: Long-hops and wide deliveries go to the boundary on a slow wicket - in fact they sit up and ask to be hit. Slow wickets require disciplined bowling at third or fourth stump to restrict the score. England did this very well on Day Two, but lost the plot against the Australian last wicket pair on Day Three, and throughout their second innings.

  • Lord_mac on December 29, 2013, 4:16 GMT

    GD is absolutely right. With two and a half days to go, the way to winning this Test for England was through occupying the crease and supporting the established batsman. Not by taking stupid risks in the name of entertainment.

    There are times for dominance and times for playing carefully. It is the variety of situations that Test cricket throws up that makes it entertaining, not purely the number of runs that can be thumped off a small number of overs.

    Those who don't understand the wider dimensions of Test cricket should stick to watching one-day cricket, rather than criticising those who do.

  • on December 29, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    @mensan : Wicket looked pretty quick today!

  • WC96QF on December 29, 2013, 3:53 GMT

    Dear George, all the stirling qualities of Test match batting that you mentioned, are in ample evidence in the ongoing series between India and South Africa. It's only English batting that seems, at least for now, devoid of 'test class' character. But even that cud change in future.

  • on December 29, 2013, 3:43 GMT

    Not sure what the author means by "muddled thinking and Australian Propaganda". Clearly England XV stopped believing as a collective a long time ago. Not much will be gained by shuffling the deck chairs. Swann should've had the courage to say he did not have it in him to go on the tour - a spinner knows when his shoulders and fingers don't do it any more. This spine-less bunch has no desire. What a boring summer of cricket - might as well have been Zimbabwe or WI (with due apologies).

  • mensan on December 29, 2013, 3:18 GMT

    It was a slow wicket. Not good for aggressive stroke play. It needed grafting from batsmen. England lost a big big chance to win this test and avoid whitewash.

  • regofpicton on December 29, 2013, 3:00 GMT

    So, George, like a smart fellow you love the job, but like another smart fellow you're fed up supporting England. Why not come and write about New Zealand crcket, which might even be improving,m and which would probably improve rather faster with the help of your expert, intelligent and no-nonsense criticism - not something we're getting right now.

  • neil99 on December 29, 2013, 2:34 GMT

    Carberry out, Compton in. Unfortunately, Compton was sacrificed due to Cook playing very negatively. However, Cook has the game to dominate leaving Compton to play his natural game. Bell at 3, KP at 4 Root at 5. Root is never a no. 3; he struggles to get the ball off the square and has handed the initiative back to Aus numerous times this series. He was moved up the order to soon. Ballance at no. 6 is very talented, averaging over 50 domestically. airstow out has a poor batting technique and had enough chances, which he's failed to grasp. Prior needs to come back after, or offer a chance to the many keeper-batsmen in county cricket (Davies, etc). Bresnan is no more than a county journeyman. Time's time for this bits and pieces cricketer whose not test standard in any department. Stokes is the man. Panesar is a blight on the professional cricketer. We can't afford weak fielding and inept batting. Borthwick or no front line spinner for a while. And Gooch to go; possibly Flower too.

  • jackdaw on December 29, 2013, 2:30 GMT

    This Test yet again is gone of course however I really think there needs immediate surgery here for the England XI .. First of all I would ask Broad if he fancied being captain after these Ashes, because I think he has that steel and judgement that Alistair Cook, whilst a fine opener simply does not posess. I do feel he could be a great inspirational leader just like Imran Kahn. Also keep Root as No. 3, Bairstow as keeper, bring Finn in for the next Test and take a view on poor Monty vs. A N other spinner for 5th Test. .. Things need to change and good change does generate new hope and confidence .. Thats me ..

  • spindizzy on December 29, 2013, 1:03 GMT

    Carberry and Root have been performing the same role in Australia that Hughes, Khawaja and Watson did in England. Creating a psychology where they make batting look harder than it really is.

    The symmetry between Root and Hughes is especially poignant, two young players feted by the media and their home organisations, both with glaring technical and temperament problems. Both doggedly supported by their administrations against all objective evidence to their own detriment.

    Both with the same outcome.

