England on a slippery slope to a 5-0 result

Date: December 10, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

England’s Ashes campaign is in tatters.

Surely in a week’s time the little urn will have traded hands with the next Test at the WACA Ground getting underway on Friday.

But just how bad could this series become for England?

Tellingly, former Ashes winning skipper Michael Vaughan stated today that England could be staring down the barrel of a 5-nil whitewash.

And this from a man who said pre-series that England would win comfortably.

And Vaughan was no orphan as many a former player and fan – on both sides of the Commonwealth – felt England was a very good thing.

And why not, it arrived in Australia having not lost a Test match in 14 starts and in search of a fourth consecutive Ashes series victory while Australia had gone nine Tests without a win.

Yet, in the space of eight days of cricket the series has been thrown on its head by a rampant, focused and determined Australian outfit.

England has been outplayed in every facet of the game.

The Australian pace trio has wreaked untold damage on England’s batting and as a combination they have proved to be unstoppable – Mitchell Johnson has 17 wickets at 12.7; Ryan Harris 8 at 20.2; and Peter Siddle 7 at 20.0.

There will be no respite for England next up.

Perth has been Johnson’s most successful hunting ground – people felt before the series that if he was to be picked it should only be at the WACA – having claimed innings figures of 8-61 against South Africa and 6-38 last time England played there.

At times in England’s first innings at Adelaide some of its batsmen didn’t seem up for the fight.

Many of them have been shaken by Johnson’s hostility, none more so than captain Alastair Cook who is a mere shadow of the man who averaged over 100 in the last series down under.

Normally a cool and unflappable character he knows that he has to somehow turn things around from a personal standpoint in just four days – it will not be easy.

Half a dozen England wickets fell in the second Test to catches from horizontal bat shots on the leg-side.

It is one thing to try and fight fire with fire but the method often chosen at Adelaide did nothing but compound the collective problem.

One of the most glaring disparities in team performance in this Test was in the fielding department.

Australia was outstanding while England was lamentable with dropped catches costing it 286 runs.

Often the way a team fields can be directly related to its mental spirits – England’s effort told a story.

As it licks its wounds and heads across the Nullarbor there are scant few positives that England can take with it.

The only two areas of satisfaction would have surrounded the performances with the bat by Joe Root and Matthew Prior.

Root, who impressed during the Ashes series earlier this year, took exceptionally well to the number three position vacated by Jonathan Trott.

While his teammates tumbled around him, the fresh-faced 22-year-old ground out a defiant 87 in the tourists’ second innings.

He showed resolve and conviction not always displayed by his more credentialed teammates.

Prior would have gained immeasurable confidence from his 63 on the final day.

Leading into the second innings his three previous knocks had produced 0, 4 and 0, on the back of an extremely lean last Ashes campaign.

On what we have witnessed so far it is almost incomprehensible to consider that Cook’s men could come out on top at Perth.

The Australian quicks will be looking to go for the jugular and England’s batsmen can expect plenty of bruises as they fight to stay at the crease.

England will again make changes with Monty Panesar omitted for another quick.

Who England goes for in his stead will be interesting – will they go for the steady Tim Bresnan or choose one of the three tall, ‘bounce bowlers’ specially selected for this tour – Chris Tremlett, Stuart Finn or Boyd Rankin.

So far, England has been battered both psychologically and on the scoreboard.

It can expect another dose of the same at Perth courtesy of a rampant Australian pace attack on a tailor-made surface.

It appears nigh inevitable that when the teams reconvene at the MCG on Boxing Day that the Ashes will have been lost with two back-to-back Tests still to be played.

In 2006-07, England suffered the complete ignominy of going down 5-0, only the second side to have done so – it was also swept in 1920-21.

But in that series it faced a team vastly more talented and experienced than the one that currently has it on the rack.

Over the next three Tests we will learn just how much resolve and pride in its performance this England squad has.

It needs to dig deep and summon something from within if it is to avoid being completely humbled and cast aside by an Australian team that has rediscovered its on self-belief.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 9 December 2013