The Ashes - Where did it all go wrong?

Another Ashes series in Australia and another humbling defeat for England, as Australia comfortably ended the series with a comprehensive 4-0 victory.

Whilst it wasn’t quite the harrowing whitewash experience of 2013/14, when Mitchell Johnson ran through the England batting line-up on a regular basis, the fact remains that the tourists were outplayed in every department.
 
The focus for the England coaching team has quickly turned to the limited overs series, where England are currently yet again thriving with the white ball, before the upcoming Test series in New Zealand.

But it is fair to say that whatever England achieve over the rest of the winter, the disappointing surrender of the urn after just three Tests will not sit well with those at the top.

So just where did it go wrong for Joe Root’s men?

Pace bowling

There is no doubting the skill of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who will go down as two of England’s greatest ever. But both men are nearer to the end of their careers than the start, and both men do not possess the pace and bounce that they once had.

*photograph: The Independent/Getty Images 

But they are still far and away England’s two best options in the pace department, even on the hard, bouncy pitches down under. Craig Overton and Tom Curran produced the odd moment of magic but, without a swinging ball, both struggled to pin the opposition down for long periods with their lack of express pace.

In contrast, Australia’s trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins were all consistently hitting the late 80’s (mph) and beyond, something the tourists failed to do. Regular spells of hostility stopped England producing the totals required to win Test matches at the top level.
 
Senior batsmen
 
Before the series, it was widely agreed that both teams had two world-class batsmen, David Warner and Steve Smith for the hosts, whilst England had Alastair Cook and Joe Root. It was Smith that was the stand-out performer, and that was a huge factor in his side’s series victory.

Rarely has a player looked so destined for a century after facing just a handful of deliveries, and the ease with which he made sizable contributions only strengthened his case of being the best batsman in world cricket.
 
Failure to take chances

England will be kicking themselves knowing that they had chances to seize the initiative throughout the series. To lose by ten wickets at Brisbane was unbelievable considering that they more than matched their opponents for large parts of the first three days. Winning the toss and batting first, England only managed 302 despite being 127-1 and then 246-4. They then had Australia 76-4 and 209-7, before Smith’s unbeaten 141 helped his side to a narrow first innings lead.

England then toiled to a miserly 195 all out second time around, with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft knocking off the runs with minimum fuss.

*photograph: BBC/Phillip Brown/Getty Images 

At Adelaide it was a different story as England dragged themselves back into the Test after Smith’s bizarre decision not to enforce the follow on. Australia were bowled out for 138 in their second innings and England had a chance to level the series if they could chase down a challenging 353. After battling their way to 169-3, England capitulated to 233 all out on the final day after giving supporters hope that they could produce a stunning comeback.
 
England lost the Ashes at Perth, as they suffered an innings defeat despite scoring over 400 when batting first, which was another missed opportunity. The series was already over when the weather perhaps stopped England from winning at Melbourne, before they were dominated in the final Test at Sydney.

The spin department
 
Moeen Ali had a series to forget, averaging under 20 with the bat and taking just five wickets. Root seemed to lose faith with the all-rounder as the series wore on, and Ali knows he has to perform in New Zealand to avoid being dropped.
 
His Australian rival, Nathan Lyon, was outstanding. A constant threat to left-handers in particular, Lyon took over 20 wickets which was more than any of the England bowlers.

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