No easy answers to England’s Ashes problems

In the end, the weather was not bad enough and England were not good enough to escape with a draw from the third Ashes Test match.

And so the coveted urn returns to Australia.

It had been obvious only the intervention of weather could deprive Australia of victory.

Despite the loss of 28 overs due to a rain-affected pitch, Australia requireonly 33 overs to dispatch England before the tea adjournment.

England resumed with their heroes of the first innings, Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow occupying the crease.

But any hopes they would offer protracted resistance were swiftly extinguished when Bairstow succumbed to the first ball of Josh Hazlewood's first over — the second of the day without addition to his overnight score.

Jonny Bairstow walks off as the Aussies celebrate

There was a perfunctory quality to the remainder of the English resistance, which could have been of even more ignominious brevity had Moeen Ali not been spared a confident appeal for a slips catch courtesy of DRS.

The benefit of the doubt appropriately goes with the batsman, but the constant replays did nothing to convince me Steve Smith had not got his fingers between the ball and the turf.

Another whitewash looms

England has been comprehensively routed.

There are no easy or obvious answers to their problems — which now appear to include cascading mental disintegration.

Another whitewash looms. Their batting and bowling are both deficient.

Alastair Cook is now entering the twilight of his career.

It saddens me to write that — for he has been a fine player and even finer example of the best spirit of cricket.

Alastair Cook leaving the field as Australian players celebrate in the background.

He is a consummate gentleman and a fabulous role model.

He will leave the game as the greatest run scorer yet produced by England.

But he looks like a shadow of the player who dominated Australia in 2010-11.

His dismissal in the second innings here was cringe-inducing, prodding with hard hands at a routine ball from Hazlewood who admittedly took an acrobatic catch.

But when time's tide is ebbing for batsmen, they almost find arcane ways to get out.

With nothing at stake but their pride and no obvious replacement, England may yet retain Cook for the remaining Test matches.

But Mitchell Johnson has written he has discerned in Cook the same loss of verve that he felt on the cusp of his own retirement.

I find myself in regretful agreement.

I saw the same relentless commitment to practice fail to help Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid when their bells tolled.

Root's dismissal culpable, smacked of mental disintegration

Nor is their skipper Joe Root playing to his potential.

Not so long ago, he was mentioned in the same breath as Virat Kohli and Smith as vying for the accolade of best batsman in the world.

The imbalance between the contributions of the rival skippers in this contest is both telling and decisive.

Like Cook, Root's dismissal on Sunday was culpable and smacked of mental disintegration.

He flashed at the widest ball Nathan Lyon has bowled all summer.

When a captain's knock was desperately needed, he squandered his wicket like a grade hacker.

Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood consistently threatening

But the decisive difference between these teams, as it was in 2013-14, is the sheer venom and menace of the Australian pace attack.

All three of the quicks are routinely clocking 140km/h or better.

They are also ruthlessly employing the bouncer, have sensed the English are squeamish against the short pitched rising ball on the harder Australian surfaces.

Whereas in 2013-14, Johnson's explosive pace dominated and Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle provided valuable support — in this series, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood have all looked consistently threatening.

The corrosive effect on the nerves of any batting order of sustained pace bowling without respite cannot be overstated.

Josh Hazlewood celebrates a wicket at the WACA

It was the foundation of the dominance of the great West Indian lineups of the 1980s and 1990s.

It is premature to accord greatness to this trio.

Yet they are menacing and operate superbly as predatory unit.

With the exception of Malan, the English batting order seem to be intimidated by their sheer pace.

On the other hand, the English attack lacks penetration.

It has become conventional wisdom that neither Jimmy Anderson nor Stuart Broad is as dangerous in Australia with the Kookaburra ball as they are at home with the Duke ball.

But the malaise in the English attack runs deeper than that.

Both their key strike bowlers look burnt-out and innocuous compared to the Australian pace attack.

Sure, Anderson claimed five wickets in the Australian inning — but four of those came when the Australians had established a damaging lead.

Broad's 0/142 was simply lamentable.

England lack any fast bowler with what is known in the Caribbean as the "badness".

As Australia ground them down on Saturday and Sunday, Anderson and Broad looked like net bowlers, rather than the two most prolific wicket takers to play for England.

Australia wins the Ashes

Hard to fault a single selection decision

This has been an emphatic Australian triumph.

It has been a triumph for the entire selection, coaching and high performance systems of which I, among many commentators, have been critical.

But it is hard to fault a single selection decision this summer.

Both the Marsh brothers have justified their inclusions and Tim Paine has kept tidily and scored valuable runs.

The sustained workload of the fast bowlers, especially Cummins — with his history of back problems, is a credit to the entire coaching and support staff.

And so the urn returns.

And to the chagrin of the English, the rain came again not long after they capitulated.

It's going to be a tough tour from here.

Original Article

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