England have suffered a humiliating defeat in the Ashes series with Australia, surrendering the urn in just 12 days of cricket across three lost Tests.

PAUL NEWMAN looks at the key mistakes that have made Chris Silverwood‘s position untenable and raise serious question marks about the leadership of English cricket.

It all started in New Zealand in late 2019 when newly appointed coach Silverwood, fresh from success at Essex and as England bowling coach, began talking a good game about planning for and peaking at this Ashes series. 

But what followed has been an unmitigated disaster, culminating in one of the worst and quickest defeats of them all.

Joe Root and his England team have been left utterly humiliated by Australia in the Ashes

Joe Root and his England team have been left utterly humiliated by Australia in the Ashes

Joe Root and his England team have been left utterly humiliated by Australia in the Ashes

Australia moved into an unassailable 3-0 lead and retained the Ashes in spectacular style

Australia moved into an unassailable 3-0 lead and retained the Ashes in spectacular style

Australia moved into an unassailable 3-0 lead and retained the Ashes in spectacular style

Flogging Archer 

Alarm bells started to ring over the Joe Root-Silverwood combination in the outpost of Mount Maunganui in their very first Test together, when Jofra Archer bowled a staggering 42 overs in one innings as New Zealand piled up a mammoth 615 for nine.

England were gifted a fast bowling thoroughbred, as was seen in the 2019 World Cup and against Australia in the Ashes at Lord’s that same summer, but were treating him like a workhorse.

Soon after in South Africa, Archer started getting serious problems with his elbow and England were robbed of their most potent weapon for this Ashes. A second operation has left question marks over whether his body can take the strains of Test cricket again, and it has to be asked whether England caused the issue with their mis-use of him. 

Jofra Archer was over-used, suffered an elbow fracture and ended up missing the Ashes series

Jofra Archer was over-used, suffered an elbow fracture and ended up missing the Ashes series

Jofra Archer was over-used, suffered an elbow fracture and ended up missing the Ashes series

The rest and rotation policy

Playing through the pandemic has not been easy, particularly for an England side who have been involved in more international cricket than any other team, but their way of dealing with it through a well-intentioned but too-clever-by-half rest and rotation policy hasn’t helped.

National selector Ed Smith appeared to be the architect but Silverwood, and the powerful figure of performance director Mo Bobat, have been complicit. The prioritising of Twenty20 cricket at the expense of Tests, supposedly until the start of the 2021 home series against India, was integral to this Ashes shemozzle.

It all came to a head in India earlier this year with the planned toing and froing of various players, England seeming to overlook the difficulties of international travel during the pandemic while undermining the supposed primacy of Test cricket.

England coach Chris Silverwood was complicit in an ill-judged policy of rest and rotation

England coach Chris Silverwood was complicit in an ill-judged policy of rest and rotation

England coach Chris Silverwood was complicit in an ill-judged policy of rest and rotation

Take Jonny Bairstow, who played an integral role at No 3 in the 2-0 win over Sri Lanka — England’s last Test series success — at the start of this year. 

Then he was sent home for a week to frosty and snowy Yorkshire, ostensibly to keep him fresh for white-ball matches, and endured a tortuous 24-hour journey back to the sub-continent for the third Test in Ahmedabad against India. His red-ball form has never been the same since.

Or how about Moeen Ali, who Root wrongly said ‘chose’ to go home after taking eight wickets in the second Test in Chennai, again to rest for T20 assignments. Moeen was soon to retire from Test cricket after being mucked around once too often.

Jonny Bairstow was treated poorly during the India series and endured a 24-hour journey

Jonny Bairstow was treated poorly during the India series and endured a 24-hour journey

Jonny Bairstow was treated poorly during the India series and endured a 24-hour journey 

Supremo error

Ashley Giles, England’s managing director, made a big mistake after the departure of Smith, the intellectual outsider, ahead of last summer when he made Silverwood England’s first ‘supremo’ since Ray Illingworth.

It may work in football and it may work if you get the right man in cricket, but as soon as the buck stopped with Silverwood, as Giles put it, selection became ever more erratic and again Test cricket was the loser.

There was increasing conservatism from the Root-Silverwood axis without a questioning voice from outside, too, such as when England refused even to consider chasing 273 off 75 overs to win the first Test of last summer against New Zealand.

