Losing the Ashes Test means that England are now 2-8 down in the Ashes Series with 6 points up for grabs from the remaining T20s. They would have to win all three of the T20s against the current T20 World Champions to retain the Ashes. They will not do so. This is a team that looks devoid of confidence in their own abilities. Almost without exception they are batting like rabbits caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck. They appear to be so terrified of making a mistake that they are literally paralysed into inaction.
It is true to say that in the last Ashes Series played in England in 2013, England did win all three of the T20s they played against the Aussies, and England are unbeaten at "Fortress Chelmsford" where they are playing the first T20 on Wednesday week (26th August). But that is all history and England have spent the past five years looking back at past glories as an indicator of future performance. It has not panned out.
Those of us who have watched England closely (and the England players in their county colours) over the last few years have frequently lamented the lack of depth to the England batting line-up. Charlotte Edwards and, to a lesser extent, Sarah Taylor, have been the props holding the batting up. England have doggedly stuck to the same players time after time after time. There have been fleeting glances of form - Lauren Winfield's 74 against the South Africans last summer at Edgbaston; Nat Sciver's 65* against the Kiwis at Lincoln in February, but there have been far more failures than successes.
Last year's Test against India should have rung some alarm bells. 12 of the 20 England wickets that fell were to lbw appeals, on a slow, low track that offered little or nothing to the seamers or spinners. The problem was players playing across the line. Professional England, as they had become, were bowled out for 99 and 202 against a team of amateurs and lost by six wickets. It was not a blip, but it was indicative of the fragility of England's batting.
In New Zealand the England middle-order simply failed to turn up for the first three ODI games, which meant England lost the ICC WC series 1-2. They are currently languishing in fourth place in the ICC WC table, seven points behind leaders Australia, having won just four out of the nine games they have played.
England have adopted a head in the sand attitude. England's demise in the Test was all too predictable and they have no-one to turn to to try and get them out of the hole they are in, bar the 18 contracted players on whom they have concentrated all their efforts over the past two years. There are no T20 batting superstars waiting in the wings, so the same batting line-up is likely to be asked to do what they can. With confidence at rock bottom they are likely to get blown away.
Short-term there is little that England can do, bar try and inspire, enthuse and re-invigorate the current crop of players. That inspiration and leadership needs to come from the top.
Longer-term England need to take a hard look at the current contract system. The 18 players contracts are due to be reviewed in September and new contracts awarded in October. By that time the same 18 players will already have been contracted for 18 months. Should the cash be shared more fairly amongst those who have potential? Everyone below the 18 contracted players are unpaid amateurs. Even those additional players named in last year's ECB Winter Training Squad - Jodie Dibble, Beth Langston, Sonia Odedra, and Fran Wilson. For the past 9 months they have been doing exactly the same as the 18 paid players, for nothing. None of them were offered a car by KIA. Also what will happen to contracted players whose contracts may be terminated? There is no cushion of going back into county cricket and earning a reasonable salary while trying to get your place back. Chances are they will be lost to cricket for good.
England also need to look beyond the Loughborough Bubble. At the present time it seems like it is almost the only route for progression into the England set-up. The other MCCU universities do little or nothing to enhance women cricket players. In fact the second best university for women cricketers is non-MCCU Exeter University - current holders of the BUCs Indoor Title and runners-up to Loughborough for the last two years in the BUCS Final at Lords. This year Exeter just had to contend with seven full internationals, two Academy players and one U19 EWDP player in the Loughborough team that defeated them.
Clare Connor herself espoused the importance of cricket players getting an education and qualifications as well as playing the game. Even if girls reach the top the salaries are not high. Life at the top can be precarious, subject to form, favour and fitness. And even the longest careers are likely to only stretch into the 30s. That leaves a long time after cricket. Getting that education at Loughborough should not be a prerequisite to success on the cricket field. The ECB need to expand their horizons.
Alongside, or in conjunction with, the new WCSL (Women's Cricket Super League), the ECB needs to expand the centres of excellence available for women cricketers, so that young players can continue their education away from Loughborough if they chose and avoid excessive travel time to train regularly. It will also allow other coaches to feed into the development of players.
I am a fan of the concept of the WCSL, and what it is trying to achieve. There are simply not enough good players to go around the current 38 county system. But it is going to be difficult to implement if the non-contracted players are not paid. The ECB have no objection to the franchises paying their players, but they are not going to fund it, and what happens if one franchise does and another does not?
In the short-term it seems odd that none of the England batsmen involved in the Test were released to their counties this weekend to play in the final round of the NatWest County T20 competition. Surely it would have been ideal preparation? Instead they will have a couple of practice games this week against young male opponents. Australia meanwhile are in Ireland playing three T20Is against the Ireland Women's team that has beaten both Sussex and Yorkshire in Division One T20 games in the past couple of weeks.
England tour South Africa in February for more ICC WC games and in March the T20 World Cup is being staged in India. The WCSL will not come quickly enough to have any effect on England's performances in these tournaments. Indeed it will not really be up and running properly before England host the World Cup in 2017. The next few years could be tough for England on the international circuit.