And as quick as that, it was all over. What’s more, we can’t say we didn’t see it coming.
Australia outclassed England in almost every way. The England players are going to cop some stick – as I know as well as anyone – and while I don’t want to add to the bombs that’ll be raining down on them, there’s no getting around a few things.
Alastair Cook, as the senior player in this team, is under massive pressure.
People are, understandably, going to talk about his future, and question him. But who is out there to take his place? Nobody.
I can’t see England dropping him. He’s been a special player and deserves the right to call his own future.
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) December 18, 2017
But when he said before the last Test that he hadn’t made his mind up about continuing, it made me think, ‘you’ve thought about it then’. Rather than saying ‘it isn’t even on the radar’, he’s made it clear that he’s thought about not playing.
Given his performances in this series, including the warm-up matches, it looks as though the end is nigh and there’s an opportunity for the next generation.
It comes down to whether he still has the hunger to continue. Towards the end of your career, your job simply is to score runs, a lot of them. If you don’t do that, like Cookie hasn’t, you’re going to come under pressure.
You get to a point with England, it’s very strange, after a certain amount of time playing that it hurts. The travelling, the preparation, the family sacrifices needed to be an elite player.
If you’re not desperate to do all that, you can’t hide in international cricket. The intensity now is so high, with all the tours and travelling you have to do, that it’ll get you at some point – everyone gets to a point where they lose that hunger.
Cookie is one of the best players I’ve ever played with. He’s a proud man and works extremely hard.
He will make a decision which is best for the team, rather than just for himself. He will do what’s right for England, which might be him carrying on.
Next Test will be brutal for England
I’ve sat in dressing rooms like this team are going to be in now. I know how hurt they’re going to be, the abuse they’re going to get, but they’ve given it everything.
You know that people like Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad will have been in the nets, getting hit, because they’re trying to do everything they can with the bat. Jimmy is one of the hardest men in cricket I’ve ever met, but Australia have three exceptionally quick bowlers that our tail end can’t deal with.
The whole team will be hurting right now.
The hardest thing for them is that they’ve got to go to the MCG and face 90,000 Australians who are ready to party.
There’ll be no pressure on the Aussie team, it’s all on England, and it’s a very hard environment to get out of. It’s a hostile environment and it’s going to be brutal. The England players need to dig real deep to get through these next two Test Matches. It’s going to be very hard for them.
They’ll be talking things through, with a lot of soul searching going on. They need to look inside themselves to find a way to front up again at the next Test, with question marks over everyone.
That’s the extremities of an Ashes tour, and what makes it so special – the highs are so incredible, and the lows are so low.
Changes, missed opportunities, Stoneman and Root
One of the worrying things for me is that the Australian bowling attack is young. If they stay injury-free when they come to England in 2019, they’re going to be better and put on a real challenge.
Their team isn’t going to change too much. For England, if we’re serious about winning the Ashes back, we need to start building the side now.
I think they’ll probably bring Mason Crane in, for some spin, in the next Test. Maybe Mark Wood will add some extra pace if Overton is injured.
Now is the time for changes, and we’ll look for some positives that way.
In Australia, on the flat pitches, you need to score runs. If you get an opportunity, and aren’t clinical, you lose. And we’ve seen that.
400 isn’t enough when you’re batting first. You go through periods, Down Under, where it does nothing – so you either need extreme pace, mystery spin or world-class spin. And we had none of that.
We had platforms throughout the series. In Brisbane, we should’ve got 450; in Perth, we should’ve had at least 500. You can’t ask 9, 10, 11 to get your runs every time.
There have been glimpses of good things. For Dawid Malan to score 200 runs in a Test Match where you lose by an innings says it all.
I like Mark Stoneman, but he needs a century – 50s aren’t going to win you anything in Australia. Playing OK doesn’t cut it over there – when we won it in 2011, Cook broke records. You have to do special things, and we haven’t done that.
Steve Smith has shown that. He’s been phenomenal. He’s the best batsman in the world at the moment, and I don’t think anyone knows how to get him out. He’s on a different level.
For Joe Root, it simply hasn’t worked on this tour.
He’s not the first England captain to have that said about them, but his record speaks for itself.