Cricket: Ashes collapse different to last one, says review author

Steve Finn.
Steve Finn.
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England’s once world-beating Test team is two years past its peak but can regenerate, after this winter’s chastening Ashes defeat, in time to beat Australia again in 2015.

That free advice comes without the need for a far-reaching review of English cricket on this occasion, from the author of the Schofield Report – commissioned the last time an Ashes whitewash was dished out to the tourists down under.

With just the final Test in Sydney to come, Alastair Cook’s team are in imminent danger of becoming the second from England in just three attempts to lose 5-0 in Australia.

Coach Andy Flower has already acknowledged the merit of a review into what has gone wrong.

But Ken Schofield, called upon officially in that capacity six years ago and responsible back then for recommending a 19-step overhaul of policy, believes there is no such pressing need this time.

Australia, he contends, have already shown England the blueprint for what is required by recovering so emphatically and quickly from last summer’s 3-0 away Ashes defeat.

“They’ve found their best team in about four months,” said Schofield. “We probably peaked about two years ago.”

He suspects an unprecedented sequence of 10 Ashes Tests in under six months has taken its toll.

It is a calendar devised at the behest of the England and Wales Cricket Board, in order to escape the previous encumbrance of a winter in Australia forever prefacing a World Cup immediately afterwards.

“I rather feel the 3-0 win that Alastair’s team got this summer took a lot more out of them than we probably thought,” said a man whose reputation was made in sport as the long-serving executive director of golf’s European Tour.

“Leave aside any issues with the structure of cricket, the one thing that’s really acted against them – and I do feel for them here – is the schedule.

“This is the first, and I hope, the only time we will play the Ashes back to back in the same year. We know the reasons why – let’s hope we never have to again.”

The consequence has been an embarrassment for England, but not one – according to Schofield – which necessarily heralds an era of under-achievement.

“It’s not gone well, but I do think we should take it on the chin and say to ourselves that the Aussies came back from an all-time low really at Lord’s in June – and by November were whipping us,” he said.

“Now we’ve got 15 or 18 months to do the same to them.”

One of the most notable individual causes of concern among England’s personnel is the loss of form suffered by Steven Finn – to the extent the fast bowler has apparently been nowhere near selection in four Tests to date, despite the ineffectiveness of some who have played.

Schofield cites him as a specific project for England’s coaching staff to crack. He said: “Maybe we can find bowling coaches who can help Steven Finn find his 90mph-plus.

“He’s lost confidence – perhaps he can find it back.”

Former Durham seamer Steve Harmison does not see this winter’s blip as a reason to rip up much of what is right with England.

“Our domestic game was in tatters then [2006-7] – it was terrible,” said Harmison. “We got our structure right then – it’s still right, and we’re still moving forward.”

Up for the cup: L-r, Gary Hetherington, Steve Patterson, Steve Cavanagh and Ryan Hall.

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