Ashes Tour Diary
Our man in Australia, Joe Drabble, reflects on a disastrous Ashes campaign for England and analyses where it all went wrong.
By Joe Drabble
Last Updated: 06/01/14 9:56am
As previously mentioned in my tour diary, and to any friends who will still listen, I was lucky enough to be out here three years ago for England's 3-1 triumph and I thought to myself then; it will never get as good as this.
As for this tour, surely it has been the darkest in England's cricket history?
A whitewash reverse against Australia, Graeme Swann's career over, Jonathan Trott home early due to stress and question marks over the captain and coach, it's hard to know where to start the inquest.
In 2010/11, England were at the peak of their powers. Catches stuck, runs were grafted for and mentally, the team were unbreakable.
Fast forward to this tour and, despite carrying nine players over from their previous triumph Down Under, England have been caught at their lowest ebb.
"We should have seen this coming," Andy Flower's words after the 5-0 massacre was sealed inside three days at the SCG. For me, it was impossible to.
Australia were on a 14-Test winless streak heading into the first Test in Brisbane, while England were hunting a fourth Ashes win on the bounce. Even the bookmakers had 5-0 Australia as the longest priced bet.
So where did it all go wrong? Here are just a few reasons...
England's pre-series preparations had been hampered by the weather and a pumped-up Australia caught them cold in Brisbane. The Gabba has been a fortress for many years and, despite slumping to 136-6 in their first-innings, Australia battled back into the Test before Mitchell Johnson gave everyone a taster of what was to come. Australia's sledging was criticised after the win with Michael Clarke fined and David Warner singled out, but a clear message was delivered in that first week; the Baggy Greens meant business.
If an England cricketer can't get himself going for an Ashes series then there is trouble? To me, it was clear which side wanted to win this more. Ten of the Australia XI had never tasted Ashes success, while seven of England's were eyeing a fourth win in this most prestigious series. Coach Darren Lehmann, a winner of the little urn in 1998/99, and captain Clarke, who only wins Ashes series 5-0 it seems, proved the perfect partnership. Pace ace Johnson settled his own score with the Barmy Army with a man of the series performance, David Warner let his bat, rather than his fists, do the talking and Brad Haddin was determined to end his career with an Ashes win on the CV.
England's fragility against pace bowling was badly exposed throughout the series. If Johnson wasn't dismantling England with the new ball, he was doing it with the old. The left-arm quick finished with a staggering 37 wickets - England bowled out 10 times for the first time in an Ashes series, averaging just 203 runs per innings. In reply England simply didn't have the intimidation factor. Stuart Broad, 21 wickets at 27.52, laid down an early marker with a short-ball barrage on Clarke, however the selections of Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin backfired and the omission of Steven Finn was baffling.
After leading England to victory in India, Cook was immediately lauded as the perfect man to take over from Andrew Strauss. Now, the jury is firmly out on his captaincy credentials. Spectacularly shown up by opposite number Clarke, who for me is out on his own as the best Test captain in world cricket, we can only hope that Cook was taking notes. Pro-active, aggressive field settings helped conjure up a number of wickets from nowhere, while Cook seemed devoid of ideas when the going got tough. His batting form was also a huge factor in the overall scoreline. After scoring 766 runs in 2010/11, Cook mustered only 246 this time around.
As well as a gut-wrenching time for England fans, this is also an exciting one. We will all have different starting XIs for the first Test of the summer against Sri Lanka and even a few club cricketers will be thinking that a good start to the season will put them in the hat!
The cricket aside this has been a trip to cherish. Cage diving with sharks (and Bumble), getting on the scoresheet along with Michael Vaughan, playing golf at some of the finest courses and relaxing on the world's best beaches, it's certainly not been all bad.
Hope you've stayed positive and enjoyed the coverage.
Until the summer...