The Ashes: How England scripted their own doom
Little did the cricketing world know that the England cricket team high on confidence after retaining the Ashes in their backyard would see this day in history. The Down Under voyage for the Alastair Cook-led side has been disastrous as the Australian side conquered the English team and quenched their yearning for the urn after four long years.
History came beckoning at the Ashes. Michael Clarke & Co. became only the third team in last 140 years to win the most coveted battle of cricketing history by a whitewash over England. Also, they were only the fourth side in history to go through a five-match series with an unchanged squad.
England had trouble brewing right after the first Test loss in Gabba. Jonathan Trott was their first casualty. The number three, an important player for England, left the tour mid way, citing depression. This led to Joe Root`s elevation to the number 3 position, leaving Ian Bell - the last series` Man of the series, at number 6. Root`s inconsistent performance ultimately led to Bell`s promotion up in the order and his ouster in the last Test. England should have taken this step much before the Ashes was lost.
Then came their next hurdle. After the Ashes were lost, their key member, Graeme Swann, one of the best off-spinners of England, who could have helped salvage some pride in the next two Tests, announced sudden retirement. One was also left wondering about what was wrong with England`s fielding. The number of dropped catches added to their miseries.
England had too many problems in the batting department as well. Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell managed to score just two half-centuries each from ten innings. On the other hand, even though Cook scored three half centuries, it was a below par performance, considering his form in Tests over the last few years.
The bowling attack also will now come under scanner. Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes were the only players who felt the need to play to their full potential. James Anderson got only 14 wickets. Matt Prior was replaced in the fourth Test. In fact, England tried and tested 18 of their players in the five Tests. Unfortunately, no permutation and combination helped.
England`s doom started the day Mitchell Johnson was included in the Test squad. The Englishmen, trapped in this hurricane, could not find their way out till the very end. The reinvented Johnson scalped 37 wickets, equalling the world record for most wickets by a left-arm fast bowler in a Test series. (Bill Whatty from Australia had taken 37 wickets versus South Africa in Australia in 1910-11.)
Brad Haddin, whose retirement talks were doing rounds, emerged as the Aussie rescue-ranger. In times of crisis, like a warrior he fought for his team, and pulled them out of troubled terrain. He was second in the run scorers list (493 runs and 22 catches), managing half-centuries in all first innings he played.
Other cricketers like Shane Watson, Steve Smith, Chris Rogers, David Warner, Nathan Lyon and Ryan Harris too helped the Aussies reclaim the Ashes. The contribution of captain Clarke is also praiseworthy. He led his team from the front, and the way he used his fast bowlers, was something which forced England to remain on back foot throughout the series.
Credit also goes to Darren Lehmann for rebuilding the Aussie team which was undergoing a transition phase. The team`s attitude reflects their sincerity, and thus their domination over the Ashes.
England scripted their own misery. Cook would now be a worried man. He needs to resurrect the team members` shattered confidences and bruised egos. He would also need to work on his captaincy, and of course, his main weapon which was once lethal - his batting. The team needs to keep their chins up, else more misery will follow. What England need most is introspection.