  • warnerbasher on December 29, 2013, 0:54 GMT

    Is this journo kidding? Celebrating a bloke who scores 12 in 80 balls and then calling a selfish player like Boycott valuable? Gee imagine attacking cricket being more entertaining. Perhaps Mr Dobell doesn't realise that Test cricket is under siege due to the modern age and that it needs to entertain rather than have traditionalists admire the forward defence of players mentioned in his article. He talks of technique but give me the batting of Warner or Pietersen over the "techniques" of Boycott, Barrington, Cook, Atherton, Lawry anyday. Perhaps Mr Dobell spends his spare time watching the highlights of Trevor Baileys 8 hour 68 in 1958/1959. If he wants meaningless, pointless average building cricket he should move to India and watch the yawnfest that is the Ranji trophy

  • VivGilchrist on December 28, 2013, 23:58 GMT

    What a load of rubbish. It's the stodgy go slow approach which has killed England this summer. They've put no pressure on the Aussie bowlers.

  • ScottStevo on December 28, 2013, 23:33 GMT

    @gsingh, as an Aussie fan, I've gotta tell you, you aren't fooling anyone, mate! I didn't notice any considerable gap between Aus and Ind IN Ind in the last ODI series and I@d go as far as saying, that if a similar series is played in Aus, I'd fancy Aus to win comfortably, or in just about any other country outside of the sub-continent. Ind are def #1, but there's no gap between them and Aus, Eng, SA or even really SL in ODI/T20s. And in test matches, well, Aus had their worst series ever against Ind. But don't forget that Ind's new players haven't even played outside of sub-continent barring the current series. Luckily for them, SA have produced some slow wickets, althoughhard man hometown hero Dhawan has already been found wanting outside his own back yard. We'l see how they finish that series before discussing Ind's turn around in fortunes after losing 4-0 in Eng and Aus recently...2nd in rankings now, but I doubt for much longer...

  • on December 28, 2013, 23:06 GMT

    Cook captaincy first thing in the morning was abysmal. I presume he was ordering his seamers to bowl short at Lyon but did not post a third man and 16 runs went there as a result. Carberry is out of his depth. So is Bairstow. Bresnan has lost a yard of pace. Monty is a poor excuse of a cricketer and would field at third man and bat eleven in most decent club sides, like ended up doing in Oz grade cricket. Stokes and Root are worth preservering with because of lack of other choice. KP has tried hard in this test but panicked because of proven lack of ability of lower order. Last years was flattering.

  • on December 28, 2013, 22:52 GMT

    George, I just want to say that I really enjoy your video's, articles, comedy and general mild manner. Keep up the good work, champ!!!

  • dunger.bob on December 28, 2013, 22:35 GMT

    A word about the Bell dismissal if I may. .. one of the things that impresses me about Bell is his freedom at the crease. We saw it time and time again in England and early in this tour as well. . The others can look as though they're playing on a different pitch at times. Bell normally walks out and plays nice, positive, run scoring cricket from the off. I can't count the number of times I've seen him get off the mark with a solid push through the covers for a couple. First ball too on occasions, just like yesterday.

    So what went wrong yesterday? .. In a word, Lyon. Nathan did him in flight. The ball dipped and messed his normally precise footwork right up. He was beaten, done and toasted by a very decent delivery. .. I know it's hard for GD to acknowledge that a 'pathetic little groundsman' (Pietersen,2011) could have actually deceived the batting machine that is Bell but it happened. .. My advice is to start getting used to it. .. Lyon is starting to settle beautifully.

  • kepler22b on December 28, 2013, 22:29 GMT

    'Not one of their wickets was due to an unplayable delivery.'

    How often do you see unplayable deliveries?

    That is pretty unfair to Carberry and particularly Cook. Both played defensive strokes to get out after having survived the early difficulties.

    Bell was done by the slowness of the bounce of the pitch. Stokes, Bairstow are not at test standard (watch that draw the crabs for Stokes - he might be good enough one day but not at the moment), and all the bowlers are fairly rubbish with the bat when the pressure has been on them and they are scared of Johnson. Broad is going to spend the rest of his career facing Yorkers and short pitched deliveries.

