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England Test team in disarray as Ashes loom

England's Haseeb Hameed
England's Haseeb Hameed
©Reuters
 

The chaotic and premature conclusion of the test series between India and England was an immense disappointment to cricket supporters in both nations. It raised some serious questions about the way the game is managed in these unusual times, and about whether India’s administrators still give international test cricket the priority most people think it deserves over shorter forms and franchise tournaments. 

For England, however, there is a more immediate concern. The series was a topsy turvy one, and were it not for the heroics of Joe Root, it would have been mightily one sided. The final test would have provided an opportunity to refine some of the changes made mid-series, especially at the top of the order. As things stand, there are more questions than answers and England has the biggest challenge of them all just around the corner. 

 

White beats red 

 

Most of the cricketing world is gearing up for the T20 World Cup, but England’s white ball form is so strong, that’s the least of their worries. Earlier this summer, they had to scramble together what was effectively a B-team when most of the main squad was forced to quarantine, and they still blew Pakistan away. Question marks over Ben Stokes availability do not trouble the white ball captain Eoin Morgan, and a look at the Comeon cricket betting odds shows they are only marginally behind tournament favourites India.  

For Root’s red ball men, it is a different story. Root’s focus is The Ashes, the test match series that means more to England and Australia than any other. And the team is anything but settled.  

 

No consistency up top 

 

England have had some of the best Test match openers in the world over the years. The trouble is, when the likes of Gooch and Atherton retired, the top order took years to get over it. The same thing is happening now, and England have still not solved the problem of replacing Alastair Cook.  

Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley both had confidence-sapping tours last winter, and in the English summer they were wickets waiting to happen. Drafting in Haseeb Hameed and Dawid Malan made the top order look far more solid, but both are still unproven. Jonny Bairstow is another who has promised much but never shown any sort of consistency at test level, while surely now the selectors must realise that Jos Buttler’s exceptional skills should be saved for the white ball game. 

 

Fragile bowlers 

Ollie Robinson was one of England’s few good news stories this summer. He arrived on the test scene as if it was his right to be there, and he should be in his element on Australia’s hard, bouncy tracks. But that’s where the good news ends. James Anderson is 39 now, he can’t keep spearheading England’s attack forever, and Broad is also in his mid 30s. Archer and Wood are special talents, but spend more time on the physio’s bench than in the middle. 

There’s no doubt that England will arrive in Australia full of purpose and determination. The concern is that the likely line up looks almost identical to the men who were trounced 4-0 last time the two teams met.