England’s Ashes Turning to Dust

I have no idea how many readers of melchett mike have the slightest interest in cricket, that most noble and fascinating of all sports, but the events of the past few days have given me little choice but to indulge my frustrations.

This time last week, England were one good Test match away from winning back the Ashes from Australia, and holding the little urn (left) for only the second time in twenty years. A victory in the 4th Test at Headingley, the venue most suited to “English-style” bowlers, would have put England two-nil up in the series with only one Test to play.

But, in spite of having lost their best batsman Kevin Pietersen to injury, and with talismanic all-rounder Andrew Flintoff a serious doubt, England’s spineless selectors infuriatingly stuck with the same underperforming batsmen. In fact, England were only one-nil up in the series because the Aussies had fallen way below their usual high standards. But, with the Ashes there for the taking, the English selectors bottled it.

And, surprise surprise, England were bowled out for a pitiful 102 in their first innings and, this afternoon, for 263 in their second. Australia, who scored 445 in the only innings they required, won by an innings and 80 runs. So, the series is tied at one-all, and it is now all down to the 5th and final Test at the Oval on Thursday week. As the holders, the Aussies only require a draw to retain the Ashes.

Ravi Bopara: couldn't play with himself

Bopara: couldn't play with himself

Current openers Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook are probably the best England have. Following them, however, comes Ravi Bopara (right), who has now scored a measly 105 runs in the first four Tests. Quite frankly, he looks like he couldn’t play with himself. Ian Bell, at number four, appears terrified every time he walks down the pavilion steps, while Paul Collingwood, although a tough competitor, is not quite a Test number five. In their combined six visits to the crease during this 4th Test, the gormless trio amassed the grand total of 16 (yes, that’s sixteen) runs. With wicketkeeper Matt Prior – who has batted commendably above himself – having to come in as high as six, it completes a most depressing picture for England cricket fans.

Derek RandallEven if this isn’t England’s worst-ever top order, I certainly can’t recall a poorer one. Perhaps I have unreasonable expectations, having grown up spoilt with the riches of English batting talent: Geoffrey Boycott, Graham Gooch, David Gower, Mike Gatting, Allan Lamb and Ian Botham (even though they rarely all “fired” together). And, in reserve, you had my all-time hero, the mercurial Derek Randall (above left), Graeme Fowler, Chris Broad, Tim Robinson, . . .

The Key to regaining the Ashes?

The Key to regaining the Ashes?

Geoff Miller, England’s insipid head of selectors, is as totally uninspiring in the role as he was in that of spinning all-rounder (in 34 Tests between 1976 and 1984). The central contracts system, too, has a lot to answer for, encouraging perseverance with continual failures, such as Bopara and (to a lesser extent) Bell, rather than giving a chance to in-form county players. Okay, everyone knows I am a Kent fan, but the gutsy Rob Key (above right) – who had scored 123, 270 not out, 25 and 110 not out in his four previous visits to the crease (and with a respectable average of 31 in 15 Tests) – should have been given the nod for this 4th Test.

Anyhow, it is no use looking back. But, if England are to have any chance of regaining the Ashes, Key or 39-year old Mark Ramprakash – averaging over 90 in this year’s County Championship, and who would be playing on his home ground – must be selected for the Oval (I would play them both).

I am praying for a miracle, because, with the Aussies’ tails now up, a minor one at least is what it is gonna take.

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26 responses to “England’s Ashes Turning to Dust

  1. Strauss, Cook, Key, Ramps, Colly, Prior, Fred, Swann, Broad or Anderson, Sidey, Monty.

    Two spinners essential on the Oval ‘dustbowl’… no more Saffers (Trott) please!

  2. Call me a Philistine, but me, the good Yorkshirelad that I am, still haven’t been able to fathom the game of cricket… Just what am I missing?

  3. Adam Gilchrist

    Dopey Pom – u will not win another ashes until another one of our bowlers trips on a cricket ball.

  4. You Aussies are hilarious . . . so busy trying to give off an aura of machismo, and then commenting to blogs under the guise of former Australian cricketers in some kind of homosexual, autoerotic role-play (although the former cricketer is usually some fat, peroxide blond tranny known as “Warney”).

    Now I understand what the “Seed” stands for in your company’s name, Benji . . . though perhaps they should add the word “Wasted”.

