NASSER HUSSAIN: The England Test team needs a re-set

NASSER HUSSAIN: The England Test team needs a complete RE-SET on their approach to red-ball cricket – playing in Australia is hard enough at the best of times without the mistakes Joe Root and Chris Silverwood have made

  • England’s long-term planning and rest-and-rotation has cost them Test matches
  • There really has to be a mentality of here and now when they approach games 
  • The fundamental issue is undoubtedly the standard of English first-class batting
  • It will be extremely difficult at the SCG – the fourth Test starts on Wednesday  

Joe Root has rightly asked for a red-ball re-set in English cricket but the immediate need is for the England Test team to have a re-set on how they do things.

England have had to look after their players in Covid times, both physically and mentally, but for all their good intentions the extent of their long-term planning and rest-and-rotation policy has cost them Test matches.

I would talk to Jimmy Anderson two years ago and he would know how many games he would be playing in the next series. I am sure that was the same with Mark Wood ahead of the Ashes. It’s all been too formulaic and pre-planned.

England captain Joe Root and coach Chris Silverwood have made mistakes in the Ashes 

But the biggest issue is English first-class batting, which I’ve never seen at such a low ebb 

So, the initial re-set has to see them looking down at the pitch ahead of any Test and selecting the best team for that game, as if it were the World Test Championship final. Pick and play as if the score was 2-2 and they have to win to clinch the Ashes.

There has to be a mentality of here and now, lose this game over my dead body, whether it be with bat, ball or captaincy. A re-set also means changing that mentality on the pitch and making better decisions off it. Australia is a hard enough place to go at the best of times without the mistakes Root and Chris Silverwood have made.

Our game has been written off since Melbourne but it should be remembered the inquests concern red-ball cricket. Not everything in English cricket is a disaster. 

As Ian Bishop reminded us this week in a tweet – England are world champions and No1 in the world in 50-over cricket and a big force in the T20 game. We have wonderful white-ball players and also our women’s team are progressing as one of the best in the world. A bit of perspective is needed. 

It’s unfair to say everything in our game is rubbish. People are saying we should look at the Australian game but they haven’t won an Ashes series in England since 2001 so they are not the panacea for us. Travelling and playing away is difficult for all countries, with the possible exception of India.

Despite England already conceding the Ashes to Australia, a bit of perspective is still needed

But of course we do have serious problems, specifically red-ball batting and spinners in red-ball cricket. And I agreed with Mike Atherton when he said he had never seen English first-class batting at such a low ebb. That is the fundamental issue to be addressed.

England have to leave all that for now to Ashley Giles and those who sort out schedules and policies in our game. The players’ job in the last two Tests is for the batters who do play to find a way. They should have been digging deep since Melbourne and before tonight’s fourth Test in Sydney to find mental toughness to show in these last two games.

Graham Thorpe, the stand-in coach of England this week, knew how to do that better than anybody. Nobody was better than him of finding a way to make an ugly half-century when he was out of form or things had not been going well.

It will be extremely difficult at the SCG. They are 3-0 down, their brains will be scrambled and Covid is all around them. But England fans are desperate to see a win in Australia. England have some good memories of the SCG and they have to pick the side they think gives them the best chance of providing some more.

Graham Thorpe will stand-in as coach of England this week with Silverwood in isolation 

As I said before the third Test, I would not have dropped Rory Burns and Ollie Pope then, not least because Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow were handed hospital passes in being brought in to a huge Test with no match practice.

If there is nothing to choose between Pope and Bairstow now then Pope is the man to invest in for the future but if England feel Bairstow is the better bet to score runs in this game then they have to pick him again.

Equally, if Anderson and Stuart Broad are the best bowlers available to win this game then make the most of them while we still have them and pick them both now. And let the future look after itself.

If Stuart Broad and James Anderson are the best bowlers available then make the most of them

You have to play a spinner in the fourth Test in Sydney and that means Jack Leach must play

Even with an unsettled forecast you have to play a spinner in Sydney and that means Jack Leach must play. And back him to bowl the opposition out. Firstly, after the onslaught on him in Brisbane, he was left out on a spinning pitch in Adelaide and then used mainly defensively in Melbourne.

Root has to give the ball to him now and say ‘it’s probably going to spin. Do your job and do it in an attacking way by bowling them out.’ Show some faith in him or Dom Bess and if England don’t believe in them find someone else to do the job.

Let’s see some fight now and let’s see some pride being shown. That red-ball re-set has to be made in the short term as well as the long.

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