Thursday, 2 January 2014

England in the Abyss

Thorpster, after many days sitting around and having his Christmas ruined, questions how low have the England cricket team sunk? Have we just had a bad series, or are the problems terminal? He looks at why it has all gone wrong for England and questions even whether central contracts are good for those on the fringes of the side? Read on for a fascinating read, with naturally a few pops from both barrels at a few people along the way.

Mr A Byss

After sitting on my arse for days on end over Christmas, a period during which I was looking forward to falling asleep on the sofa watching the Ashes, I came across a listing for a well known film on Sky. The Abyss is a classic and is sometimes shown under the title "The Abyss - Special Edition", it stars Ed Harris and the wonderfully named Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. The director is the legendary James Cameron and the famous musical score by Alan Silvestri. The plot denotes an American Submarine plunging deep into the abyss at the bottom of the Atlantic.

I think it’s fair to say that England have plunged deep into the abyss. In fact they are in so deep that the skipper has changed his name from Mr A Cook to Mr A Byss. The film features the attempt to rescue the stricken sub but who will rescue this England side? Various press post mortems have stated that England are "on a road to nowhere" and that we are witnessing the "death of a team", and these statements are hard to argue against.

Like the Apollo Theatre, England’s batting has relentlessly collapsed after the first act. Like the rescue vehicles attempting to salvage the submarine, who will be around to perform a salvage job on this England team? Like many London theatres the Apollo is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Who will be England’s Jesus Christ Superstar?


Lloyd Webber...used to a collapse

This sites review of the latest twin towers performance attacked Pietersens club slogger like wipe in the first innings. Personally I attach no blame to the egotist that is the Dumb Slog Millionaire. Based on past experience of 5 out all out KP feels he is on borrowed time once the top 6 "batsman" are out, so basically its do or die. Bairstow as Dan pointed out to me yesterday is good for the odd hoik over mid on but like many of the current line up his foot movement is equitable to Tony Jacklin's during his brief stint on this years Strictly Come Dancing. 

Also similar to an early Strictly effort by various cricketers is Joe Roots jig up and down the order. At that level Root hangs back in the crease far too much to succeed at the top of the order. This makes him hugely susceptible to the moving ball, leading to relentless play and miss, before almost always nicking off. As our Geoffrey, the most unpopular man in Sandbanks and neighbour to a certain football manager - a friend of HMRC whose dog has an offshore bank account said, playing and missing at test level should not be the norm!

In a pre Ashes article I tipped Carberry "the springing Kangaroo" to be a mainstay of the batting and in some ways I was correct. The left handed Hampshire man, has said his plan was to leave as many balls as possible. This has led to a series of turgid innings where he has occupied the crease for long periods without ever making a big score. I don't think I've ever seen a batsman try to let so many balls go by or seen one out so many times trying to leave balls alone.


Bluey...pushed in front of the media


As many said at the time after last summer’s success, not putting Ian Bell to 3 after the demise of Trott was a huge mistake. In fact at Sydney I would open with Bell and Cook with KP at 3. They are England’s only 3 quality players left and should be the top 3. It’s about time the senior players and staff fronted up. Cooks answers of "I don't know" to so many questions from the media have been as inspiring as Gooch's "we'll play better" quote prior to the Adelaide catastrophe. I was also distinctly unimpressed by 'Bottom Hand Bairstow' being pushed in front of the media after the Apollo collapse on day three at the MCG. Despite not rating his technique I have some sympathy for the Yorkshire man. He is a victim of being on the fringes of the side and basically having played no cricket for a year and then being chucked in to a team self destructing faster than Charles Saatchi’s household. The invisible England management team seems about as effective and united as the team of Nigella and the Grillo sisters at Saatchi towers. The much derided tour menu is almost as complex as the demands of the advertising guru, less the Friday frapuchinos. Mind you I wouldn’t mind getting together with Nigella’s middle order and would find my way past her choice of ingredients, whilst “fighting” off the free spending sisters at the same time. At this time of the year one look at my credit card bill, makes we wince, so I do have some sympathy for the allegations made by the reclusive Mr Saatchi.

The end of the tour cannot come quickly enough and many will struggle to watch the inevitable unfolding at Sydney. Will further wholesale changes be made or do with stick with the MCG eleven? Many in the press are calling for Cooks head but who better. I think the problem goes back to the turgid brand of cricket preferred during the Strauss and Cook eras. The only plan in the field has been bowling dry and the batting has in recent times appeared either stonewall or slog fest and nothing between the two. Myself and Dan were present at Lords for the first day of the test season and witnessed possibly the most turgid days batting in modern times as England scored 160-4 in a whole day against the might of New Zealand. In fact by mid afternoon most had given up on the cricket altogether.

Gooch....we'll play better
 
Bowling dry means no place for tearaway quick bowlers. Finn has an excellent strike rate but is a little expensive and has basically been sent away to come back as Martin Bicknell. During Hussain's time as skipper Bicknell and James Kirtley the Sussex chucker formed the most depressing trundling opening "attack" for England. Since then they have succeeded in turning various quick’s into Tommy Rundlers, Finn and Tremlett to name a couple. I saw Angus Fraser and Walt “I have never heard of the phrase oppo speak” Allott arguing the toss in between the play in the South Africa India test about what comes next. Gus said stick with the submarine crew, whilst Walt wanted to make a few changes arguing the “absolute caning” (as it was once referred to by Aggers) meant a whitewash was a foregone conclusion in any case. The Lancastrian second string Sky presenter felt we may as well have a look at a few fresh faces given that we may have unearthed a rare gem in Ben Stokes.

As I look ahead to hiding behind the sofa trying not to peep at the screen during the Sydney test, one thing is for sure; England are in the Abyss.

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