  5. The thing about English cricket is that it’s still run or at least heavily influenced by hypocritical, toffee nosed, soft, ex public school boys.

    Why do Aggers and cronies seem to be able to influence selection and the captaincy issue every now and again? Agnew played about 3 tests and got no or next to no wickets. Hoorah Henry played minor counties games. Tyke Boycott walks into the commentary box and it’s as if the Don Bradman of Yorkshire has arrived.

    Listeners to Test match special don’t often hear Ian Botham on maybe because he refuses to be patronized by that lot and likes nothing more than to put the finger up at the English cricketing establishment.

    They need more fighters in the team. Over the years Botham and hop along Flintoff have demonstrated that if the team fights and plays around its classier batsmen anything is possible.

    On the other hand if they’re going to lose, fine but at least go down fighting.

  6. Daniel Sevitt

    You can talk about Key and Ramps all you like, but the only way to win the Ashes now is to take 20 wickets and we don’t have an attack that can do that.

    Freddie has to play just for his talismanic ability to give the side some belief in itself, but I don’t know where the other wickets are coming from. Not Harmison, that’s for sure. Broad isn’t convincing and Anderson is too hit or miss. It’s a bloody disaster.

    I can’t believe I was actually excited after the second test.

  7. Yes, the noise is ratcheting up about bringing both Key and Ramprakash back, and although bringing a 39yr old back into the fold can hardly be called a forward thinking move this is a one off situation.
    Knowing that’s its one off may also allow Ramps to play with abandon, something he never could do when he was under pressure to prove his place in the side.
    Disagree with your point about the central contracts though. We can’t go back to the gory years of the 90’s where we would chop and change every test and not allow players any time to bed in.

  8. Call me a dreamer, but I still think that we can turn it around. This Aussie side, unlike all the others of the past twenty years, has a soft centre. Don’t get me wrong, everyone will have to be at the top of their game. But Freddie being passed fit, winning the toss, and a good first session can change everything.

    And this would be my XI:
    Strauss
    Cook
    Key
    Ramprakash
    Collingwood
    Flintoff
    Prior
    Broad
    Swann
    Anderson
    Harmison/Onions/Tredwell

  9. Someone mentioned that the Oval is a spinners wicket. Excuse me if I am wrong but my memories of the Oval suggest otherwise, Devon Malcolm against the South Africans is a prime example. I am happy to be corrected, in which case would definitely bring back Monty.

  10. The first test frustrated me – we should have won.
    The second test embarrassed me – we should have played.
    The third test kept me up at night – I should have prayed for sunshine.
    But the fourth test bought me nothing but pure joy.
    Here is one avid reader of your blog who is exhausted and under slept sitting in Melbourne Australia patriotically shouting “AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE”.

  11. Daniel Lange

    Mike – I just read on Cricinfo that the magic 16 runs made by the Fab 3 is the lowest aggregate total for numbers 3, 4 and 5 batsmen in Test History.

    As for my own tuppence worth – I’ve never rated Bopara: he seems to be there because he has a cool temperamant. 3 tons against the West Indies attack might have been impressive in the days of the “Whispering Death”, Big Bird, MM or Curtley/Courtney, but in 2009, it doesn’t cut the mustard.

    Bell – a pretty player when on song but gutless. Always makes a 50 or a soft ton against crap teams when about to be dropped. Colly should stay – he’s a proven fighter.

    Rob & Ramps – huge and bold gamble, but let’s face it, this is now a one-off sudden death. If these guys don’t have the balls for it, who has? We need to pick our best team; sod looking at the future: Bopara/Bell vs Ramps/Rob….no brainer! It may just help them both that that there are 2 old stooges rather than all the hype and media focus on just one of them. Makes sense to me.

    Mike – Agree with your picks other than Broad who must go. Not because he failed to emulate the great Beefy on Sunday (it was so set up for him: a 5-for in the 1st inns at Headingley, 7 down 2nd Inns, etc), but because he is in as a bowler who bats (pretty well admittedly), and he ain’t good enough. Maybe one day, but coming into the 4th Test with a career bowling average topping 40 (first 3 Tests yielded 6 wickets @ 61 apiece) – hardly the stuff of legends. His 6-for flattered to deceive. Not that Harmy and Onions are streets ahead, but we need 20 wickets, and they are a better bet. So I’d pick the same 11 as you Mike, but keep Harmy (let’s hope he might do a Devon), keep Onions, and drop Broad.