    Posted by gsingh7 on (December 28, 2013, 20:00 GMT)

    You didn't win the last test you played and we'll see how you go next summer in Australia. Nonetheless, your main point - a clean out - was necessary for India and means that players all have to perform. No other team would drop Ashwin yet Jadega has 4 wickets.

  • on December 28, 2013, 22:19 GMT

    I have to admire George Dobell's conclusion that England are 'afraid to play dull cricket' and applauding Carberry's knock (though it was more of a nudge at best) Carberry didn't rotate the strike and didn't tick the scoreboard over. His approach meant more pressure on Joe Root to score runs against the quicks, and it didn't look like Root was coping well with it.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on December 28, 2013, 22:01 GMT

    England are a great side. On paper they are better man for man. Australia can't bat or bowl and Mitch is hopeless. Oh wait a second.....

  • foozball on December 28, 2013, 21:55 GMT

    On the day 4 showing, you'd have to say the wheels have completely come off England... shades of the 06/07 debacle... on the current showing I'm not sure England could fight their way out of a paper bag, let alone take 10 wickets.

  • JimDavis on December 28, 2013, 21:31 GMT

    If this match proves anything, it is that Kevin should be coming in after the first wicket. Not Joe and not Ian.

  • sifter132 on December 28, 2013, 21:17 GMT

    Written with the benefit of hindsight. If this apparent counter attacking strategy had worked yesterday, we'd hear the press waxing lyrical about 'showing some positive intent' blah blah. I agree to some extent that quick scoring is overrated. What good is it for Warner/Sehwag types to make a quick 100, and be 1/120, when you could take longer, take more time and forge bigger partnerships? But in this case, Carberry and Root have played exactly into Australia's hands this series by blocking everything and not showing any intent. Root in particular has NEVER scored above 50 S/R at the beginning of his innings and gets bogged. His scoring is much better once he's past 20 or 30, but he rarely gets that far. Clarke can wheel through his plans unchallenged when the batsmen don't give him anything to think about.

  • handyandy on December 28, 2013, 21:10 GMT

    Carberry's batting should not be held up as an example of how England should bat. His batting was terrible and took all the pressure off Australia's bowlers and fielders.

  • on December 28, 2013, 20:58 GMT

    England will win bowl aust for 170 go onto win in Sydney series 3-2

  • on December 28, 2013, 20:53 GMT

    Good thoughts. Watching the last couple of England's tours before this one, one of their strengths has been that ability, when behind, to spend an age at the crease accumulating and at least salvage a draw. That's been replaced with folding like a cheap deck chair... More of an ungainly crash, and some sore backsides.

  • HatsforBats on December 28, 2013, 20:42 GMT

    Dobell has seemingly forgotten that for a good few years England had the best tail in the game, and they didn't get there by being defensive or patient. Prior, Broad, Swann were the counter-attacking crux of England's success after the stodgy top order foundations were laid. So to criticise new players for failing to repeat earlier successes following the same template is a little rich.

    And a ball need not be unplayable to deserve a wicket. Not every ball needs to be the Warne/Gatting ball or a Waqar yorker. Lyon out thought Bell and beat him with dip, with Bell attempting a shot he plays often and well. Credit where it's due.

    With 200 to get on a pitch much harder to score on than it appears, and with a collapse-prone Aus batting lineup, England are very much in this game. It will be interesting to see if Anderson continues to go through the motions.

  • on December 28, 2013, 20:18 GMT

    Everyone is talking as if this test is already over! Maybe it is. But Australia's batting has hardly been consistent this series, apart from occasional cameos like Warner, Clarke and Haddin have shown. Australia's first Innings here was just the solitary time that our later batsmen could not mask the inadequacies of our top order. Is Watson a test-class Number 3 batsman? It is no coincidence that he only seems to score runs when Australia does not really need them. And Bailey looked like a rabbit caught in headlights. He may have been unlucky but he lookeike a wicket waiting to happen. It is only England's feeble opposition that has made this Australian side look much better than it really is. The real questions will be answered in South Africa in a few months

  • KiwiPom on December 28, 2013, 20:03 GMT

    I spent much of the England 2nd innings listening to the Aussie commentators on TV. I was hoping against hope that England would just ignore them. Alas they did not. Too many of the batsmen were out c Healy b Taylor. What was required was for them to just play their normal game.

