England failed in another Ashes tour and go home without anything to show. The year was a poor one for them after trailing to India before the series was postponed and losing to New Zealand at home. From structuring to scheduling, there are a handful of causes for the performance, as discussed.
Priorities across formats
Following a disastrous 2015 World Cup, England began a mission that saw them rise as one of the greatest white-ball sides. The white-ball game was given maximum preference, and during this time the red-ball performance went off radar. Players were given the opportunity to skip the County Championship, and that led to a group of players in the County Championship that couldn’t match the quality of international stars. With the Test team hitting new lows, England can only hope for another mission in red-ball Cricket that matches the mission they were on with the white-ball side.
Domestic Structure and Pitches used
With the hundred and other white-ball tournaments given preference as they benefit the board commercially, the County Championship has to battle with a new schedule. The tournament is played in various parts, and the structure is not as encouraging as it used to be. The pitches used as well don’t prepare players for overseas tournaments.
With most pitches green, swing bowling is evident, but players aren’t equipped to play spin or bounce as the surfaces don’t support such means of bowling. Due to the lack of variety in surfaces, England has suffered when facing extreme conditions overseas. With the lack of big stars in the County tournament, players aren’t ready to face international quality at home as well, despite playing on surfaces that suit their style.
Lack of Runs from Openers
England used three openers through the Ashes, and neither managed to make an impact. While the openers were below par, it would be unfair to put the blame only on them. Barring Malan, and Root, none of the batters managed to step up in the first two Tests. As the series went on the likes of Bairstow and Stokes helped, but neither could sustain long enough. Consistency went on to become an issue, and batting collapses became a norm through the Ashes despite England getting into some reasonable positions.
Lack of Spinners
The spin department was rather silent. Although the Australian pitches are known for their bounce, spin can make a significant impact in the nation when a bowler adapts to the drift available. Leach played in only three of the five Tests, picking up six wickets. He was attacked in the first Test, and his struggles revealed the inability of the domestic structure to produce spinners yet again. Through the series, Joe Root himself looked more threatening and came up as a handy bowler.
The Ashes were a part of a packed schedule, which becomes tougher to manage in the age of Covid and bio-bubbles. With very little turnover time between the T20 World Cup and Ashes, England got very little time to get used to the conditions in Australia. With no warm-up games, the side entered the Gabba straightaway and got a first ball eye opener from Mitchell Starc, which set up the Ashes. The schedule continues to be relentless as England will be going straight to the Caribbean for a three Test series in a few weeks time.