An honest conversation about England's batting
And how good Joe Root has been while England have been so bad.
England had an honest conversation with themselves at the end of the last Test; it is only fair we do the same with their batting. They're shit. In fact, that is unfair; they are historically shit. This may not be their worst batting lineup of all time, but in years when they've had 10 Tests, this is worst average per wicket they've had.
I can confidently say they have never been this bad this often ever.
Now, in those numbers is Joe Root. He currently has the third most runs ever scored in a year of Test cricket.
If his luck turns, he may be able to score enough to go to number two, or even top of this list. Of course someone would have to stick with him, which seems basically impossible.
Let me put it this way, Root averages 62 this year, the rest of England averages 19. There is no way around this, they have had one batter all year, and he has been absolutely incredible, and the rest of the batters have been as bad as he is good.
This is how many runs Joe Root has made this year, and how many the other England players have made. It's so lovely, I have made a variety of graphs to illustrate it fully.
Because there is no way, this is not funny, or remarkable. Joe Root has been tremendous just when England batting has become the worst.
The Worst. I mean, just shithouse on a level that is barely believable. Like setting your car on fire, then getting in to drive to the shops, but forgetting your wallet as you slowly burn to death. When I put this pie chart up on twitter, someone asked me about extras.
I hadn't even considered them. Shall we look at where extras comes in at.I make it as 407 extras scored this year.
That would make extras England's third top scorer, with over six percent of their runs. I mean, what do you do with information like that. This shows that England has chopped and changed their lineup, they have used horses for courses, rested players, and tried to get it all right, and it doesn't matter because only Joe Root can bat.
One thing you hear with Stokes is "Oh, he's a better player than his average". He's improved as a batter over the last few years. He probably played earlier than a batter of his talent would have because of his all-around skill. So his overall record is low for that reason. Last 3 years he averages 42.
Before that he was a lot worse. But let's say he's really a 42 average guy. That's it, that's your second best batter. 42. That's still low for a major nation.
And who is third? It's now Jonny Bairstow, who last made a hundred in 2018, that was so long ago it was before people knew how to wash their hands properly.
But really, it's no one is. No one else in this side can make consistent runs. Sorry, let me rephrase that; no one else in England can make runs because they have tried everyone.
The obvious thing is to get new blood into the team. So let's look at their batters who have made a debut in the last six years compared to the average of top six batters in the world. That's only 35, it's pretty low, it's been a tough era. But, it's been a lot tougher for the English as you can see. Foakes scored his in one innings, Burns has made three tough hundreds and a bunch of fails, Malan seems like a near Aussie specialist, and I have now concluded with the players who average over 30.
This list has grizzled vets, county pros, young prodigies, and white ball stars, they've tried a lot, it has all failed.
The players who have dominated county cricket are Gary Ballance who seems to have been discarded for good. Plus Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow. And in this Test Bairstow has come in for Pope. Sorry, Jonny, it's your turn again.
Recently on a Wagon Wheel podcast someone asked me about Jake Libby, Joe Clarke and Liam Livingstone.
Libby is a 28 year old on his third county, he's averaged 56 for Worcestershire in the last two years. But he also averaged 24 over five seasons for Nottingham. Clarke switched from Worcs to Notts, and has averaged 33 the last three years. And finally Liam Livingstone, probably the most naturally talented batter England hasn't tried yet. He came into the 2020 season averaging 41 in first class cricket. Since then, the IPL has become a focus for him, and in his last eight matches, he has averaged 12. When it comes down to it, all three of these guys average under 40.
That is how you end up with Zak Crawley in your team with a 31 average in First class cricket. That is how bad it's got. They felt like they had tried everyone else, and this guy had tried to set himself up to be a Test player by learning how to handle high pace and spin. He looks pretty, and everyone else is already bad, so give him the gig. But he's averaging under 12 this year, and the concern must be that they are ruining someone who might be a good player in a few years. Crawley has bad form, no consistent runs ever, and has been pulled from the bench because he's warm-blooded.
Then there is all their planning. I want to point out two brilliant things about this series. I don't think Dawid Malan or Haseeb Hameed were supposed to be here. Hameed came into the eleven when they finally gave up on Dom Sibley. He's a great story and has some talent, but he also plays with low hands. This is not who you want opening in Australia. What, with all the bounce and stuff.
And there is Dawid Malan, who came into the side against India with the hope that he could make it work like he hadn't the first time he was in Tests. He actually looks far better suited to Australian conditions. And this isn't the first time.