  • gsingh7 on December 28, 2013, 20:00 GMT

    so true . quick fix is no fix a tall. after debacle in 2011 england series, india started clearout of old established cricketers for new young cricketers. result is apart from 1 series loss in india , they have won every test match they played including4-0 whitewash of australia which have never happened before in history of test cricket. they also won 5 consecutive odi series in 2013and created considerable gap between them and other odi sides.even in tests they are now clear second only to sa. england need similar approach and need to quit older guys like anderson,kp, prior, etc and try new players. they might fall few places in all formats of game but they have no other option.

  • on December 28, 2013, 19:46 GMT

    I was surprised to read George Dobell's praise for Carberry's knock of 12 from 81 balls. It was dreadful stuff; he made the bowling look better than it was, and the pitch more difficult to bat on than it was. Cook's second innings effort set the tone that the others didn't follow. I do agree, however, that Cook should hand over the captaincy to someone else, as his overly defensive fields have cost England several precious wickets this summer.

  • on December 28, 2013, 19:42 GMT

    England are making Lyon look like Laker in this series. Nathan is a good bowler but hardly anything special. A regulation off-spinner and nothing more. England are now headless chickens and in a chaotic mess..they can't get any worse than they are now.

  • ROXSPORT on December 28, 2013, 18:45 GMT

    What England need at present, and need desperately, is a series against India, preferably, at home in England. Very soon, all these out of form players will be among the runs, wickets and who knows, even Matt Prior may make a comeback to the team.....

    P.S.: Any doubting Thomas's just have to rewind to Bairstow's debut innings against India (in an ODI, I believe) or Ian Butler's innings against the same opponents or even Stuart Broad's performance in the 4-0 series when he was on the verge of being dropped from the England team.

  • on December 28, 2013, 17:57 GMT

    Why was nick compton dropped(after occupying the crease long enough to score centuries)?-perhaps the same criteria could be used for others?

  • Pippy_the_dog on December 28, 2013, 17:26 GMT

    Possibly one of the biggest differences between the sides is Haddin. He's making up for deficiencies in the Australian batting line up, in the same way Prior has been doing for England in the last few years. Its no coincidence that Prior's dramatic loss of form, has coincided with England's inability to post a score.

  • on December 28, 2013, 16:14 GMT

    What the England cricket team needs at present in my view are as follows: I. England requires a very positive and aggressive captain who attacks as the first form of defence, rather than thinks defensively to curtail or save runs. II. All the batsmen adopting a wider stance so that in quick fast wickets in Australia they are able to get forward and back very quickly depending on the line and length of a given delivery. This also allows the batsman to play the pull, cut and hook stroke as he is lower to the ground with the wider stance in Australia where the bounce of the ball is pronounced in comparison with English wickets. III. Play the vertical and horizontal stokes regularly without fear as the bounce of the ball is consistent in Australia.

  • on December 28, 2013, 16:08 GMT

    Was at the ground today and it seemed to me that England couldn't a) stand the heat and b) couldn't care less. To witness firsthand the lack of fight and 'ticker' shows was something else. All batsmen - other than Cook & Carberry - treated their wicket with as much value as the many pieces of rubbish that flew across the outfield. The absolutely appalling display of batting from England was reminiscent of West Indies recent performances. Andy Flower needs to be fired and Cook needs to hand the captaincy over. South African are the only team who ARE prepared to do what Dobell says teams are not.

  • potter22in on December 28, 2013, 15:29 GMT

    Everything goes around comes back. One of the key to Aussies winning the Ashes at Australia is winning the first test at Gabba. Even at Gabba, Aussies batting first were 100 for 5 but thanks to Johnson & Haddin reached 295 and the momentum started there. They managed to dismiss England around 136 and went on to win the match, whereas at Trent Bridge in July'13 England (un-deservingly??) took a win when Broad was surely out caught at slips at a crucial stage. Even then Aussies fought to the best and badly lost the test by 14 runs. The effect of that loss they didn't turn up at Lords. Had Broad gone on his own? this frustration was only vented out by Lehmann and maybe Aussies should have won at Trent Bridge. Today everything has turned around. Aussies may be 4-0 up tomorrow heading to Sydney for the New Year Test.

