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Ashes 2013-14: Chinks in England’s batting department stand exposed

In the past Alastair Cook (above) and Kevin Pietersen have provided stability to England's batting line-up but have struggled in recent times © Getty Images
In the past Alastair Cook (above) and Kevin Pietersen have provided stability to England’s batting line-up but have struggled in recent times © Getty Images

 

England’s batting line-up has been under scrutiny since the start of 2013. However, with a big defeat in the first Ashes Test Down Under and another one likely on the cards in the Adelaide Test, the batsmen will be under more pressure. Abhijit Banare has more…

 

 

The popular saying in Test cricket is that ‘ultimately those bowlers who fetch you 20 wickets, win you the Test’. But England seem to be doing well to prove it wrong all the time, as their batting continues to flop miserably and the bowlers are just not able to cover-up for those failures. The end result may not be the best way to judge England’s performance, because their defeat against Australia in the first Test has been their only loss so far this year. However, the inconsistency is.

 

One indicator of England’s struggle with the bat is clearly displayed in the first innings totals they have accrued; during the 12 Tests this year (includes the ongoing Test match at Adelaide).

 

They have managed an average first innings score of 274 over those 12 Tests. Out of these, three totals have been below 200 and seven under the 250-mark. As teams in the longest format bank upon a strong first innings total, 274 as an average score tells a lot about the unsatisfactory performances by the English batsmen.

 

In fact, except for Ian Bell, none of the batsmen have sustained their consistency throughout the year. He is the only batsman in the below mentioned table to average above 40 this year. Unfortunately, Jonathan Trott, who served as England’s Mr. Dependable for a long-time is recovering from a stress-related illness.

 

 

England’s top five run-scorers in 2013

 

Player

Matches

Runs

Avg.

Highest

Ian Bell

12

897

47.21

113

Jonathan Trott

11

793

37.76

121

Alastair Cook

12

765

34.77

130

Joe Root

12

713

35.65

180

Kevin Pietersen

9

521

32.56

113

(Numbers updated after England’s first innings in the second Ashes Test at Adelaide on December 7, 2013)

 

Moreover, in context of the lack of consistency, England batting has failed to click collectively in posting good totals. Individually, neither Alastair Cook nor Kevin Pietersen have been criticised for their poor form. Actually, both batsmen have provided stability to England’s batting line-up in the past, but have struggled to do that in recent times. In the absence of Trott, who was struggling with his form, experienced campaigners like Cook and Pietersen need to lead the way like Bell.  Apart from them, there’s not much experience in the batting line-up with Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow being relatively new to international cricket.

 

 

Unlike before, England’s lower-order struggling to cover-up for top-order’s failures

 

Stuart Broad and Matt Prior have made significant contributions to England’s totals in the recent past. They have either rescued England from a precarious situation or added some value with gritty knocks to boost the total, lower down the order. Broad’s partnership with Bell in the first Ashes 2013 Test, Prior’s match-saving innings in New Zealand and many more are some fine examples of it. In a way England’s chinks in the top-order was to some extent covered-up by the lower-order. It resulted in helping bowlers to win games. However that hasn’t been the case in England’s last few series with the lower-order struggling to deliver the goods.

 

In a stark contrast to England, Prior’s counterpart, Brad Haddin has anchored Australia’s innings in both Tests in this series. He bailed the team out of trouble once with Mitchell Johnson and then with Michael Clarke. It shows how important the role of a wicketkeeper-batsman is especially, when the top-order doesn’t fire.

 

At the end of the day, England’s batting disasters also coincide with an inspired improvement in Australia’s all-round performance under Michael Clarke. The batting is on a roll with David Warner and Clarke in good form. They have played aggressively against England’s bowlers and posted competitive totals on the scoreboard, and as a result asserted their authority in the two Tests. In short, Johnson’s blitzkrieg is turning out to be too hot to handle for the visitors. England batsmen surely need to buckle up to retain the urn.

 

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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