By George Marrable
- Australia beat England by an innings and 41 runs to regain the Ashes
- Captain Steve Smith led the way for Australia with 239 in the first innings
- England will look to address these five crucial areas to avoid a 5-0 whitewash
PERTH, AUSTRALIA – A mammoth score of 662-9 declared set Australia up for Ashes victory as they beat England to take a 3-0 lead and regain the Ashes from England. We assess the areas they need to improve to avoid a 5-0 defeat.
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Find an answer to Steve Smith
Not for the first time in the series – and likely not the last time – Steve Smith was instrumental in Australia’s victory at the WACA. His huge score of 239 in Australia’s innings helped propel them to their score of 662-9 declared.
It sounds like a broken record after every innings as England search for an answer to dismiss the World No. 1 batsman. After the day night test in Adelaide, England believed they finally found a way through his unorthodox yet imperious defences, but that appears to be a mere blip in his form.
England seem to have very little answer to the Australian captain, especially with the lack of movement England’s bowlers can get down under. Smith can exploit England’s bowlers who, in Australian conditions, are no more than a repetitive right arm action bowling machine, leaving Smith free to bat with fluidity all around the park.
The Adelaide test showed Smith is not quite invincible, but if England are to avoid a whitewash, Smith is the man they need to beat. Whilst his technique is not quite textbook, he knows how to execute it, but this leaves him with inevitable flaws.
England have previously tested him with the short ball, and he is known to be weak around 4th stump outside off stump, but England need to push him to his limits and make him earn his runs, rather than offering freebies.
Batsmen need to perform consistently
Something England have been trying to work on, seemingly after every test for the last few years, is their batting lineup, and their problems have, once again, come back to haunt them in the third test at the WACA.
The early stages of England’s first innings gave the barmy army some hope that this test was finally the time that it all fell into place. With Jonny Bairstow promoted up the order, both him and Dawid Malan made centuries in a partnership worth 237, and Mark Stoneman had made a half century earlier in the innings to set them on their way
But consistency is key, and it’s something England desperately lack. Malan, one of England’s best batsmen in the series, made a half century, but the rest continued to struggled. Whilst James Vince also picked up a half century before getting the ball of the series from Mitchell Starc, he and Malan were the only two batsmen to pass 50 in the second innings.
Even with Joe Root in their side, there’s been no reliability in their batting lineup; not one player has performed regularly. At the top of the innings, Alistair Cook has struggled, placing immediate pressure on the inexperienced Vince, which in turns applies the pressure on the rest of the lineup.
And, with their lower middle order consistently collapsing, the Australian bowlers smell blood as soon as England are four or five wickets down.
Whilst England fail to be consistent with their scores, their consistency of dismissal is frightening. As Root falls to the leg side and Vince flashes outside the off stump, Australian bowlers know where to bowl to them, bowling with a plan to restrict their scoring. Unless England’s batsmen rectify their flaws, a whitewash could well be on the cards.
A change is needed in their bowling lineup
England’s batting has been, at best, below par in Australia, but it’s hard to say their bowling attack has been much better. James Anderson, despite bowling in conditions that completely negate his skills, has been England’s most prolific bowler with 12 wickets in the series.
Their struggles have come purely in their selection. Anderson, along with Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes thrive in English conditions, bowling at their most effective on a green pitch with overcast conditions.
Australia, however, does not offer these conditions, and immediately places the England attack at a disadvantage. With a consistent string of right arm bowlers, bowling at 80-85mph, Australian batsmen can settle, play themselves in and make big scores without the threat of a major change of plan.
The tourists are hugely missing the likes of Mark Wood or Ben Stokes; someone who can bowl upwards of 85mph and get the best out of the Australian pitches. Their pace and carry through to the keeper would have caused massive problems for Australian batsmen, providing the bowling attack with a different dimension to what there is currently.
Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of the tour, which needs to be addressed quickly, is the poor bowling performance of Moeen Ali. Ali has failed to get much turn at all out of the pitches, picking up just three wickets from three test matches.
His place is now under threat, and would be much more so if it wasn’t for his value in the batting lineup. Mason Crane will now be pushing for a call up for the final two test matches, as a specialist leg spinner can cause mayhem to the Australia batting lineup.
England will try to avoid a whitewash in the fourth Ashes test in Melbourne on December 26th.
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