England were crushed by Australia in the third ODI losing by 89 runs, and thereby lost the ODI series 2-1 and went 4-2 behind in the Ashes Series. It was not just that they were badly beaten, but that they were poor in the field, with the ball and with the bat. They looked like a team with no confidence. The skipper and the management have to remedy that before the Test.
They have a couple of weeks to try and get their heads together before that four day Test at Canterbury worth a crucial four points for a win or two each for the draw. This will be followed after another two week gap by the three T20s each worth two points. If the Aussies win the Test they will need to win just one of the T20s to take the Ashes.
So what will England do for the next two weeks? I understand they have some longer format warm-up games planned against boys' teams, but I am not really sure how much they get out of these "jumpers for goalpost" games (as fellow blogger Syd Egan calls them). They have nowhere near the same intensity as an Ashes' match and the opposition do not reflect the type of bowling and batting that they face in the real thing. Trying to find that sort of opposition is a conundrum. I would suggest that a game or games against one of the better county set-ups might prove more fruitful. This is one of the problems created by having this void between the 18 contracted players and the rest. This is the void the ECB hope the WCSL will fill, but that is not going to be up and running properly for at least two years. By then the T20 World Cup and the 50 over World Cup will have been and gone.
There is a round of county T20 games this Sunday and I think I would let the batsmen (at least) go and play in these games and try and get a few runs under their belts, just to try and get the feel of hitting the ball cleanly. I appreciate that it is not the same type of cricket that they will be required to play in the Test Match, but the England batsmen are not in a good place at the moment. It might also help them work on rotating the strike from decent length and line bowling, which is what the Aussies have been chucking down, and what England have been failing to play properly. In the first ODI the Aussies bowled too short and England capitalised. In the second they adjusted and bowled much tighter lines and lengths and England played across the line and got out. In the third England played straighter but could not score. In the Test playing straight will again be key, as will patience. Against India last year 12 of the 20 England wickets to fall to India were lbw as England played across the line and were bowled out for 92 and 202 and lost by six wickets.
I understand the Test squad is being selected today. It will not be easy. The ECB keep banging on about how strong the squad is and the fact that England have strength in depth. It looks like smoke and mirrors to me, particularly on the batting front. It was highlighted in the World Cup in Mumbai in 2013 when England failed to make the final; reiterated in the T20 World Cup final when England lost badly to Australia; in the Test last year and confirmed again in New Zealand in February. The only upside during that time was the Ashes in Australia which England won based around some good bowling in the Test Match (which was worth six points at the time). England actually lost both the ODI and T20 series, but one win in each was enough to retain the Ashes. As Mike Selvey, former Middlesex and England bowler, tweeted yesterday about the England team "The hard truth is they have plateaued in white ball cricket for several years while others have caught up".
The reality is that there are no batsmen in the England squad that the Aussies will fear. England have relied on Charlotte Edwards and Sarah Taylor for much longer than is seemly, and during that time Taylor's performances have been sporadic. Overall she averages just over 40 in ODIs. Against Australia she averages just over 34, and this is about the score you expect her to make in most of her innings. In 70 of her 91 ODI innings she has failed to get beyond 50. 39 of those times she has scored between 20-49.
The problem England have is that they have not produced another reliable batsmen in the mould of Claire Taylor or Arran Brindle. Amy Jones and Georgia Elwiss have been introduced in this series with little success. Waiting in the wings are Tammy Beaumont and Danielle Wyatt. They have already played 23 and 33 ODIs each respectively. Beaumont averages 17.25 and Wyatt 16.43. They are not exciting replacements.
So who will England pick for the Test? Again I doubt they will look outside the contracted 18 players, but steady bat Fran Wilson and left-arm spinner Jodie Dibble deserve to feature in their thoughts. If they select 14 again I think it will be:-
Edwards, Beaumont, Brunt, Cross, Elwiss, Greenway, Grundy, Gunn, Hazell, Knight, Sciver, Shrubsole, Taylor, and Winfield
Whether that is a 14 that will trouble the Aussies? I have to say I have my doubts.