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The scientific reasons for England's poor show

The real reason England were whitewashed in the Ashes? The answers lie in the realm of physics

Alex Bowden
Matt Prior has a go on a didgeridoo, Ayers Rock, November 27, 2013

Enhancing lung power for more effective appealing? England have been there, done that  •  Getty Images

It was revealed this week that Matt Prior has been training with an anti-gravity running machine to try to aid his recovery from an achilles injury. This is just one aspect of England's new approach that has been developed after a post-Ashes review concluded that it was primarily external factors that had been holding England back.
Video analysis of the last Ashes series revealed that a great many England dismissals could have been prevented had the tourists had better control of the Earth's gravitational pull. In addition to this, not only would most catches off their batting not have been taken, each delivery would also have resulted in a six.
Conversely, Australian sixes could in theory have been turned into wickets by selectively deactivating gravity when an England fielder jumped for the ball. Sadly, efforts to train England's players to adapt to inconsistent laws of physics have proven unsuccessful - which is hardly surprising when they haven't been too hot at making ball-path predictions even when their environment remains constant.
Bad light is the bane of cricket, but good light too has been a real issue for England in recent times. Good light has frequently helped an opposition batsman accurately gauge the line and length of a delivery, allowing them to more easily make contact with the ball using their bat. At the same time, it has enabled fielders to snaffle catches off England batsmen that would have been almost impossible to take in pitch blackness.
Finally, bad light has ensured that fans both at the ground and at home have been able to witness much of England's poor cricket, and this in particular has been a real issue for the management team. A growing enthusiasm for day-night cricket is therefore merely a stepping stone to playing even later and without floodlights. England players will then be kitted out with night-vision goggles to confer a crucial advantage.
Air density
Having seen the effect of Mitchell Johnson's additional pace, England have been researching how to develop more fast bowlers. They have discovered that one of the main issues hampering their efforts has been air density.
It seems that the thick, syrupy atmosphere of planet Earth saps the speed of a ball travelling through the air and so resources are being put into overcoming this. In lab conditions, one James Tredwell delivery was clocked at 150kph. The challenge now is to somehow recreate a vacuum within a cricket stadium without inadvertently killing tens of thousands of fans.
The ageing process
England have recently identified the concept of "churn". Churn refers to the ceaseless coming and going of players within the national side - which is believed to be hampering progress. After extensive statistical analysis, it transpired that there hasn't been a single player who has remained within the first XI from England's first match in 1877 until the present day.
"What if we could retain all of our great players?" goes the thinking. "What if they only needed to be replaced when even better ones turned up?"
In that scenario, the team would only ever improve, whereas currently retirements invariably set the team back for a period of time. The stumbling block appears to be the ageing process. As players get older, they invariably deteriorate.
Coming up with a solution to this problem has not proved easy, even with England's vast backroom staff. A lot of effort is being put into scrutinising the career of Graham Gooch - the one player they believe has gone closest to evading the ravages of time. Current thinking is that the key to youthfulness may be something to do with moustaches, but a proper working solution is almost certainly still some way off.

Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket