England’s runmakers need big scores to avoid Ashes whitewash

Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon celebrates after dismissing England's Moeen Ali at the Adelaide Oval. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty
Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon celebrates after dismissing England's Moeen Ali at the Adelaide Oval. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty
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The truth is the 2-0 scoreline is no surprise. England have competed, even controlled or dominated sessions, but never have they grasped a match and bent it to their will as some of the Australians have in this Ashes series.

The statistics may on occasion deceive or dissemble but rarely do they outright lie.

Two batsmen have scored centuries this series, both Australian.

Twice Australia have scored too many in the first innings and twice they have won.

This is not a coincidence.

If England are to avoid a 5-0 whitewash, and how they need to do that to avoid ridicule, then the batsmen need to dominate the scoreboard with big scores. Half centuries are applauded and acknowledged with raised bats and crowd appreciation but truthfully they are nothing more than opportunities and too often for England missed ones.

If a Test match has scores in the 200 to 250 region every innings then a 60 or 70 is match defining. Totals in excess of 350 and above need three figures and preferably innings in excess of 150. And that begs the question who can do that for England now?

Alastair Cook? Out of form and well worked out by the Australian think tank.

Mark Stoneman? A good player but international novice and James Vince likewise. He had his chance in Brisbane to cement his place with a match and possible series defining contribution but was run out for 83. Then there is the enigma that is Joe Root.

He is, with Virat Kohli and his immediate counterpart Steve Smith, one of the best batsmen in the world but his conversion rate is appalling and he is starting to endure that most debilitating of afflictions for England captains over the ages, a tough overseas Ashes tour.

Dawid Malan looks competent but not dynamic but then England hit a major problem.

For the past two seasons it has been the middle to lower order that has rescued them.

The catalyst for that has been a mix of which three players have been pivotal.

Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow and the missing Ben Stokes.

The first two have not performed as all-rounders to any effect thus far and that has taken away the most forgiving of safety nets for England’s top order.

The hope is they will rediscover their vigour or else the issue will become they rely on Stokes to give them ballast and if that is the case then England are effectively a one-man outfit.

There is a difference in the bowling as well and this is less about performance and more about style. Simply put the Australians have some pace superbly supported by an excellent off-spinner in Nathan Lyon.

The current quartet need protecting which is partly why Smith did not enforce the follow-on in Adelaide. Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummings and Lyon may not bear close comparison to the era of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne but they are a darned good outfit and complement each other well.

They are likely to enjoy the WACA, host for the third Test in Western Australia, and that could accelerate the unravelling of the England tour party.

Of course much of the damage has been self-inflicted. When isn’t it? But the latest news of Ben Duckett being dropped minutes before the two-day match against a Cricket Australia side for yet another drink-related incident – Duckett is alleged to have poured a drink over a senior England player’s head in a Perth bar – suggests England are a bunch of youngsters with no internal controls or filters. It is a serious examination of coach Trevor Bayliss and supremo Andrew Strauss. They have tried to treat the players like men but ever since the Stokes fracas in Bristol in September it has been a catalogue of stupidity.

This needs to change and quickly, but what has become apparent over the past month and was suspected before the tour commenced is that this Australian side is just better than England.

They were ridiculed for selecting Tim Paine as wicketkeeper and giving Shaun Marsh his eighth recall but both have performed well. Smith dominated the batting in Brisbane, a captain making an immediate mark to his team and importantly the opposition and Starc and Lyon have led the bowling.

England have to perform from now or the third whitewash in 11 years is likely and Root will have endured a second disastrous Ashes down under which would preclude him from being considered a great.