How England's Ashes-winning cricket team imploded
Defeat in the second Test against India leaves England winless in ten matches – what's happened?
Alastair Cook vowed to struggle on as England cricket captain after the second Test defeat to India at Lord's yesterday, but Matt Prior became the latest player to fall on his sword by announcing that he was withdrawing from international duty for the rest of the summer.
England slumped to a 95 run defeat in dismal fashion on Monday as the team plumbed new depths after Joe Root and Moeen Ali had given them the faintest scent of victory. When Ali was out last ball before lunch England needed 135 to win, but the tail committed cricketing suicide as they tried to attack the Indian bowlers. It did not work and the final five wickets fell for 25 runs.
Cook was slammed by BBC pundits including Geoffrey Boycott and Michael Vaughan, who called the performance "absolutely pathetic", but vowed to carry on.
Prior however, has elected to opt out of what could become a grim summer. "I tore my quad before the first Test and my right hand has been beaten to a pulp, but the main issue is the Achilles," explained the Sussex keeper. "Now we have the time, I want to be proactive about how we deal with it so I imagine that I'll have an operation."
His absence means there will be no more than five survivors from the last England team to win a Test, against Australia in August last year. Since then England have played ten and lost seven.
Here's how the Ashes-winning team has imploded:
Alastair Cook: The skipper clings on but is in danger of losing his place as well as the captaincy. In the ten matches since England's last win he has averaged just 22 and he has not scored a century since before the 2013 Ashes. Cook deserves the "tap on the shoulder", says Michael Atherton in The Times. "The cruellest cut would also be the kindest cut, as it would be in this fine cricketer's best interests." His prospects? Umpire's call.
Joe Root: Played as an opener in England's last Test win against Australia. However, the young Yorkshireman did not impress at the top of the order and his current position in the batting order is five. He at least offers hope for the future. "Amid the rubble Root, in particular, has been batting with increasing authority," says Vic Marks of The Guardian. Not out.
Jonathan Trott: Flew home from Australia with a stress-related illness and his departure marked the point at which England's decline became obvious and irreversible. He was the first of the Ashes-winning team to exit, but not the last. He aborted an attempt to return to cricket earlier in the summer, but is now back playing for Warwickshire. His future as an England batsman remains unclear. Gone.
Kevin Pietersen: Controversially jettisoned by England as a 'bad apple' after the Ashes debacle, and now a lightning rod for criticism of the current England set up. His cheerleaders have been vocal on the sidelines this summer and the Daily Mail reports that after the India defeat Pietersen told BT Sport: "I'd love to play for England again but we might have to wait for a few things to change before that could possibly happen." Andrew Strauss summed up how many in the England squad feel about him when he was overheard calling Pietersen a "c***". Gone.
Ian Bell: One of the survivors and the star of last summer, but his form is almost as bad as Cook's, with a recent average of 27. He is England's senior middle order batsman but has consistently failed to live up to his billing in the last 12 months. "Bell needs to become more accountable otherwise he will be accused of a softness that betrays his ability," says Mark Nicholas of Cricinfo. Umpire's call.
Jonny Bairstow: England's problem at number six is now eclipsed by troubles elsewhere in the team, but even before the current crisis they were struggling to find a player to replace Paul Collingwood. Six should be the position for youngsters to cement their place in the side, but Bairstow, like James Taylor, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara and others, tried and failed to make the spot his own. Bairstow was tipped to become England wicketkeeper but his England career now appears to be over. Gone.
Matt Prior: The wicketkeeper was named England's player of the year in 2012-13, but was dropped for the final two Ashes Tests in Australia. He regained his place in the team this summer but bad form and injuries have prompted him to stand aside for the rest of the summer. It remains to be seen if he will return. Jos Buttler can claim the gloves now. Gone.
Tim Bresnan: The injury-prone all-rounder was fast tracked back into the side this winter after an elbow injury, but it did not help the team's fortunes and he was discarded after the fourth Test in Melbourne. He still harbours hopes of an England recall, but has fallen behind Ben Stokes and Chris Jordan in the pecking order. His only chance is if England's future becomes so bleak they look to the past. Gone.
Stuart Broad: One of the survivors from last summer, but like the others who are still in the team, operating well below his best. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Boycott says he "looks tired and has lost his zip". He also calls for the 28-year-old to be left out of the next Test in favour of Jordan. Umpire's call.
Graeme Swann: His critics have accused him of abandoning a sinking ship in Australia after he announced his retirement midway through the series. Whatever the truth of his decision to quit, it left England with a huge hole to fill. The absence of a quality spinner has placed the fast bowlers under pressure and the team miss his energy and lower-order runs. Fellow spinner Gareth batty calls him "irreplaceable" in the Evening Standard. But England's loss is the BBC's gain as Swann has impressed as a commentator this summer. Gone.
Jimmy Anderson: One of the saddest declines in the team. Once the world's leading seamer, Anderson is now a bad-tempered toiler making more headlines for his verbal and physical altercations with the opposition than his bowling. He looked "looked totally out of sorts" in the second Test, says the BBC's Jonathan Agnew, but he remains England's leading bowler. His problems sum up England. Umpire's call. ·