Graham Thorpe: England batters given 'wake-up call' by Ashes mauling

Adam Hollioake added to coaching staff after Covid-19 isolation rules hit tourists

Graham Thorpe has been working with Rory Burns in the nets, England training, The Ashes, Adelaide, December 23, 2021

Graham Thorpe has been working with Rory Burns in the nets  •  Getty Images

England's batters have been given a "wake-up call" and an "education" by Australia's bowling attack in the first three Ashes Tests. That is the view of Graham Thorpe, their assistant coach, who will stand in for the self-isolating Chris Silverwood in next week's fourth Test at the SCG.
The stats from the first three Ashes Tests make grim reading for England's batters. Their highest team total is 297 and there have been no individual hundreds, while Dawid Malan and Joe Root are the only players to have made half-centuries, or to average more than 30 in the series. The three batters that England have used who are under the age of 30 - Haseeb Hameed, Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley - have made 130 runs between them across 12 innings.
Thorpe said that the lack of Lions tours and training camps over the last 21 months due to the pandemic meant that England's young batters were learning "the basic skills" of Test cricket on the job, and suggested that county cricket was not providing adequate preparation.
"With some players it's a wake-up call," Thorpe said. "It could actually kick-start their careers because they've started training in a very, very different way. They actually start to train smart. They don't waste time hitting half-volleys.
"I don't mean that in a bad way but they actually deal with the actual nitty gritty side of international cricket, playing high-quality spin, high-quality pace bowling and learning how to put pressure back on. If a guy's bowling well, [they have to] get through it for six, seven or eight overs.
"County cricket is what it is. You've got to lift players out of there, then educate them into international cricket. There have been no Lions tours and no training camps for our younger players to actually learn the basic skills of the game as well. They're trying to learn it in county cricket, but the truth is when they come out of county cricket, they have to learn it again, because Test cricket is 10 times harder.
"We are still trying to educate some of the younger guys into the rhythm of Test match batting: playing situations in the game and doing it for long periods of time. Some of them haven't been able to do it yet. Some of our young players are getting an education and if they didn't know before, they understand how tough Test cricket is now."
Thorpe has been working extensively with Rory Burns, who was dropped for the third Test after making 51 runs across four innings on the tour - including being bowled round his legs by the first ball of the series. After 31 Tests, Burns averages 30.92 with the bat and his idiosyncratic technique has come under scrutiny in Australia.
"I told him: 'you've played 30 Test matches and you average 30, so we want you to be doing more, to be better than that as a player,'" Thorpe said. "So we've had discussions with him - does he need a major overhaul of his technique or just to tinker with things?
"He needs to do the simple things better. So can he calm things down with his movements and everything? We've been talking him through that. It's tough in competition. Everyone says do you work with them? Yes you do, but you can't pick away at people's brains too much walking into Test matches. Sometimes they have to come out and then you can reset a little bit.
"When players get a little bit of success they then think, 'My way is the right way'. And there's a balance to it. You can see certain things. I said to him, 'The best bowlers in the world are going to analyse your technique and the right-hand column is going to tell you whether you're getting it right or not'.
"We've seen he's got a good fighting character, so I know that. But at the same time you need a technique and temperament at the highest level. I think he can come back again and play for England definitely but he's very clear those little adjustments are going to help him to stay at the crease longer."
Thorpe is one of only three England coaches available to take training, alongside Ant Botha and James Foster, with Silverwood, Jeetan Patel and Jon Lewis all self-isolating. As a result, they have asked Adam Hollioake - the former England one-day captain and a team-mate of Thorpe's at Surrey - to travel to Sydney from his home on the Gold Coast to support their coaching staff, though under Cricket Australia's Covid protocols he is only allowed to work with the players outdoors.