A howler from Dinesh Karthik helped Jos Buttler make his fourth century of the tournament.
After the end of silly season and Christmas festivities, for English cricket, it marks the start of whipping out the firing board.
England are quite average, even worse than that, at Test cricket. Their ongoing drubbing by their arch rivals is nearly sad for Australians, who want to witness a genuine contest.
Given there will be countless reviews into county cricket, calls for removing Chris Silverwood as coach and questions over Joe Root’s captaincy, it is perhaps best time to look at where England can develop in the best format of the game.
Whether this requires new leadership, on the field and off, many fans believe that excess baggage is being carried with an awful batting line-up and an over-reliance on Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, whose swan songs are not far off.
So here, with a limited following of county cricket, I will try and deduce who can turn around England’s fortunes into making them more than competitive in the red-ball game.
1. Jake Libby
He plays for the Worcestershire county. His first-class record reads as follows: average 35.09, hundreds ten, fifties 18, and 1075 runs in 2021.
He is perhaps an England opener in the making who’s only come to notice after a very fruitful 2021. At 28, he is more mature and experienced with Nottinghamshire and now the Pears.
2. Dom Sibley
He plays for the Warwickshire county. He is an established member of Silverwood’s botched planning after being given a debut in New Zealand.
He is strong through the leg side and a real rock in wearing down the opposition with his 30 off 120 balls. Sibley is perhaps best suited to bat in Australia.
There is no certainty for either opening position, especially with Sibley’s struggles against the new ball and ability to nick off consistently or be an LBW candidate. Especially against NZ, SA and India, there is no easy recall for an opener.
3. David Bedingham
He plays for the Durham county. His first-class record reads as follows: average 47.62, hundreds ten, and fifties 12.
It isn’t an England batting line-up without a South African. George-born Bedingham holds British ancestry but it is publicly unknown when and if Bedingham is seeking to represent the Three Lions.
Given South Africa’s state of affairs and growing uproar on selections, if Bedingham keeps performing and is eligible, England should definitely try him.
A solid, neo-classical technique has helped him score 1029 runs in 2021 with a 60-plus average. At 27, he is experienced enough and his previous trade in South Africa could help him face testing bowling attacks, including his compatriots Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada.
This is a long shot, but Bedingham excites me. He looks very transferrable to Test cricket with his temperament and technique.
4. Joe Root (captain)
He must be drained after this tour, regardless of the result. His batting has accumulated fantastically after a mammoth year out in the middle.
He stays captain because there is no suitable alternative. His captaincy has its critics and rightfully so. But his record is more dented by the lack of quality around him.
However, seven losses out of eight Tests so far in Australia, a failure to beat the Aussies and Kiwis at home, regular defeats to India and losing Tests to a mediocre Windies side both home and away during his captaincy will hurt, and compare him with the English failure of the noughties.
5. Ben Stokes (vice-captain)
He looks very rare and undercooked right now, struggling against Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.
I understand his slow scoring rate (at Headingley he had two off 50 and seven off 77 before his magic knock) but in a team of such poor batsmen with no application, I wonder if blocking into his shell has helped England.
His bowling is laborious and selfless, to some questionable fielding tactics. Bowling short to Marnus Labuschagne in Adelaide did not do much good in hindsight.
We cannot expect much of Stokes down under given his lack of preparation. We should, however, expect him to stay around as England’s vice-captain and a member of the leadership group.
Maybe the ECB will want to ease him into the role? For now, he has too big of a load anyway.
6. Ollie Pope
He boasts a fantastic country cricket record, but is a different beast in Test cricket. He looks like he’s had three Red Bulls before coming out. He is too fidgety and frenetic, especially against spin.
It’s odd since when he is settled, Pope genuinely does look a million dollars. He has Ian Bell’s blissful touch of a cover drive and has had runs in South Africa and at home to the West Indies. However, he’s too inconsistent and is becoming Nathan Lyon’s bunny.
He is England’s future poster boy, playing for the most fashionable county in Surrey and living in Clapham, the home of London’s Aussie expats. A camp or a few games in turning conditions is needed to improve that part of the game.
7. Ben Foakes (wicketkeeper)
Jos Buttler’s atrocious form has rightfully led to calls to give the best looking cricketer the gloves for England.
His batting has seldom been given a chance to kick on, but he’s the best keeper by a country mile. He can’t be as poor as Buttler’s been.
8. Ollie Robinson
He’s tired down as the tour has gone on, but he has given his all. An awesome spell at Labuschagne when he dismissed him in Adelaide showed the potential he has down under. The potential will not be exploited too greatly with his lack of pace.
In England however, he can generate unplayable seam with his awkward bounce and variation that causes a troubling length to read for batsmen. He is a handy batsman too. He is one of England’s only performers on the tour.
9. Jofra Archer
Will we ever see Archer in an England shirt again? His plague of unfortunate injuries will mean it is unlikely for us to see him playing every game.
There are also memories of Root mishandling him to bowl long, enduring spells on flat tracks in India and New Zealand.
He started off brightly in the 2019 Ashes, but was expensive in the one Test he played in South Africa.
Management and injury prevent him from unlocking his full potential, but he will be a breath of fresh air if he is seen in any England game in 2022.
10. Mark Wood
Like Root and Robinson, he is one of England’s few performers in Australia.
Steve Smith has never looked comfortable against him and Wood has been the odd spark and bite in an otherwise impenetrable English attack.
Like Archer, his management and injury will be monitored.
11. Matt Parkinson
He plays for the Lancashire county. He has a first-class bowling average of 23.35.
Do I think he’s anything special? Not really.
But Parkinson is so much better than every other spinner, which isn’t hard. Give him a go.