In Depth

Ashes whitewash? The omens aren’t looking good for England

Australia take series lead after cruising to a 251-run win in first Test

Ashes 1st Test, Edgbaston
  • Australia first innings: 284 all out  
  • England first innings: 374 all out 
  • Australia second innings: 487-7 declared 
  • England second innings: 146 all out 
  • Australia won by 251 runs

The ecstasy of the Cricket World Cup feels a lifetime ago after the agony of England’s humiliating defeat to Australia in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston.

Dismissed for an embarrassing 146 in the second innings, the home side were beaten by 251 runs, their first defeat in Birmingham for more than a decade. 

With the exception of Rory Burns’s maiden Test century, and Stuart Broad’s six wickets in the first innings, there were none of the traditional “positives” to take from the comprehensive defeat.

Writing in The Times, former England opener Steve James says the selectors must ask themselves some searching questions before the second Test starts at Lord’s a week on Wednesday. 

Namely, is Joe Denly a Test batsman, should Ben Foakes come in for Jonny Bairstow behind the stumps and should Jason Roy stick to playing only one-day internationals?

Shot to bits

Former England captain turned BBC commentator Michael Vaughan believes the players under the most scrutiny are Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler. 

Blaming the World Cup for the trio looking “shot”, Vaughan said: “High level sport sometimes drains the life out of you. When you’ve achieved that level and been on that podium lifting the World Cup, I just worry.”

In fact Moeen was dropped early on in the World Cup because of his poor form and the all-rounder has looked alarmingly out of touch with both bat and ball for several months. 

At Edgbaston Moeen contributed four runs with the bat in two innings, and took three wickets for 172 runs. 

While Moeen struggled to get any turn with the ball, the Aussie off-spinner, Nathan Lyon, ripped through the England order, taking 6-49 yesterday.

Out of touch

As BBC Sport points out, Moeen has made four ducks in nine Test innings in 2019, scoring 90 runs, 60 of which came in one innings in the West Indies. 

Former Aussie pace bowler Mitchell Johnson, who experienced the highs and lows of Ashes cricket in his Test career, said of the under-fire England all-rounder: “His record against Australia isn’t that great. I can feel for him a bit but that’s part of playing professional sport.”

England batsman Jonny Bairstow reacts after being dismissed in the second innings

Stu Forster/Getty Images

No surprise

For The Guardian’s Barney Ronay, the problems facing England are far deeper than the loss of form of a few key players. He says that the home side have only themselves to blame for their feeble capitulation after neglecting the red ball game for years in favour of concentrating on the white ball version. 

The strategy brought England their first World Cup triumph but has left them hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with the rigorous demands of Test cricket. 

“There were few surprises in this performance,” writes Ronay. “Members of the team who were looking short of confidence or class at this level continued to do so. And this is pretty much it for England and red-ball cricket. The options are circumscribed.”

Whitewash?

Vaughan shares that pessimism and believes England fans should brace themselves for more misery in the coming weeks. 

“If the ball doesn’t move laterally, this series has got mess written all over it for this England side,” said Vaughan. “I think this series could be one where Australia completely wipe the floor with England.” 

The second Ashes Test between England and Australia takes place at Lord’s from 14-18 August.

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