Managing director Ashley Giles concentrated too much power in the hands of Silverwood

Managing director Ashley Giles concentrated too much power in the hands of Silverwood

Managing director Ashley Giles concentrated too much power in the hands of Silverwood

Pandering to IPL

That early summer series saw one of the most worrying decisions of all because it set a dangerous precedent that further gnawed away at the integrity of Test cricket.

Yes, the two Tests against New Zealand were arranged late as cricket tried to claw back revenue lost through Covid, but there was no way Giles and Silverwood should have allowed top players to miss them to play in the IPL.

It is weak to say they cannot be stopped because of the sums involved. England’s players are paid extremely well through central contracts and should never be missing Test cricket, certainly not in an Ashes year.

As it was, Ben Stokes suffered the broken finger in his first game for Rajasthan Royals that was to have serious repercussions for him and England, while a weakened Test side were soundly beaten at Edgbaston to lose a home series.

Ben Stokes (left) trudges off after being dismissed by Mitchell Starc during the third Test

Ben Stokes (left) trudges off after being dismissed by Mitchell Starc during the third Test

Ben Stokes (left) trudges off after being dismissed by Mitchell Starc during the third Test

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison (pictured) and other architects of the Hundred are set for a £2.1million bonus

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison (pictured) and other architects of the Hundred are set for a £2.1million bonus

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison (pictured) and other architects of the Hundred are set for a £2.1million bonus 

Hundred obsession 

Pandering to the IPL was a move that summed up how far English cricket has gone in favouring white-ball cricket since Giles’s predecessor Andrew Strauss understandably pressed the reset button after the miserable 2015 World Cup. It has gone way too far, as was seen last summer with the controversial introduction of the Hundred in peak summer.

Those who say the unnecessary new format cannot be blamed for the Test debacle forget that the Hundred was five years in the making and became an obsession for ECB chief executive Tom Harrison, former chairman Colin Graves and even broadcasters. The whole sorry business was summed up by the £2.1million bonus for Harrison and other architects of the Hundred at the same time as jobs were being lost at the governing body because of repercussions of the pandemic.

Surely Harrison cannot accept it now? It would be the most morally bankrupt payment in English cricket since all 18 counties failed to give back, or even give to charity, even a penny of the money they gained from the Stanford affair in 2008 that was found to have been ill-gotten gains.

Stupid selections 

Which brings us to the Ashes, a series that, really, should have been pushed back a year because of the continuing draconian measures to combat Covid in differing states of Australia. Money talks, of course, and the show went on, so what followed was a total lack of preparation for England and more bubble life in Queensland that left them exposed.

But they have made so many errors, from failing to pick Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad on a green top in Brisbane and then batting first, to then leaving out their only remaining fast bowler Mark Wood on a flat one in Adelaide, to the confusion about when to pick spinner Jack Leach.

Above all their batting, neglected by a domestic game that has pushed first-class cricket to the margins, has not been fit for purpose and, damningly, there does not seem anyone better than those failing in Australia now.

Jimmy Anderson (left) and Stuart Broad (right) watch on after being left out in Brisbane

Jimmy Anderson (left) and Stuart Broad (right) watch on after being left out in Brisbane

Jimmy Anderson (left) and Stuart Broad (right) watch on after being left out in Brisbane 

And now? Sack the lot of them!  

The problems run far deeper than this most miserable of Ashes thrashings, but that doesn’t mean heads won’t roll. They must.

This correspondent was among the few who believed Alastair Cook should stay as captain after the 2013-14 whitewash and that proved, eventually, to be correct. It can’t happen now.

Root, after his third failed attempt as skipper to win the Ashes, must go back to the ranks for his own good and the lack of any viable alternatives should not be a reason for him to carry on.

Joe Root has now failed to win in three Ashes series and must hand over the captaincy

Joe Root has now failed to win in three Ashes series and must hand over the captaincy

Joe Root has now failed to win in three Ashes series and must hand over the captaincy 

Someone will have to step up, even if it means England going all Chris Cowdrey and plucking someone from outside the squad.

Regrettably, Silverwood has to go, too. His post-match interview on Tuesday in which he said there are ‘still positives to be taken’ emphasised that he is out of his depth. The only positives from this tour are the six Covid cases in the camp that could jeopardise the rest of this series.

There are question marks, too, over Giles and Harrison, not to mention Bobat. Never before could ‘bring them home’ be said with such conviction. Never before has there been a more valid case for sacking the lot of them.

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