By Peter Hall
BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) – England will have a lot of soul searching to do about their player selections as well as their tactics after they were thrashed in the opening Ashes test despite reducing Australia to 122-8 in the first innings.
England’s gamble to include paceman James Anderson so soon after he had torn his right calf muscle backfired spectacularly.
Although he caused the visitors all sorts of problems when he opened the bowling on Thursday, Anderson only managed to bowl four overs before re-injuring the same calf – thus leaving the team a bowler down for the rest of the match.
“He passed every medical testing,” captain Joe Root said when asked if the 37-year-old should have been given more time to recover. “He was fit to play.
“It’s an easy thing to look back on and say we’d have done things differently. It was a unanimous decision for him to play.”
The opening partnership also continued to cause headaches for England as inexperienced batsman Jason Roy failed to get going with scores of 10 and 28 in his two innings.
The inclusion of Anderson and Roy will both be called into question before the second test at Lord’s as England slumped to a 251-run defeat, with Australia winning the opening test of an away Ashes series for the first time since 2005.
Root, though, remained defiant.
“We’ll turn up to Lord’s (for the next test) and make sure in the next few days we don’t make any shotgun decisions,” Root said. “We’re very clear about how we’re going to select the squad.
“Three days of this game we’ve pretty much controlled and been in charge of barring an hour and a half.
“It’s easy to forget all of the good stuff we’ve done with a bowler down.”
It was not just Anderson’s injury that caused concern. Experienced regulars Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali all failed to reach double figures with the bat in either innings.
Roy did little to allay fears that his batting style is not suited to test cricket when clean bowled going for a big shot in his second innings.
England’s tame surrender was hard to understand as it came just three weeks after they won the 50-overs World Cup with a thrilling victory over New Zealand in the final.
“There has not been much from the World Cup players in this game,” former England coach David Lloyd said. “They have now got a few days to get it out of their system.”
Off spinner Moeen also struggled to make an impact with the ball, finishing with figures of 3-172 in the match.
In comparison, his Australian counterpart Nathan Lyon grabbed nine wickets, including 6-49 in England’s second innings to steer the visitors to victory.
“England were playing with nine and a half men,” former England captain Michael Vaughan said. “If England had (former spinner) Graeme Swann at his peak, they would’ve won this.
“You need your spinner to produce on this wicket and Moeen Ali wasn’t good enough.”
Anderson’s fitness and the form of England’s experienced middle order batsmen will all be weighing on the selectors’ minds ahead of the second test.
Having lost a match in which England had the upper hand for the best part of three days, getting the line-up spot on for the Lord’s showdown is now crucial.
(Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Pritha Sarkar)