Zak Crawley is expected to be one of four changes to England’s team for the Boxing Day Test as paceman Mark Wood revealed the ‘brutal honesty’ he believes has his team ready to respond.
The Evening Standard reported that Crawley will come in for either Rory Burns or Haseeb Hameed at opener with Ollie Pope also under threat from Jonny Bairstow. Wood and spinner Jack Leach, both notable and controversial omissions from the team beaten in Adelaide are also touted to return, with none of the bowlers safe.
Crawley was replaced by Hameed after the opening Test against India at Trent Bridge in August.
He is averaging 28.34 with one century across 26 Test innings.
Wood, who is the quickest of the England bowlers, revealed the team had engaged in a “brutally honest discussion” in the dressingroom after the Adelaide defeat.
“We probably needed it,” he told reporters. “Chris Silverwood spoke and put some footage up. [Ben Stokes] Stokesy and [Joe Root] Rooty spoke honestly to the group about things we felt weren’t going well and what we’d do better. It was a conversation that isn’t usual for us.
“It was a kick up the bum to say, look, we are 2–0 down now, and the same mistakes keep on happening. It was a good discussion.”
There have been some reports of a rift developing in the England camp down the batsman-bowler lines, but Wood said they were not true.
“As a bowling group we can always get better,” said Wood. “I just feel like with the batting, as we discussed in the meeting, these heavy collapses we keep having is what is costing us Test matches.
“But it doesn’t feel that it’s a batters v bowlers thing, with all the batters in one corner giving snidey talk about the bowlers, and all the bowlers in the other corner snidey-talking about the batters. It’s not like that. We’re just desperate to play better than we are. We’re all in it together.”
“After going 2-0 down in the Ashes series Joe Root used his post-match press conference to criticise the lengths bowled by his seam attack,” wrote Ali Martin.
“However the Guardian understands it was the batting unit that drew much of the ire during a post-match debrief in which the usually mild-mannered head coach, Chris Silverwood, was angered.
“In scenes that sound mildly reminiscent of Australia’s response to their shock defeat at Headingley during the 2019 Ashes series – when Justin Langer replayed in full the entire fourth day meltdown suffered at the hands of Ben Stokes – Silverwood put 14 of the 20 English wickets to fall on the TV screen in the dressing room and highlighted failures to leave balls in the channel that didn’t need playing at.
“Stokes, the vice-captain, is said to have been a strong voice during these intense discussions, while Jos Buttler, who followed a first-innings edge to slip for a duck with a 207-ball rearguard on the final day, also spoke up to correct one individual who suggested the focus should be on the first 20 balls each batter faces in Australia.
“Buttler instead stressed the need for this discipline to be the focus throughout, citing the example of Marnus Labuschagne, who on Wednesday displaced Root at the top of the ICC Test batting rankings, after a first innings 103 from 305 balls that saw 83 deliveries left alone. Overall Australia’s batters left around a third of the deliveries they faced against the new ball – ie the first 30 overs – while for England this figure dropped to a quarter, despite both attacks operating similar lines and lengths.
“The frank nature of this all-in debrief is understood to have surprised a number of players present. But the response is said to have been positive, with England’s faltering top seven accepting a need to address a collective urge to feel bat on ball after eight of their 14 wickets fell to catches between wicketkeeper and gully off the seamers.”
Chappell wades in on Root
Former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell continues to provide good value in the brutal honesty stakes.
Chappell who told ESPNcricinfo that Root was demonstrating the opposite traits of a good leader during the Ashes after the England skipper’s post-match comments.
“What is the opposite definition of excellent leadership? There’s a good chance it can be summed up by Joe Root’s captaincy,” Chappell said.
“Root is an excellent batter but a poor captain. It would not be unfair to describe him as an ordinary and unlucky captain.
“Rarely do you find a long-term captain who is lacking in imagination but is also lucky. A fortunate captain is usually lucky because the players believe he is some kind of miracle-worker and things tend to work out because of the team’s belief.
“It showed again at Adelaide Oval that misfortune follows Root’s team around. The England bowlers beat the bat regularly but had little to show for their honest toil.
“However, the England selectors’ tolerance of mediocrity was also on view when Jos Buttler, who is far from their best keeper, was again chosen and made yet more inexcusable blunders.
“No amount of blustering bluff at press conferences can cover up for the selection mistakes that have been made by England.
“Root had to find a way to be ahead in the Adelaide Test if England were to surge back into the series.
“Unfortunately, they again let the opportunity slip with some questionable bowling and even more negative tactics.”
Haddin calls for Stokes to lead
Former Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was likewise scathing of Root’s captaincy in a radio segment where he said Stokes should be handed the reins.
“What they did really well tactically was the fourth morning. Who was off [the field]? Joe Root,” Haddin said on Triple M.
“Ben Stokes took over and it just looked a lot calmer. He had a plan, the bowlers bowled fuller, he had catching midwickets and short covers. They bowled at the stumps and they challenged Australia. They took four wickets for, I think, under 20 runs and they put Australia under pressure.
“Root came back on and it all went downhill again. So, to me something’s not quite right. I think Ben Stokes tactically is the best captain. If you look at the first two Test matches, they haven’t got it right.”
Haddin was also unimpressed by Root’s blame game.
“He is involved in the selection committee with the coach and the coach has come out and said ‘we’ve picked the right teams’. Then the bowling coach said ‘you haven’t picked the right teams’ and Joe Root says ‘you’re not bowling the right lengths.”