The questions facing England's Test side after Ashes humiliation

Should Joe Root step down as captain, can Chris Silverwood carry on… and has Jos Buttler reached his Test end? The big questions facing England after their Ashes humiliation was sealed at the MCG

  • England slumped to 68 all out in bleak fashion to lose the Ashes on Tuesday 
  • Joe Root’s side now must try and avoid an Australia whitewash with two to go 
  • England’s batting has been abysmal – a complete reshuffle of the pack is needed
  • Chris Silverwood’s two-and-a-half year tenure has not been overly impressive 
  • Ahead of touring the West Indies, England must change their red-ball approach

Aside from the inevitable pre-Ashes optimism, history has told us that to get hopes high for Ashes series’ in Australia would be an unwise train of thought – but surely nobody expected this? 

On Tuesday, the humiliation was complete. Bowled out for 68, Australia won the Boxing Day Test at the MCG by an innings and 14 runs and take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series. The urn is staying firmly Down Under. 

Now, the post-mortem begins. England fans, as they should, want solutions to their most prized cricketing side. Ahead of the final two Tests – as Joe Root and his side try and avoid a 5-0 whitewash – here are the critical questions which need to be answered in 2022. 

Australia completed a humiliating innings victory against England to retain the Ashes 

Joe Root’s side have been humbled Down Under and are in need of a complete revamp 

SHOULD JOE ROOT STEP DOWN AS CAPTAIN? 

Naturally, the buck stops with the leadership team after such a humiliating few weeks. 

What is slightly more unusual is that England captain Joe Root – whose captaincy credentials are rightly being questioned – is unequivocally England’s best player. And has been for quite some time.  

He is their only consistently world-class batsman and, amid the losses, has had the best year of his career with his 1,708 runs in 2021 the second-best annual tally in the history of Test cricket. 

Root’s place in the team is in no doubt. What is slightly more hazy is his future as skipper. 

Joe Root’s place in the team is in no doubt – but his future as captain most certainly is

While he is technically England’s most successful Test captain with 27 wins to his name since he took over from Alistair Cook in February 2017, he has been criticised for some of his decisions while out in the field.  

Question marks have arisen regarding a lack of aggression in his field placements, staleness in his inventiveness to find wickets with his bowling order and a lack of clarity in his team selections. 

However, an even more obvious question is: if not Root, who? 

Rory Burns, who came to the fore as a very impressive captain at Surrey, has just been dropped as a result of his torrid year with the bat. 

Ben Stokes is not a contender for the captaincy after he took a break from the game this year

Ben Stokes has only just returned to the squad after some time out to prioritise his mental wellbeing. And then you are into the bowlers in terms of guaranteed starters. 

As such, Root should stay on as captain. Not necessarily because his leadership shows signs of a resurgence, but because there is simply no-one else appropriate at this point in time. 

ARE CHRIS SILVERWOOD’S DAYS IN CHARGE NUMBERED? 

Since beating a poor Sri Lanka side in January, England have won two of their last 13 Tests. 

That, simply put, is nowhere near good enough. 

Head coach Chris Silverwood (right) has overseen a torrid 2021 for the England Test team 

In that time, head coach Chris Silverwood has been granted more powers, with the removal of national selector Ed Smith looking like a more foolish decision by the day from managing director Ashley Giles.

That has coincided with a terrible run of form. A series loss to New Zealand, 2-1 down in the incomplete series against India and now this Ashes humiliation. 

He has been accused, contrary to his predecessor Trevor Bayliss, of being too soft with his players. 

https://sportstoft.com/soccer/chelsea-left-back-ben-chilwell-is-ruled-out-for-rest-of-the-season/

In addition, the muddled selection process – embodied in the three Tests Down Under – shows that that may need a revamp straight away. 

His comments that there were ‘positives to take’ after the Ashes was lost has drawn criticism 

Yet is Silverwood actually the man to steady the ship? His comments post-match on Tuesday, that there were ‘positives to take from the loss’, received ridicule on social media. 

Again, the question may not be why he deserves to remain but rather – is there anyone obvious waiting in the wings to replace him? 

ECB eyes may have to look abroad once again. 

HAS JOS BUTTLER REACHED THE END OF HIS TEST CAREER? 

