Cricket is an amazing game. After one Test it seemed certain that these Ashes would be the Summer of Steve. With just a few hours of the second Test remaining, Jofra Archer was set to be anointed 2019’s Supreme Being.
Have the tables really turned this far? Was victory for the Australians in the first Test as significant as some make it out to be?
Surely the epoch of English dominance in the Ashes contest and to a lesser extent the world of international cricket could not have withered away so hastily.
It was after all, as Alastair Cook put it, “just one game,” wasn’t it?
We are however witnessing signs of insecurity and weakness that have been all too familiar to Australians for a number of summers now.
The virulent onset of doubt within a unit and consequent cries of the selectors’ axe from the public.
It appears this pre eminent side is experiencing its first genuine Test.
Yes they claim they were able to reverse imminent disaster after pivotal losses in Perth 2010 and Ahmedabad 2012 respectively but these were just standard losses in the midst of important series’.
This is a circumstance far more abject for its relevance to the positions of once formidable players in an unwavering line-up.
After Saturday’s 381-run drubbing, just three months after England emphatically retained the Ashes with a 3-0 series victory, the English press and fans alike have called for none other then four replacements to be made for the ensuing Test match.
It is hard to fathom that after such a successful year of cricket, one loss can be perceived as cataclysmic as the battle of the Somme and worthy of immediate reinforcements. Is the shoe now on the other foot?
It is indisputable that England were considerably outplayed in the opening Ashes encounter of the 2013/14 Australian summer.
After the taking the ascendency in the early exchanges on day one, with the Australians hanging precariously at 6/132, the English failed to capitalise on their propitious position and were from then on dominated by the aggression shown by their opponents.
Over the course of the next four days, a number of their players were rendered powerless to overcome the Australian onslaught. Did they underestimate the quality of their adversaries? Perhaps to an extent.
Were they underdone in terms of acclimatising and familiarising themselves with the conditions? Arguably so.
Were they caught unawares by a notable new sense of life that appears to be inherent in this Australian side? Most probably.
Are their English citizens with greater credentials than some of the players that took the field at the Gabba? No.
The Australian cricket team has endured a wretched four or five year period as members of the golden generation of cricketers that the country has been blessed with have slowly been phased out of international duty.
Supporters and members of the governing body of the sport have foolishly expected the same level of quality to be immediately unveiled in their replacements.
As a corollary, a preponderance of average first class players have been thrust into the international arena in the hope that they might display elements of brilliance that had previously been latent abilities.
Yes this was a ridiculous ploy, an unforgivable one at that, but it wasn’t as though world-class players were being overlooked.
The current beckoning of English fans and journalists to have players none other than Graeme Swann, Jonathon Trott, Matt Prior and Chris Tremlett replaced is bemusing and highly deplorable.
Let’s start with Swann.
As I mentioned in my article predicting an Australian series victory, the England off spinner will not enjoy fruitful returns down under for he relies on assistance from the surface and doesn’t have as much happening in the air for him as his Australian equivalent.
That said, he just achieved a remarkable feat of capturing his 250th Test match wicket in just his 58th Test match, the same amount of Tests that the legendary Curtly Ambrose required to register 250 scalps.
These statistics are extraordinary and England haven’t possessed a slow bowler even near his class for three decades. Even entertaining the thought of axing him for either Panesar or a fourth seamer is as ludicrous as a Colin Miller hairdo circa 2001.
Panesar is even more of an into the wicket bowler, with very little subtleties when it comes to flight and drift and doesn’t have the temperament of his superior.
Further, a four pronged seam attack would appear decidedly bland as soon as the Australians formed a partnership of substance.
Although Jonathan Trott has now left the tour, his position was under serious question in the aftermath of the first Test, prior to his departure.
Who exactly did they have in mind? Was there someone waiting in the wings who boasted 9 Test centuries at 47 in 49 Test matches, including two match winning performances against the old enemy?
I doubt whether the inclusion of relatively unknown Gary Ballance would make the English line-up even stronger.
How could someone with Trott’s record be pushed aside after one disappointing match?
Guys like Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja got at least a few chances to showcase their wares, even Rob Quiney was handed a second chance.
These players are streets behind Trott in terms of quality, and the Aussie selectors were condemned for their fickle disposition.
Well when you factor in the quality of the guys on the receiving end of this ousting bat, this English case is far worse.
Matt Prior’s lean run with the bat has also prompted the call for his head.
Yet his position had never come under question in the English summer when the Poms had been winning.
They were more than happy to allow a man who boasted 79 Tests with an average of 42 a bit of leeway to rediscover his form.
Yet now, after the side’s first loss in over a year his position teeters vulnerably like an Antelope in the Kruger national park.
Is Johnny Bairstow going to bolster the English line-up while providing the same level of efficacy behind the stumps as Prior?
203 runs at 29 in the last Ashes series doesn’t exactly see his name cavort around in bold font on the squad list.
Again, it is an unnecessary protest that exudes desperation during a time that doesn’t require a manifestation of the like.
Chris Tremlett is the final subject who comes under investigation here.
While his record is far from the ballpark of the aforementioned, his performances in Australia read handsomely.
21 wickets in four Test matches is more than respectable and while his display at the Gabba wasn’t as menacing as any of his spells on the previous tour of Australia, he is the style of bowler that can prove difficult to play on the majority of Australian surfaces.
Should he get his rhythm into gear, he could be England’s answer to Mitchell Johnson, extracting steep bounce at pace from his towering frame.
Furthermore, he appears to have Steve Smith’s measure at this early stage of the summer, and should the English seek to thwart the Aussie batting line-up’s production of runs for the remainder of the series, curtailing Smith’s output would feature high on their objective list.
It is another impetuous reaction to demand Tremlett be sacked at the expense of another seamer, particularly considering one, Steven Finn, is of identical style to Stuart Broad only far less consistent, and the other, Boyd Rankin, is untried at this level.
After one measly loss, the English cricket team are exhibiting signs of pronounced frustration and juvenile desperation.
Will they be able to pick the ball back up and demonstrate the quality they have displayed across the globe since 2010 or are the scars that were effected by Johnson and co at the Gabba indelible?
One thing is for certain, should they be successful in resurrecting this tour for themselves they will have to restore composure and entrust their faith in the seasoned professionals they have at their disposal.
Should they revert to the Australian way of the past number of seasons and modify their line-up with the regularity of the rainfall on their homeland, their plight will be sealed.