There is the glory. The indescribable moment of hard earned triumph, the palpable sense of achievement when there are no worlds left to conquer. You stand alone at the top, surveying the vanquished below, as the adulation washes over you. Life seldom gets better.
Then there’s the polar opposite of this. The feeling of crushing defeat. Everything hurts. The sight of your opponent towering over you, the contemptuous sneer hidden somewhere in the victory smile and the consolatory handshake. The other side of solitude, this feeling of being utterly isolated as your world collapses around you.

On a stiflingly Sunday afternoon at the WACA and after some years of drinking in the former, England’s cricketers are suddenly very well versed in the latter. Unfolding before the gleeful eyes of a braying home support and a disbelieving away following, was the slow death of a once great cricket team. In temperatures of over 40 degrees, Alastair Cook’s team simply melted in the face of the onslaught from the Australians.

Once again their opportunities to take anything from the match, indeed from the series, had disappeared. Once again the sheer dominance of Michael Clarke’s side struck a painful blow. Having been bowled out for a below par first innings total, Australia’s opening batsmen, with the odious but seemingly omnipotent David Warner to the fore, tore into England who wilted in the heat like a sweaty, beered up fat man. The lead is over three hundred, though the total is irrelevant now as surviving sessions on this spitting cobra of a WACA pitch is all that is left for England. So, barring a miraculous rearguard action of the proportions witnessed in Auckland in March, England have lost the Ashes within three Test matches.

The fall from grace and disappearance of the smiles of late summer has been excruciatingly swift. Few could have predicted this cataclysmic change of fortunes and the shift in power between these two teams. But England must learn from this. Cricket Australia should be lauded for the way they have turned their fortunes around within a year. This current Australian team will never be mentioned among the greats but at present they are a formidable outfit. The pace and relentless hostility of the bowling line up is possibly the strongest in world cricket at the moment. In Clarke and Warner, Australia have world class batsmen and the rejuvenation of Brad Haddin has been a huge factor in their meteoric rise. Even Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon look like proper cricketers.

What now for England then? Much of this team have been wonderful cricketers and have given their all for their country in the recent successful years but now it is time to move on.
The current Andy Flower coaching set up has been the foundation of England’s success but it is time for them to go. Paul Collingwood should be reintroduced to the national set up as coach with an older wiser head (maybe not an Englishman) to guide him. Collingwood has the association with the glory years, the respect of his peers and the energy, the skills as well as the forward-thinking to be England’s new head coach. Will the ECB be brave enough to go for him?

One telling scene of yesterday afternoon’s play was the sight of England’s wicketkeeper Matt Prior crouched behind the stumps long after the ball had beaten him to the boundary for another four runs. He stayed in his position for thirty odd seconds, the weight of his problems seemingly preventing him from getting up. His deportment suggested his and his team’s recent troubles have got to this most energetic and positive of individuals. He looked a beaten man.
Prior has been the world’s best for the last two years but it is time to stand this most loyal of servants down. Similarly, James Anderson, Kevin Pieterson and Tim Bresnan should be allowed to slip quietly away from the Test arena. They all, like Prior, have given England fans such brilliant memories but the sport looks to have finally, fatally consumed them.

If England do escape with a draw here, which seems unlikely, it is simply a matter of papering over the cracks. The ECB must start to install wholesale changes if England are to ever get back to being the world’s number one cricket team and those halcyon days.

Advertisements