A destructive, world-class batter in the white-ball game, it’s time for Jos Buttler to focus all his attention on the one-day format. 

He has hit just two Test centuries in 56 matches despite his undeniable talent with the bat. 

In addition, his position as a Test wicket-keeper has been called into question, following some unacceptable dropped catches in the second Test in Adelaide. 

With alternatives available this time – such as Jonny Bairstow and the forgotten Ben Foakes – this question seems like a simple one for England to address.  

It’s time for wicket-keeper Jos Buttler to focus all his attention on the one-day formats

HOW DO WE FIX ENGLAND’S BATTING PROBLEM? 

This, ladies and gents, is the million-dollar question. 

Aside from Root, and perhaps Dawid Malan, every single player in the top-six could be dropped. 

Openers Burns and Haseeb Hameed have had a torrid time in Australia. Burns has been dropped – but should be given a second chance – while Hameed’s talent needs to equate to big scores sooner rather than later. 

Openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed have had a torrid time in Australia so far 

Zak Crawley was, in his defence, brought in for the Melbourne debacle undercooked and without match practice. He also deserves opportunities to impress, as does Dan Lawrence who has been on the fringes. 

In the middle-order, Ollie Pope needs to show signs of his ability away from his home pitch of The Oval, while is Bairstow still a realistic option for the future? 

More pointedly, where is the next generation? All in all, this is the main issue to address in 2022. 

WHAT ABOUT THE BOWLERS? 

Not quite so pressing as the issue at the top of the line-up it may be, but England’s bowling line-up is in need of a re-think too. 

At 39, there can no longer be an over-reliance on Jimmy Anderson, who continues to be England’s star asset with the ball. 

2021 has seen the emergence of Ollie Robinson as a genuine threat at Test match level. But who else? 

Stuart Broad has been in and out of the team, not aided by a calf injury in the summer. 

Not getting any younger at 35, is Stuart Broad slowly but surely being phased out the team? 

Jofra Archer’s unavailability due to a persistent elbow injury has been a big blow for England

Oddly, he was not selected at the Gabba despite a half-decent record there, while he missed out again in Melbourne. Not getting any younger too at 35, is his international career slowly but surely coming to an end too? 

Undoubtedly, Jofra Archer’s unavailability has been a big blow this year, as he battles a persistent elbow injury. Mark Wood has tried valiantly to be England’s pace option – but he can’t do it in all three formats. 

He needs help. Olly Stone could play a bigger role in the future, as could the Curran brothers. 

Spin is a problem too. Jack Leach – a cult hero after his Headingley heroics in 2019 – was torn apart in the first Test and did not fare much better in Melbourne. Moeen Ali’s retirement from Test cricket this year has not aided Root’s cause too.  

Jack Leach was torn apart in the first Test and did not perform much better in Melbourne 

Dom Bess has also had glimmers of success followed by expensive overs. A dearth of options here has seen Root himself be, at times, England’s most prudent slow option.

That cannot continue to be the case.  

SHOULD FINGERS BE POINTED AT THE ECB? 

Without a shadow of a doubt. 

The England and Wales Cricket Board’s big project for the year was not the Ashes. Nor was it hosting India in a five-match summer series, nor the T20 World Cup in the Middle-East. 

Instead, all eyes were trained on the new Hundred competition, designed to be England’s answer to the IPL. 

The Hundred competition in the summer meant focus shifted away from the Test game 

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison now needs to alter his attention back to the red-ball format

While the new franchise tournament was in many ways a success in inviting a new breed of fan to cricket matches, as well as financially and in raising the profile of the women’s game, purists would argue with some conviction that priorities have become somewhat skewed. 

They’d be right too. The public care a great amount about the England men’s Test team. For all the white-ball success, The Ashes is where that comes to the fore most blatantly. 

England were losing their summer series against India before it’s incompletion due to Covid

This latest humiliation in Australia should re-think the executives right at the top of English cricket, particularly chief executive Tom Harrison. 

2022, with a spring tour of West Indies and home series’ against the World’s No 1 team New Zealand and South Africa, should trigger a revamp. A planned revamp. 

If not, fortunes are unlikely to change. 




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