Heading for Whitewash Christmas?

Hampshire Chronicle: Chris Tremlett Chris Tremlett

YOU have to sympathise with those England fans flying to Australia for the last two Ashes Tests of a disastrous tour. They include Hampshire Cricket secretary Tim Tremlett, who will be in Melbourne and Sydney, no doubt having bought tickets and booked his flight in the hope of seeing son Chris produce the sort of heroics that helped England successfully defend the urn three years ago.

Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove is also planning to be at the MCG’s traditional Boxing Day Test.

A month ago, they and other ticket holders would have been the envy of all England fans, with a close-fought series expected to keep us on tenterhooks until the New Year. After all, at the same stage of the 2010/11 series, the contest was finely balanced at 1-1 before Chris Tremlett took an aggregate haul of 9-197 in Melbourne and Sydney.

How times change.

Tremlett was England’s one major positive of a heavy defeat in Perth three years ago, claiming 8-150 on his Ashes debut.

This time he had to watch as Ben Stokes provided the consolation performance in another Waca mauling as Australia retained the Ashes for the first time since the 5-0 swansong enjoyed by former Hampshire stars Shane Warne, Matt Hayden and several other greats. It is hoped that Tremlett snr and Bransgrove do not have to sit through another whitewash, but that is the fear.

With the Ashes now in the bag, you would usually expect England to escape from the MCG or Sydney with a draw or maybe even a consolation win. To play their best cricket after the main event like the England side of 2002-03, which won the final Test after losing four on the bounce.

The law of averages would usually make a 5-0 defeat unlikely, but England’s series averages suggest otherwise.

This Australia side is like a rabid dog. You cannot see them releasing their grip, so determined are they to prove a point to their critics and clinch what has been described as a ten-Test series, following England’s 3-0 ‘first-leg’ win in the summer.

But with the Ashes gone, England will just be focused on regaining some pride. At least this is a good opportunity to play Boyd Rankin and Gary Ballance and see if they take to Test cricket as well as Stokes has done.

Someone will surely come in for Stuart Broad, who is a doubt for the MCG after being yorked out of the third Test by Mitchell Johnson.

It may as well be Rankin, otherwise why take him.

Tremlett must also have a good chance of playing on the ground where he and James Anderson bowled Australia out for 98 on the first day of the corresponding Test of 2010-11. He was made a scapegoat after the Gabba capitulation and, while there is little doubt he has lost a yard of pace, he would do no worse than the rest of the attack.

Tremlett took a respectable four wickets at 30 apiece in Brisbane, an average that no England bowler other than Broad (14 wickets at 25) has come close to in this series. And his record of 21 wickets at 24.6 in four Test appearances in Australia would usually be one that demands inclusion.

It would at least make his dad’s journey more worthwhile, but Tremlett does not have a long-term England future and many of the current incumbents do not deserve one after what has gone on over the last four weeks. So where have we gone wrong?

Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott, and Paul Collingwood are three wise batsmen missing from the triumphant team of 2010-11.

It is likely that Trott will join the other two in retirement, at least from international cricket, but their replacements in England’s top six (Michael Carberry, Joe Root and Stokes) have not done too badly as our least experienced batsmen.

The failures of Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell have been harder to fathom.

All were expected to deliver and are so important to England that it is hard to make a case for dropping any of them. It is too early for the likes of Sam Robson and Hampshire’s James Vince to make the step up.

A change of captain is an option, however. Cook’s batting cannot be said to have been affected by the captaincy (he averages 49 as captain and 47 overall).

It is hard to believe it is only a year since Cook scored three centuries in as many Tests as England won in India. But something needs freshening up. Cook’s England look jaded, but who do you replace him with?

Matt Prior would have been an option once upon a time but with wicketkeeper-batsman alternatives available in the form of Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler, his place is under threat following a disastrous series with both the bat and behind the stumps.

The worry is the lack of options elsewhere.

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