So a proper ‘Winter of Discontent’ for the England Test Cricket team. Whilst their one day team goes from strength to strength the long form team have became a bit of a joke now, batting poorly (58 all out in Auckland was the lowest of a lot of low batting totals). They couldn’t even manage to do the one thing that actually wins test matches and bowl the opposition out twice throughout their time on tour. The final test in Christchurch said it all, they had New Zealand 162-6, but in nearly another 60 overs couldn’t bowl them out. Top work by the Kiwi’s but awful from the tourists.
Their jaunts to Australia for the Ashes, where they were thrashed 4-0, then onto New Zealand in late March, where they lost the two test series 1-0 showed that there are a lot more questions to answer. Especially in regards to where the teams test future lies, as well as some players and the even the coach.
Here is my review for each player taken on the test match tours.
CAPTAIN – Joe Root – batted well with seven 50’s but no 100’s.Struggled tactically in the field, still can’t work out the short ball bombardment to tailenders. England’s best batman but work to be done on his captaincy and to forge his own identity to the team after the Alastair Cook years.
Moeen Ali – Below average with the bat, awful with the ball. Eventually dropped for final test of the tour, way too late. Confidence clearly hit and will need to restore this in the county game if he wants to play any part in the summer home tests.
James Anderson – Outstanding and England’s top performer across the winter throughout on pitches that were not helpful to his bowling style. At 35 in the twilight of his career but will be back this summer in conditions to suit
Jonny Bairstow – Very good tour, scored some decent runs including two centuries. His keeping has come on leaps and bounds, one of only a few players who can take any real positives from the winter.
Jake Ball – Played in the first test at Brisbane then discarded and not even taken to New Zealand. Unlikely to get opportunities this summer unless there is a spate of injuries.
Gary Ballance – A surprise selection in the first place and lets be honest mainly because he is best mates with the captain. No test appearances in Australia and was not even selected for the New Zealand tour.
Stuart Broad – Struggled in the Ashes, where pitches were not to his liking. Came back very well on the New Zealand leg of the tour, achieving his 400th test wicket and was leading wicket taker for the tourists. He will continue to spearhead the attack with venom alongside Jimmy Anderson this coming summer.
Alastair Cook – Awful winter, apart from his 244 not out in Melbourne. Without doubt his England career is on a knife edge. A strong start to the county season is required or the answer to where did England’s highest ever test run scorer play his final international match, will be The Hagley Oval, Christchurch.
Mason Crane – Taken as the back up spinner on the Ashes tour, mainly beause he was a leggie. Only given the opportunity in the final test in Sydney, bowled adequately but didn’t play enough cricket for a full judgement to be made. Injured for the New Zealand tour.
Tom Curran – Came in for the injured Craig Overton for the fourth and fifth tests in Australia. Competed well but didn’t make much impact. Not taken on the New Zealand leg of the tour. One potentially for future.
Ben Foakes – Back up wicket keeper, who was just unfortunate to be understudy to one of the winter tour successes in Jonny Bairstow.
Jack Leach – Replacement back up spinner for New Zealand leg of tour. Eventually given a chance in place of Moeen Ali. Bowled adequately and picked up two test wickets, but lack of experience went against him when expected to help bowl New Zealand out to win the match for England. Not his fault and potentially one for the future.
Liam Livingstone – Picked for New Zealand leg of the tour but never played a test match. Will be monitored during the summer and if any of the incumbents are struggling, he needs to make sure he is getting the runs which will put him in pole position.
Dawid Malan – Came of age to some extent over this winter. Showed battle and bottle and made his maiden test century as well as four 50’s over the seven tests. His place not totally cemented but realisation of promise key.
Craig Overton – Came in for the second and third test during the Ashes and would have likely played in fourth and fifth if not for injury. Came back for the first test in New Zealand, but then sacrificed as England chased a victory in the second match to tie the series. Let nobody down with his appearances and will be in selectors thoughts for this upcoming summer.
Ben Stokes – Picked for The Ashes, but only played on the New Zealand leg of the tour due to reasons anyone who follows cricket (or even if they don’t) knows. An adequate performance by a man who gives England balance and makes things happen. Hampered by a back injury, so could not bowl at full pelt, but as always contributed well for the team with the bat and in the field.
Mark Stoneman – Came in during last summer and played well. This continued in the winter with a few half centuries however he never got to three figures. His final innings of 60 may save him from the axe, but early season big runs in the County Championship are a must
James Vince – A shock selection for the winter, which looked to be justified with a first innings 83 in Brisbane, however since then he has played aesthetically pleasing innings without taking them on. A score of 76 in his final innings may save him for now but he should be looking over his shoulder this summer.
Chris Woakes – Has come on leaps and bounds since his debut in 2013 showing he can be an excellent foil to Broad and Anderson. However he struggled on the Australian pitches taking only 10 wickes in four test matches. He played in the first test against New Zealand but was then sacrificed as England chased a victory in the second match to tie the series. As we stand suited to English conditions but struggles elsewhere.
Mark Wood – After his star turn in the 2015 Ashes series victory, Wood has been blighted by injuries. Picked for New Zealand tour after proving his fitness at an England Lions training camp during the Ashes. Played the 2nd test across the Tasman, but didn’t pull up too many trees. Needs to show he can bowl the overs in the early part of the summer if to get a supporting role to Broad and Anderson.
England, for me most definitely have the basis to be a decent test team, but since Trevor Bayliss has taken over, whilst the one day team has improved markedly the test team in my opinion has gone backwards. Since they won the 2015 Ashes under him, their performances have not really been up to a consistent standard and there has been a steady decline. Yes they have won series (mainly at home) but barring an amazing aberration of beating South Africa away in the winter of 2015-16 their form abroad has been and still is a joke. They have not won a test match on foreign soil since winning the first test of their series in Bangledesh in October 2016. Since then then they have played 13 tests with a record of lost 10 drawn 3.
My personal thought is that Trevor Bayliss, who has already announced his plans to leave the job after the summer of 2019, should step aside on the test front and allow Paul farbrace to take charge this coming summer and see how he fares, especially as he can forge a relationship with relatively new captain Joe Root and in home conditions, which is obviously favourable. Away tours to Sri Lanka a country which Farbrace knows well as a previous head coach and then the West Indies in early 2019 will be a good grounding for when the Australians turn up in the English summer next year for the Ashes.
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