England will have to make some tough decisions about the futures of some of their most decorated senior players after they were ruthlessly exposed by Australia in a 15-day Ashes capitulation.
Joe Root’s team head to Melbourne 3-0 down in the five-match series after being subjected to an innings and 41-run hiding in the third test at the WACA, where opener Alastair Cook and paceman Stuart Broad failed to deliver yet again.
English hopes that Cook could channel the Herculean effort that saw him score 766 runs in their 2010/11 triumph Down Under have proved forlorn. The veteran left-hander has instead reprised his form from the away series of 2013/14 when he stumbled through a 5-0 whitewash under the yoke of captaincy.
Despite being relieved of the leadership burden this time around, Cook has ‘supported’ his successor Root with only 83 runs at an average of 13.83 this series, comfortably the lowest of England’s specialist batsmen.
Broad, meanwhile, has managed only five wickets at an average of 61.80 and suffered the worst Test figures of his career at the WACA, where he went wicketless for 142 runs.
His pace partner James Anderson has battled manfully through a difficult campaign, but at the age of 35 the long-serving Lancastrian may not be able or willing to lead England’s pace attack far into the future.
A TOUR TOO FAR
Australia has often proved to be a tour too far for veteran England players, as was shown by the 2013/14 debacle which ended the careers of Graeme Swann, Matt Prior and Kevin Pietersen.
That whitewash also led to the departure of director Andy Flower, but current coach Trevor Bayliss says he is still the right man to lead the team.
“You may not (think that), but I think our performances have gone pretty well over the last couple of years,” he told reporters at the WACA.
“That’s for people above my pay grade to make that decision.”
Bayliss has, however, offered no bright ideas on how to rejuvenate England or find faster bowlers that can compete on Australian pitches where they have now lost eight straight matches.
“I haven’t got the answers,” said the Australian.
“Over the last couple of years we’ve certainly been on the lookout for a few positions in the team and no one until this tour has stood out.”
In Somerset seamer Craig Overton, who bowled with vigour in Adelaide and Perth until suffering a rib injury, England have at least unearthed an encouraging prospect.
But the raw 23-year-old can scarcely be expected to cover the gaping hole which the absence of Anderson and Broad’s 900-odd wickets of test experience would leave.
Middle order batsman Dawid Malan staked his place in the team with his maiden test century at the WACA, backing up his 140 with a half-century in the second innings.
Cook, by comparison, contributed only 21 runs in his two innings at the WACA.
A fine servant of English cricket with over 11,000 Test runs, Cook will be 33 when he lines up for the Melbourne Test on Boxing Day.
After 150 Tests, Bayliss said, he would know the right time to step down.