So far he's been twice as good in Australia as anywhere else. Sure, Lyon might clean him up a few times, and that angled bat outside off stump is still a target. But when the pitch or bowlers flattens out, he can score, and has batted well with Root.
But did they mean to pick these two players? Or were the simply in their XI at the time, and so they ended up here. Now Malan has been fantastic for them in the series so far, he has almost as many runs as Root. But Hameed has not.
It's hard to see how Sibley would not have been the better option for Australian conditions. Some people still want Woakes up there. After all that planning, they went with these two guys because they were still standing last summer.
That is what makes the talk about mindsets and tactics so funny. There is no magic way to fix five batters by talking about 4th stumps or positive intent. There was a feeling before this Test that they needed to attack more. How would that change anything? That is simply finding another way to fail. The problem isn't mindset, desire, or buzzwords people fire out at times like this. The issue here is that none of them can bat. They have proved that, innings after innings.
This isn't because they are in Australia; we have seen them not be able to bat in other continents, including at home. This isn't a new thing; they have struggled a lot. They have averaged over 35 runs per wicket twice in nine years. Four times they have been under 30.
They have not made runs in a long time.
It's not just their batting that has caused their problems here. Jofra Archer's injury has played a part. And that has made their selections bizarre. But there is no good spin choice they can make as they don't have an option for Australia.Their batters have been worse than their bowlers. When you fact in the drops, the difference between them is even starker than how it looks on the scoreboard.
And so coach Chris Silverwood is under pressure, Mike Atherton talked about how he has too much power, and also questioned whether the players still want to play for Silverwood.
The Times also had Lizzy Ammon (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-ashes-times-up-for-chris-silverwood-is-coach-eoin-morgan-the-answer-0x98nwqd3) question Silverwood as coach, suggesting Eoin Morgan could take over. Silverwood will lose his job.
But I want to be very clear on this, the greatest cricket coach in the history of the world could not make this a consistent England team. Some hybrid of Red Auerbach and Alex Ferguson couldn't fix this. I don't care if you're MS Dhoni, Johnny Cash or the Dalai Lama; there is little you can do to take a batting lineup of flawed players and make them all better. They might have a series or two where it works. All rounders and bowlers will bail them out because that is their strength, and of course Joe Root will win some with a mountain or two.
But this is not a team good at batting. What coach could turn five batting spots that can't average 35 between them into a good team? Silverwood didn't coach their techniques; he inherited a batting lineup where every player has multiple failings.
We're not talking about refining working techniques. We're looking at taking players who have never made big runs domestically or batters who have struggled at international cricket all the time and making them into proper batters.
Have you heard the phrase, shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic? Well this is more like shuffling which venomous snake you want to lie on as the boat is sinking.
If you want to say Silverwood could do more, sure, knock yourself out. However, unless he's an actual faith healer, he could do nothing to fix the problems of broken batting that started well before he took over. And by the looks of it, will be around for a while after as well.
And Joe Root has been asked if he's running a dictatorship. I mean, what is happening here. How on earth is leadership the main problem, will someone, anybody, please look at the scorecards. If Root was a dictator, you'd think he'd at least get to bat at number seven, so he can come in for the 20th over instead of the fifth.
Even if you are one of the people that believes captaincy really matters, you could get 100 Mike Brearley's working on this England batting lineup right now and still end up with little more than a frown emoji. The only thing Root can do is make enough runs so the rest of his team don't matter.
And as you can see from this handy graph, when he has done that, England have won four of the six Tests when he's made a hundred.
That is all that is left. Just him trying to make a lot of runs and hoping his bowlers back him up.
In this year when Root has scored more runs than any English player on those very same pitches his top seven batters who aren't him average 22.6.
The problem isn't the Australian bowlers, the coach, captain, or even selectors. It's the batting. At a certain point, England cricket needs to work out what happened to their batting and what they can do to fix it on earth. It starts with honesty, but not sure where it ends.
Really love how you go to the ROOT of the issue, unlike experts littered across the media, plebians like me believed that sacking Root from captaincy and making Stokes in charge would fix it all, based on these expert opinions.. but seriously you revealed in a lovely manner💘
Crawley averages 18.04 in test cricket if you ignore his one big score, which is less than Stuart Broad ! How on earth the selectors think Zak is part of the batting solution is beyond me ...