  • BradmanBestEver on December 28, 2013, 13:16 GMT

    The main reason for the difference in performance is the DESIRE TO WIN.

    Australia have it more than England.

    Thank you linesmen, thank you ballboys

  • retiredallrounder on December 28, 2013, 12:49 GMT

    I agree with much of what George has to say; and England are in a trough of demoralisation with no-one able at the moment to lift them out of it. It may be trite to say that a clean sweep of coaching staff is required, but there is much truth in this; and please let Cooke be released from the painful (for him) burden of captaincy. I could see the cracks in his captaincy in the home series, and I'm not totally surprised at what has happened in the pressure cooker of playing in Australia. Let's have a look at Broad, Bell (or maybe even Root) taking up the challenge. A new positive energy is required. It isn't just about playing oneself in and learning to play a long innings; England's top six are all capable of that - the malaise stems from the coach and the leadership of the side.

  • csr11 on December 28, 2013, 12:13 GMT

    All said and done, i think the single biggest reason behing Englands troubles down under is that Cook has not been able to get going (or has been kept well contained by the aussies). to play the kind of attritional game that Dobell talks about you need the personell - compton not being picked, trott's loss and Cook's failure all lead to the aussie quicks reaching the middle order fresh, and the middle order not having the confidence to play a measured pace.

  • on December 28, 2013, 11:58 GMT

    I don't agree with this super defensive approach. If the bowling is tight, you as a batsman have to take some measures to throw them off their rhythm,especially when the attack has no real weak link to focus on. I don't mean reckless shots, but try to rotate the strike with singles, so bowlers don't get the opportunity to consistently work on one batsman. Bobby Simpson was a master at this art of the quick single. Carberry's ludicrously defensive knock of 12 runs off 81 hand grenades...I mean err balls, is never going to win you a test match. At some stage, you have to assert yourself and take some calculated risk, otherwise, the best you can ever hope for is draw, with next to no chance of winning.

  • HowdyRowdy on December 28, 2013, 11:56 GMT

    It looked to me today that the English batsmen are mentally drained and just can't apply themselves to Test match batting at the moment. Perhaps they have been suffocated by tight Aussie bowling for too long and have suffered a mental, as opposed to physical, TKO.

    The dismissals of Bell and Stokes were calamitous. Root's runout: totally unnecessary. Not mentioned in the article was Cook's dismissal - he was batting beautifully and I was fully expecting another lengthy innings that would bury Australia. Then, out of nowhere, LBW when very well set.

    Collectively I believe that the English top order is mentally drained and this is responsible for some very flawed decision-making.

  • on December 28, 2013, 11:17 GMT

    You only have to look towards South Africa to see that even India is trying to mend their batting ways (good leaves and mostly no lofted shots except for one opener) for a test match. Why can't England do the same?

    OK

  • on December 28, 2013, 11:03 GMT

    No doubt this is a reactive piece of writing and there is also no doubt that, if it were not, George's point would be clearer. A team can seize the moment by denying the attack of the opposition, particularly if they feel like the game is going their way. It may occur by defensive batting, but only if the defence is so secure that the opposition is affected and feels like there is no possibility of making a breakthrough. Another way is to hold back and nudge the ball around and look for singles. Obviously this is better, and the Australian way, but there are times when it is isn't possible... and part of the reason Australia has struggled when runs have been hard to come by. When the runs aren't coming the pair should reconsider their options and play through the tension. There will be a point when the runs come again because the fielding side will stretch themselves feeling like they are about to miss out on 'the moment'. The batsmen just have to last beyond that.

  • on December 28, 2013, 11:02 GMT

    The similarity between Australia's bowling attack in this series and England's in 2005 tells a tale. No sooner have you seen off the new ball you have to face the miserly Siddle and Watson, and Lyon thrown in for good measure. If you don't score off them then Johnson and Harris are back fresh with an older ball which they can reverse swing. The run scoring opportunities are so limited that you need to force the pace whenever the opportunity arises and unfortunately for England they weren't good enough today against Nathan Lyon who bowled well without doing anything remarkable. I was very glad to see him cash in after doing significant amounts of holding work throughout the series without the rewards.

