MELBOURNE: England has been beaten 5-0 in an Ashes series only three times. On the evidence of Tuesday’s innings defeat at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, captain Joe Root’s side could soon become the fourth.
Former England captain Ian Botham said he was “a little embarrassed."
“To lose the Ashes in 12 days . . . I just think that England have lost their way,” Botham said on Tuesday on Australia’s Seven Network. “The performance today summed it up.”
Trailing by 82 runs on the first innings of the third test, England resumed on Tuesday’s third day of play on 31-4 and was bowled out for 68, losing by an innings and 14 runs.
Australia didn't even need to wait until lunch before regaining the Ashes — less than halfway through the scheduled five-match series. One rather scathing social media user tweeted that Australia won the Ashes in a shorter time frame than the 14 days England spent in coronavirus-forced quarantine when they first arrived Down Under.
Surrounded by under-performing specialist batters, Root top-scored in both innings for England with 50 and 28, to finish the year on 1,708 runs in 15 test matches.
Only two players, Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf (1,788 in 11 matches in 2006) and West Indies’ Viv Richards (1,710 in 11 matches in 1976) have scored more runs in a calendar year.
“I feel like I’m playing nicely at the minute,” Root said of his lone hand in England's batting lineup. “I feel like my game is improving and I am evolving still as a player.”
Root said Australia’s bowling attack was outstanding on a helpful MCG pitch.
“You’ve just got to find a way to get through it sometimes,” Root said. “We need to put some pride back into the badge and we need to give people back home something to celebrate.”
Root said he was “really disappointed” for his bowlers, who had dismissed Australia for 267 in reply to England’s first innings of 185.
“They kept us in the game,” Root said.
Asked about his enthusiasm to continue as captain beyond this series, Root said his focus was on two upcoming tests in Sydney and Hobart in January.
“It would be wrong to look past that,” he said.
A national record-equaling 54 ducks this year, including four in the second innings at the MCG and matching England’s mark of 1998, is a fitting statistic for Root’s side.
Root questioned whether England’s domestic competition was adequately preparing players for test cricket. Some English commentators said members of England's Lions squad, also currently in Australia and mostly here as coronavirus backup for the main team, should be liberally imported into the team for the final two tests.
“The environment that they’re coming from is not readying them well enough for test cricket. It’s a very difficult place,” Root said of his domestic competition back home. “If you’re not ready . . . it makes it very difficult to improve. You need some strong inner belief. It has to come from within."