As England cruised to a 3-0 Ashes triumph in the summer, their current plight down under was almost unthinkable.
Whitewashes seemed no more than a distant memory as Andy Flower’s men thumped the Aussies in resounding fashion, but less than six months later, the England side may be in a state of irreversible decline. The sight of England’s finest cricketers urinating on the Oval pitch should have served as a warning to all of what was to come.
Going into the new year and the virtually irrelevant fifth and final Test, England look hopelessly lost for ideas; they will have to do without one of the biggest characters in the dressing room, Graeme Swann, who retired with immediate effect once defeat was assured, in true heroic fashion.
In the long-run, that will perhaps give the Three Lions’ selectors a chance to experiment with young spinners such as Simon Kerrigan, though the Lancashire bowler has struggled on his previous international outings. More immediately, Monty Panesar must step up to the mark as Swann’s replacement, but he has already revealed himself to be a far inferior spinner.
While England will struggle to find a replacement of Swann’s calibre, they must turn their attention to the pressing issue of batting order. Flower still seems unsure whether to move Ian Bell higher up the order, and whether Joe Root lacks the experience to lead the line in the Ashes. In his debut series, Michael Carberry has been erratic but has also hit some fine knocks, while captain Alistair Cook, put frankly, cannot be relied upon.
The rumbles from Swann’s retirement are seemingly still echoing around the team hotel after Kevin Pietersen was forced to deny being arrogant. KP’s careless approach has put England in jeopardy countless times in this series alone. All is not well in the camp, it would appear, as questions continue over whether Flower will continue to lead the troops.
It would be fair to accuse England of complacency after their successive Ashes victories, tellingly revealed by their questionable squad selection for the winter series. That gamble has backfired spectacularly, and it may be quite some time before England are able to revert to the triumphalism that landed them in this position in the first place.
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