England’s Ashes tour of Australia is in jeopardy after a row over the scheduling of their matches. The English and Australian boards have failed to come to an agreement on the dates for the five-Test series, with England scheduled to play three Tests at home and two away.
The indian cricket schedule is a story about England’s plans unraveling as Australia tour looms.
Poor performance is avoided through meticulous preparation.
But life happens while you’re busy making other plans, and England’s one home Test victory this summer is their lowest total since 1999.
The Ashes, rightly or incorrectly, is the centerpiece of English Test cricket. Success versus Australia leaves a legacy, while defeat tarnishes a reputation.
England has informed us that they plan to peak for their two major missions at the end of the year for the whole year of 2021. Joe Root’s red-ball squad will compete in the Ashes, while the white-ballers will compete in the T20 World Cup.
Eoin Morgan’s limited-overs setup is in such good shape that he can rely on Liam Livingstone and Tymal Mills to cover for Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer’s absences.
The Test crew, on the other hand, is flying by the seat of its white trousers.
While no one could have predicted all-rounder Stokes’ extended absence from the game, and while injuries to Archer and a whole battery of fast bowlers are regrettable, time spent on a shabby batting line-up has not paid off, and choices on spin bowling have been irrational.
The postponement of the last Test against India has shown the difficulties of looking too far forward when the world is engulfed in a pandemic. That’s before you consider the uncertainty around whether England players will really be available for the Ashes, given the uncertainty surrounding whether their families will be permitted to go. external-link
Last year, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, and Ollie Pope seemed to be on track to be half of England’s Ashes top six, capping off a two-year build-up for the trio of young batters.
Sibley and Crawley were pushed aside during the course of the home summer after a confidence-draining winter in India, while Pope is just on the fringes of the first XI.
Haseeb Hameed (35.90), Dawid Malan (28.62), and Jonny Bairstow have replaced Sibley (Test average 28.94), Crawley (28.34), and Pope (32.16). (33.70).
Even if the statistics improve somewhat, there is still a feeling of shuffled deckchairs. When you consider that Sam Robson averaged 30.54 and Gary Ballance a staggering 37.45, England’s deckchairs haven’t been completely motionless over the last decade.
While Stokes’ absence, as a natural force, produces its own black hole, it has also had an impact on England’s spinners.
During the winter, Jack Leach displaced Dom Bess as first-choice, but he was left out at the start of the summer as England attempted to balance a squad without Stokes.
Moeen Ali’s all-round abilities were enlisted as a solution, and Root now refers to Moeen as the number-one spinner, implying that Leach has been demoted despite not bowled a single ball in a home Test in two years.
Because of the frequency with which England’s fast bowlers were knocked out by injury, there must have been moments when they thought they were in a Final Destination movie.
At different times, Archer, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Olly Stone, Saqib Mahmood, and Brydon Carse were all hit. Craig Overton was probably England’s ninth-choice seamer when he was selected for the third Test against India at Headingley, but he performed well.
Ollie Robinson, who has adapted to Test cricket even more easily than his famous team-mates Broad and James Anderson, has risen from the midst of it all.
Robinson was still part of a four-man, right-arm, fast-medium speed assault at the end of the summer, which was complemented by Moeen’s off-spin. This is a novel we’ve read before, and it doesn’t have a pleasant conclusion.
Where does England’s Ashes preparations stand given that there will be no further Test cricket between now and December? Concerningly similar to the squad that was thrashed 4-0 in Australia four years ago.
On the bright side, Malan was England’s top run-scorer in 2017-18, while Bairstow, who may wind up donning the gloves on his third Ashes trip, also made a century at the Waca.
Before the Ashes, Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman had only played three Tests as an opening combination, while Hameed and Rory Burns had only played two, although sharing two century partnerships.
Hameed’s conventional approach is much more comforting than Sibley’s cubism, but when Pat Cummins begins using Hameed’s eyebrows for target practice, a picture-perfect forward defense may be as useful as factor four suncream in Australia.
As is customary, England’s batting will be heavily reliant on Root, who has scored three times as many runs as any of his teammates so far in 2021.
In nine Tests in Australia, Root has never scored a century. If this does not alter, England is unlikely to return home with anything other than a humiliating loss.
For the fourth consecutive Ashes trip, England may have Anderson and Broad starting the bowling in the first Test at the Gabba. Despite their legendary status, Anderson has only won three of his 18 Tests in Australia, while Broad has only won one of his 12.
Despite the optimism that England may be able to fight at a faster tempo, and the characteristics that indicate Robinson might perform well in Australia, they are once again in risk of showing up to a firefight with only knives.
They need to get Wood through the World Cup unharmed, then carefully put him in a package labelled ‘fast bowler: treat with care’ and send him off to Australia.
Moeen’s wickets have cost nearly 65 runs each in 11 Tests against Australia, which is notoriously harsh on visiting off-spinners.
Perhaps most importantly, England might be missing Stokes for the second consecutive Ashes trip due to non-cricketing reasons.
If this creates a gloomy image, keep in mind that the Australian garden isn’t all roses and baggy green either.
They will have only played four Tests in nearly two years by the time the Ashes begins. With Australia’s November Test against Afghanistan in jeopardy, England’s intra-squad games featuring the England Lions may provide a more effective warm-up for the visitors than the hosts.
There is concern over Australia coach Justin Langer’s positionexternal-link, which will only become louder if they have a bad World Cup, as skipper Tim Paine recovers from neck surgery.
Preparation isn’t always the most important factor. Although New Year’s Eve seldom lives up to the hype, a calm pint at the pub may turn into the most unforgettable night imaginable.
England has no option but to hope that the Ashes trip will go smoothly.