    And let’s agree on one thing, is there any England fan out there who would not have chopped off their right arm before the 1st Test, to be 1-1 going to the Oval?

    Skipper (Engel)….what say you?

  12. Interesting stat that, Danny, about the aggregate runs of numbers 3 to 5. Of course, there are no guarantees about Key and Ramprakash, but we just have to try something different now (Allan Lamb was on Sky News, yesterday evening, saying the same thing).

    And I agree both that Broad flatters to deceive – but can we drop a man who’s just taken 6 wickets and scored 61 (when no one around him did anything)? – and that we would have all settled for one-all going to the Oval. What about trying to persuade Martin Bicknell to take his slippers off?!

    Re, your former “skipper”, Mr. Engel, I have attempted (off-blog) to elicit a contribution from him, but he informs me that he is too absorbed by the Reform Judaism thread to be wasting his time on trivial matters such as the Ashes . . . must be an impostor!

    Whatever happened to that Glassman character who used to run the cricket in the Hasmo playground?!

  13. Shame Michael Vaughan cant come in at 3.

  14. As someone who has an overwhelming passion for cricket (but living in Israel where passions run high for everything but cricket) I was delighted to read your blog on the state of English cricket. I think you got it exactly right.
    Every year I make a pilgramage to Lourdes, sorry, Lords, for the July test match. After being thrilled there in 2005 I was even prepared to overcome having my ticket application turned down for the first time ever, necessitating an enormous layout for all 5 days of this year’s game. It was worth every penny! It had everything, the atmosphere, the banter with green and yellow clothed marsupials gulping down Foster’s, Flintoff charging in to the roars of the crowd and, last but not least, an English win. Not least enjoyable was the fact that I could join a friendly orderly queue for my fish and chips without being jostled, cursed or outdone by queue jumpers (yeah OK, but I have lived in Israel for 44 years!)
    Sitting each day behing the bowler’s arm in the upper tier of the Compton stand gives a unique view of the game and a real insight into what is really going on out their in the middle so just a few comments on what I think England should do after the debacle in my birth place.
    Broad is not yet a test match bowler. Bowled short, up and down and misdirected over after over. An Ashes series is not the occasion to bring on promising talent but to play established talent.
    Harmison is a shadow of his 2005 self so retain Onions and Anderson and bring in Sidebottom and/or even Hoggard both of whom have the guts for a fight. Freddie and these can give us a fighting chance at the Oval. Keep Swann in and leave Monty out for the simple reason that his lack of penetration requires an enormous dose of Viagra to stand up and be counted.
    As for the batting, the flash of Bopara is just not test standard and the Bell has tolled. Collingwood is indispensable in my view so whoever they bring in at 3 and 4 will be an improvement, whether it be Key, Ramprakash or anyone else that can carry on the generally good work of Strauss and Cook.
    Well that’s my pennyworth for what it’s worth. Roll on the Oval and your next cricket blog.

    Roy

  15. Daniel Lange

    As to the intriguing possibility of Rob-Ramps replacing Bell-Bopara, the latter pair were dismissed for one run each today. Jonathan Trott fared a little better and made 15, which is not bad really when you think back to the infamous middle order 2-innings aggregate in the last Test. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense….Rob & Ramps. Get them in!

    Mike – regarding your question can they drop Broad? Of course they can and should. We need to get the best team to win. Sentiment or loyalty or not wishing to dent the confidence/pride of a promising young player, should be tossed right out of the window.

    We just need to win!

  16. Daniel, my question – “can we drop a man who’s just taken 6 wickets and scored 61 (when no one around him did anything)?” – has nowt to do with “sentiment or loyalty or not wishing to dent the confidence/pride of a promising young player”.

    If Key (who top scored with 90 in Kent’s current game) and/or Ramprakash are picked, there is going to be an enormous amount of pressure on them (despite what they are each saying to the media) . . . but I’d rather have either of them batting for my life than Bell or Bopara.

    I think there is a a political background to the relationships of both Key and Ramprakash with the selectors. The latter, especially, is not a popular figure in the game. In fact, he’s supposed to be a right c*nt. Still, we’d all forgive him for an Ashes-winning innings!

  17. I think Ramps is a red herring. He only scored heavily in ‘dead rubber’ tests. He’s an amazing player at county level who underperformed consistently at test level. Why and more importantly how would he change now?