  • 4test90 on December 28, 2013, 10:58 GMT

    Yet last year in Adelaide DuPlessis played an innings of patience, skill, graft and determination that has all but made him a legend in Aust, and will have cricket lovers here following his future career with great interest. In contrast Bell's dismissal today was one of the most reckless I have seen in 40 years of watching cricket.

  • Rowayton on December 28, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    You omitted probably the worst incident of recklessness. Stokes would have run out Pietersen cold but Siddle's throw from close in missed. But I think it's the lower half of the orders that has been the difference as you note. I can't believe how badly Broad and Swann have batted in this series. It's the runs 1to11 score that win matches, not 1 to 6.

  • foozball on December 28, 2013, 10:41 GMT

    @Ragav999, that isn't quite reflective of today's play. Harris was operating at perhaps 75-80% today, Watson barely 50%. England were well positioned to take the game away today, but they just imploded. Bell's wicket sums it up better than I could.

  • Rajdeepgupta on December 28, 2013, 10:38 GMT

    Dobell has hit the nail in the last 3 paras of the article. Players are no longer interested to play the waiting game and are scared that slow scoring may lead to more criticism.

  • dunger.bob on December 28, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    England tried to make a statement about intent but fell over because the Aussie bowling was too good for them. Given the statement they wanted to make, they had to attack Lyon because they couldn't get a run off the quicks.

    I've got my doubts that the brick wall approach would have worked either. These are decent bowlers you know. They would have bowled enough good balls to chip out 10 wickets anyway so you may as well try to knock them out of their collective rhythm by carting them around a bit. Not T20 style but a nice, solid 3-4 runs an over which is all they were trying to do I think.

  • CoverDrive88 on December 28, 2013, 10:25 GMT

    I'd be interested to know how many Tests now reach the final session or even the final day. It seems to me that there are very few draws relative to earlier times. That can be argued to mean more exciting cricket or at least good bowling, and that may be the case. However I think getting a result because two innings or more result in low totals is more likely to be poor cricket in general and more particularly poor batting.

  • Ragav999 on December 28, 2013, 10:16 GMT

    The strategy of being patient only works when the opposition team has at the most only one great bowler and one good bowler who is having a good day and two other ordinary bowlers. In such a situation, the batsmen can play out two bowlers who are bowling nothing loose and wait for the bowling change to make hay. But when you face 4 good bowlers all operating consistently, there is no place to hide or score easy runs. In such situations, one has to be proactive and disturb the line and length of the bowlers to get the score board moving. One need not look any further than Carberry to decide which approach is better.

  • Clyde on December 28, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    Quite right, George. In Test cricket a spectator ought to be able to see that a batsman is about staying in and go and buy a pie. A draw is better than a loss.

  • on December 28, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    England were clearly self destructive today. While Cook started very positively and looked quite admirable, he got out to a ball which nipped in sharply. This has been the trend of the series for England thus far, also it highlights the Oz bounce back abilities. Had they allowed Cook to flourish, the situation would have been very different. Surely Johnson bowled well when the ball had gone old and the pitch contributed to the abrasiveness. But the dismissals of Bell, Root, Bairstow and Stokes really raise questions about the temperament of their batting setup. It hurts most when you get out to an undeserving delivery and the same happened more than thrice today. Cook's resilience, Pietersen's flamboyance, Bell's Patience have all become a thing of past sadly. Certainly Cricket is the loser here as a sound team of strong professionals batting in such a dismal fashion. Had the total been 350, a contest would have got shaped up. Alas it was not to be!!!

  • on December 28, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    Not sure I agree with this entirely. It is unquestionably true that England were reckless, but their problem is not that they do not dare to be dull, it is that they only have two gears: reckless or dull. Where is 2nd gear (i.e a bit above "dull", looking for singles, and turning ones into twos)? Alistair Cook found it, but no-one else did, and the result is another mess, and a Test match in all probability going down the tubes.

