Where do we go wrong with The Ashes?
After another batting collapse, something that has been prominent against this Australian side, you must ask the questions, why are the Australian batsman able to deal with our attack and why aren’t our players used to the conditions.
Let’s look at the first part, and it’s pretty much our own fault. The England and Wales Cricket Board, ECB, allows a certain number of players come over from abroad to play in our domestic game. They can play in the county championship, one day, T20 or all three teams (all formats). Each team are allowed two overseas players, this changed after the Kolpak ruling was terminated at the start of the 2021 county championship campaign.
The Kolpak ruling states that the players belonging to the countries that have a deal with the European Union can participate in any cricket tournament in an EU country without being considered an overseas player. South African players could use this to play in the United Kingdom through the Cotonou Agreement, a treaty between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. However, from January 1st, 2021, all the Kolpak deals have been cancelled by the ECB with immediate effect due to Brexit.
We look at those Cricket Australia players registered to play in the ECB domestic leagues, one that stands out from this list is Marnus Labuschagne (all formats) who plays for Glamorgan. He has been a stand our player for Cricket Australia so far in The Ashes, could him playing against our best bowlers in the domestic game have helped him know what sort of attack they are? With an average of 52.90 over the seven test matches he’s played against England since 2019 it would say he can pick the bowlers deliveries quite well. Would he have more experience over David Warner who had spells at Durham and Middlesex in the past? Why would we want to let those players get experience playing against our full attack, giving them a slight edge. It may be minimal but put that over a test series and minimal aspects can be the difference between winning and losing. We can also look on in slight admiration at his first innings knocks since being subbed in for Steve Smith at Lords on the final day of the test in August 2019. A concussion sub at the time after Smith had issues with his neck after a delivery from Jofra Archer the previous day, Labuschagne went to produce a match saving 59*. The statistics since that game are 74, 67, 48, 185, 162, 143, 63, 215, 47, 48, 91, 108, 74, 103, seven of these being against England. Other players that have spent the 2021 season in the United Kingdom include:
Southern Brave – Marcus Stoinis, David Warner
Trent Rockets – Nathan Coulter-Nile
Derbyshire – Ben McDermott (one-day & T20), Billy Stanlake (all formats)
Durham - Cameron Bancroft (first-class)
Essex – Peter Siddle (first class & one-day)
Glamorgan - Michael Neser (first-class & one-day)
Gloucestershire – Dan Worrall (all formats)
Leicestershire – Marcus Harris (first-class & one-day), Josh Inglis (T20)
Middlesex – Peter Handscomb (first-class & one-day), Mitch Marsh (T20)
Nottinghamshire – Dan Christian (T20)
Surrey – Sean Abbott (first-class and T20)
Sussex – Travis Head (all formats)
Worcestershire – Ben Dwarshuis (T20)
Of the starting 11 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, MCG, their ply their trade in the UK. How many of the England team play or fringe players any form of cricket in Australia? Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes having spells in the Big Bash competition for Melbourne Stars and Melbourne Renegades respectively. No one has taken the steps to get to know the pitches or players they’d be facing in a home Ashes by taking part in first class cricket down under, a place that we often struggle. We know that players are tied into Central Contracts have they games they can play dictated by the ECB, but the benefit of having players playing in southern hemisphere seasons could make those minimal differences that win games in future ashes.
With only two of the current XI only competing in white ball (T20 and one day international) competition, what seems to be the focus of the ECB over the last few years, could it be time now to get those players back into the red ball side of the game. England players have excelled in the short form of the game that has become such a big hit with cricket fans across the world but we must still focus on the game in its original format, 5 days, batmen digging in without scoring many runs, bowlers trying to get as many wickets in before the new ball, spinners loving day 3 onwards when the pitch has lost it bit of green and cracks are there to be exploited. Having success in the white ball is good but teams like Australia have been able to keep success in all forms as they have shown a willingness to let players travel to play games. Just like the ECB, Cricket Australia can dictate where and when players will be available outside of playing for the national team.
This is the time for the ECB to take stock of what has happened so far this winter and put it right, I’ve been lucky enough to witness some great England teams and winning the ashes in both the UK and Australia, let’s hope that those that can make the changes that will benefit the game for years to come.