    I seem to remember he was a great fielder in the covers, the closest england had to a jonty rhodes. If he’s a c@#t then pick him as 12th man and make him carry the drinks out, catches win matches.

    Keep Broad if not for his bowling then for his batting, a chip off the old block. It’s not as if the specialists are doing any better. Just when the aussies were beginning to revert to their dominance of old, Broad came along and smacked em all over the place. What character! Keep him in for crying out loud!

  18. Idiots . . . playing a debutant in an Ashes decider. I bet that “Rodney” (Trott[er]) doesn’t aggregate more than “the magic 16”. Hope I’m proved wrong.

  19. Anyone coming in for Bopara is good and Trott is the man in form (and not born in England which is usually a good prognostic factor).
    Bringing back Monty (2 for 127 in his latest match) is the ultimate conservatism. Rashid (a century and a fivefor in his last game) should have been brought in. He also plays for Yorkshire, a much greater honour than merely playing for England.
    I hope optimistically that England will win but am pessimistic. A pessimist is an optimist with experience.
    For frustrated Israeli cricket worshippers, you can follow the test on the BBC’s Five Live Test Match Special on the internet. Brilliant commentary……and for those who can understand his impeccable English, with the one and only Geoffrey Boycott.
    Roy

  20. Hello Roy,

    A little bit of Internet research reveals the rather alarming statistic that no Englishman has scored a hundred on Test debut in an Ashes series for 16 years (unlucky number that) . . . and one has to go back a further 61 years for the next one!

    The full list . . .
    WG Grace 152 The Oval 1880 (not strictly an “Ashes” Test)
    KS Ranjitsinhji 154* Manchester 1896
    RE Foster 287 Sydney 1903
    G Gunn 119 Sydney 1907
    Nawab of Pataudi Snr 102 Sydney 1932
    GP Thorpe 114* Nottingham 1993

    Two of the above (no prizes for guessing which) were “not born in England” . . . though two out of six in 132 years (of England-Australia Tests) hardly qualifies as “a good prognostic factor” for “Rodney” Trott! 😉

  21. Taking a breather from Oshermania . . .

    The big morning has finally arrived.

    Researching the list in the previous comment (above), I came across the following story about KS Duleepsinhji – nephew of Ranjitsinhji – who scored 173 in his first Ashes Test (though not his Test debut) at Lord’s, in 1930. When he was eventually caught in the deep, following a rash stroke, his uncle is alleged to have remarked: “He always was a careless lad.”

    Let’s hope “Rodney” (Trott) is similarly “careless” over the next five days!

    All together now (to the tune of Alouetta):
    “Freddie Flintoff, Freddie Freddie Flintoff . . .”

  22. Daniel Lange

    3-8 in 16 balls; OK I do feel a bit of a twat now. But I feel I must continue to say how crap I think Stuart Broad is and how there is no way he should tour S.Africa, in the hope that by the end of this match I’ll feel like the most enormous twat in the history of twats.

    Maybe I should get some musar from Ex-Hasmo about saying loshon hora about an England cricketer.

  23. Dovid Maslin

    Thank you Broad, Flintoff’s replacement.

  24. Daniel, you modestly omitted to quote yourself:
    “Mike – Agree with your picks other than Broad who must go . . . he ain’t good enough . . . can they drop Broad? Of course they can and should.”

    I say quit the insurance, Daniel . . . you and our Roy – “Broad is not yet a test match bowler” – have everything it takes to become England selectors!

  25. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. All credit to Broad in that he has learnt two things. After bowling crap, short and wide, in the first 4 tests but still luckily picking up his 6 wickets at Headingley, at the Oval he has pitched it up and bowled straight with just reward. Narrow band rather than Broad band.
    Strauss has out-captained Ponting all the way and not just by winning the toss 4/5 times.
    Lastly, Swann has done brilliantly. He and Rashid are the future of England spin bowling, Trott looks great for the batting but Harmison should stay with his Mum in Durham.

  26. But not as “wonderful” as foresight, Roy!

    melchett mike, who had young Stuart in his starting XI, commented:
    “I still think that we can turn it around. This Aussie side, unlike all the others of the past twenty years, has a soft centre . . . can we drop a man who’s just taken 6 wickets and scored 61 (when no one around him did anything)?”

    . . . though, of course, he is not in the least bit smug. 😉

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