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29th January 2018

A tale of two teams

The test team took a thumping in the Ashes while the ODI squad won their series in just three matches
A tale of two teams
Photo: Nic Redhead @ wikimedia commons & Ben Sutherland @ wikimedia commons

The final day of the fifth test can be used as a symbol of England’s fortunes in the Ashes. With day-4 temperatures reaching a record 47.3C, England faced another defeat and an overall 4-0 loss in the series. Test captain Joe Root was not present at the start of play due to a bout of severe dehydration that left him hospitalised and although he eventually returned, he was forced to retire ill. His side succumbed to Australia’s bowlers and finished the match 123 runs behind the hosts having played an innings more.

The series was a brutal one for England. Bereft of any encouragement, players were forced to rely on the hope that “we were better than the scoreline suggests” but the reality is Australia were a class apart. Steve Smith comfortably batted away any chances of an England win and the final ball of the series brought questions of the future of English cricket.

The mood of the nation was understandably low but the adventure down under was not over just yet. England and Australia would come together to compete in a five-match ODI series. Joe Root was one of few test players to make the ODI squad but he was liberated from the captaincy, as long-standing ODI captain Eoin Morgan took control.

For fans used to waking up and checking their phones to see yet another English collapse, the morning after the ODI was a welcome relief. Headlines of “Mitchell Starc takes four wickets as England fall to another defeat” were replaced with “Jason Roy hits record-breaking 180 as England win the first ODI”. An opening win was the perfect antidote to the Ashes hangover and a convincing one at that.

The second ODI was another English win. Aaron Finch was the only Aussie to score highly and Joe Root took two wickets to give England a 2-0 win in the series. A fantastic batting performance from Jos Butler saw England win the series in the third match and, at the time of writing, they have the chance to complete the 5-0 whitewash.

The disparity between the test and ODI side could not be bigger at the moment. The ODI squad is full of young, in-form talent while the test side is plagued with senior players living on past glories. Stuart Broad and Alistair Cook were largely anonymous aside from the occasional good day and James Anderson was the only senior player to be consistently good throughout the series. Meanwhile, the less said about Moeen Ali’s performances, the better.

It’s not as if the young talent made the most of their chances either. Jake Ball, James Vince, and Gary Balance failed to impress and although Tom Curran and Mason Crane looked bright, it was not enough for test fans to be overly optimistic.

Perhaps it is time to give the ODI squad a chance at test level again? While Morgan has made no secret of his belief his test days are over, players like Roy deserve a second chance if their stellar ODI form continues.

The next challenge for the test side is a four-match series against New Zealand. The first two matches will be played in New Zealand before the England squad return to home soil at Lord’s and Headingley respectively. This could be the chance for a freshen up of the squad. Preparation must begin now for the 2019 Ashes Series because, although it is on home soil, Australia looked good enough in the series gone to mount a serious challenge for the urn.

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