  • sukmad on December 28, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    Well, I think the on-going series between South Africa and India presents a study in contrast. The young players from both sides like du plessis, Pujara and Vijay are trying to bat for long periods of time wearing down the attack. Shocked by the approach of the English batsmen today. Just something is terribly wrong with them. Looking weaker than the Indian team that was whitewashed in England and Australia.

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  • sukmad on December 28, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    Well, I think the on-going series between South Africa and India presents a study in contrast. The young players from both sides like du plessis, Pujara and Vijay are trying to bat for long periods of time wearing down the attack. Shocked by the approach of the English batsmen today. Just something is terribly wrong with them. Looking weaker than the Indian team that was whitewashed in England and Australia.

  • on December 28, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    Not sure I agree with this entirely. It is unquestionably true that England were reckless, but their problem is not that they do not dare to be dull, it is that they only have two gears: reckless or dull. Where is 2nd gear (i.e a bit above "dull", looking for singles, and turning ones into twos)? Alistair Cook found it, but no-one else did, and the result is another mess, and a Test match in all probability going down the tubes.

  • on December 28, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    England were clearly self destructive today. While Cook started very positively and looked quite admirable, he got out to a ball which nipped in sharply. This has been the trend of the series for England thus far, also it highlights the Oz bounce back abilities. Had they allowed Cook to flourish, the situation would have been very different. Surely Johnson bowled well when the ball had gone old and the pitch contributed to the abrasiveness. But the dismissals of Bell, Root, Bairstow and Stokes really raise questions about the temperament of their batting setup. It hurts most when you get out to an undeserving delivery and the same happened more than thrice today. Cook's resilience, Pietersen's flamboyance, Bell's Patience have all become a thing of past sadly. Certainly Cricket is the loser here as a sound team of strong professionals batting in such a dismal fashion. Had the total been 350, a contest would have got shaped up. Alas it was not to be!!!

  • Clyde on December 28, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    Quite right, George. In Test cricket a spectator ought to be able to see that a batsman is about staying in and go and buy a pie. A draw is better than a loss.

  • Ragav999 on December 28, 2013, 10:16 GMT

    The strategy of being patient only works when the opposition team has at the most only one great bowler and one good bowler who is having a good day and two other ordinary bowlers. In such a situation, the batsmen can play out two bowlers who are bowling nothing loose and wait for the bowling change to make hay. But when you face 4 good bowlers all operating consistently, there is no place to hide or score easy runs. In such situations, one has to be proactive and disturb the line and length of the bowlers to get the score board moving. One need not look any further than Carberry to decide which approach is better.

  • CoverDrive88 on December 28, 2013, 10:25 GMT

    I'd be interested to know how many Tests now reach the final session or even the final day. It seems to me that there are very few draws relative to earlier times. That can be argued to mean more exciting cricket or at least good bowling, and that may be the case. However I think getting a result because two innings or more result in low totals is more likely to be poor cricket in general and more particularly poor batting.

  • dunger.bob on December 28, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    England tried to make a statement about intent but fell over because the Aussie bowling was too good for them. Given the statement they wanted to make, they had to attack Lyon because they couldn't get a run off the quicks.

    I've got my doubts that the brick wall approach would have worked either. These are decent bowlers you know. They would have bowled enough good balls to chip out 10 wickets anyway so you may as well try to knock them out of their collective rhythm by carting them around a bit. Not T20 style but a nice, solid 3-4 runs an over which is all they were trying to do I think.

  • Rajdeepgupta on December 28, 2013, 10:38 GMT

    Dobell has hit the nail in the last 3 paras of the article. Players are no longer interested to play the waiting game and are scared that slow scoring may lead to more criticism.

  • foozball on December 28, 2013, 10:41 GMT

    @Ragav999, that isn't quite reflective of today's play. Harris was operating at perhaps 75-80% today, Watson barely 50%. England were well positioned to take the game away today, but they just imploded. Bell's wicket sums it up better than I could.

  • Rowayton on December 28, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    You omitted probably the worst incident of recklessness. Stokes would have run out Pietersen cold but Siddle's throw from close in missed. But I think it's the lower half of the orders that has been the difference as you note. I can't believe how badly Broad and Swann have batted in this series. It's the runs 1to11 score that win matches, not 1 to 6.