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Why England seem old despite being young

They are batting creakily when they should be thinking young and batting nervously

Alex Bowden
England plot their way to a draw ahead of day five, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 5th day, December 9, 2013

In a desperate bid to recapture their youth, Alastair Cook suggests a round of "Ring a Ring o' Roses"  •  PA Photos

People respond to the ageing process in different ways. One might acquiesce to a growing waistband, considering centimetres to be something that you continually accumulate throughout your life, like debt or pessimism. Another might react by going to the opposite extreme, attempting to recapture their youth through a relentlessly pursued fitness regime - even though the youth they are trying to recapture was most likely characterised by sloth and apathy.
Following two pretty woeful performances, some are suggesting that this England side is over the hill. They do appear wearied, but age is misleading here for they are actually younger than their Australian counterparts. In fact, very few of them are actually getting on in years. They just seem old.
With cricketers, we often mistake novelty for youth and familiarity for age. For example, Ravi Bopara is thought by many to be past it, even though he is only 28, while England are talking about investing in Boyd Rankin for the future, even though he's already 29. Their wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, currently looks a bit jaded, but is actually only 31, and this compares favourably with the surprisingly spry Brad Haddin, who is 36. At the rate they are currently being played, Prior could squeeze in another four or five Ashes series before retirement.
So where does this sense of an ageing side in decline come from then? Perhaps it's more to do with attitude. An older friend of ours has one of those inspirational sayings on display in his house as a constant message to himself. It reads: "You don't stop doing things because you are old. You are old because you stop doing things."
It's a little trite, but not without an element of truth. So what have England stopped doing?
Well, one thing they certainly haven't stopped doing is "spooning catches into the leg side". In fact, they seem to be embarking on a new age of leg-side spoondom in a forlorn bid to render slips fielders entirely redundant. However, a corollary of this is that they have stopped hitting the ball along the ground on the leg side. Maybe that's a sign of age.
"You are old because you stop hitting the ball along the ground on the leg side" isn't particularly catchy, as sayings go, but we can only work with the evidence in front of us and that pretty much sums up England's entire top order.
The lower order has stopped batting for longer than an over when Mitchell Johnson is bowling. Again, this doesn't give rise to a universally applicable saying. "You are old because you stop batting for longer than six deliveries when facing rejuvenated, hirsute left-arm quick bowlers" depicts a very specific set of circumstances. But again, we can only conclude that this characteristic is in some way contributing to the perception that England are an ageing side.
As with those who encounter middle-aged spread, there are two possible courses of action for England. They can embrace their deterioration, or they can have a mid-life crisis. The former entails continuing as they are, but also putting together a wardrobe of predominantly beige and fawn coloured clothing. I'm not sure what the latter would involve. They'd have to somehow try and recapture their youth, I guess. What do young cricketers tend to do when dropped into the unforgiving furnace that is Test cricket?
Oh, that's right - they generally spend their time drawing attention to their inexperience by getting out in infuriating and unnecessary ways. Maybe the England players will hark back to their younger days after all.

Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket