Do England retain any Ashes hope?

It’s not going to be an easy life being a middle-order batsman for England ths summer. It’s bad enough having to face New Zealand and Australia but in the background is the presence of former England batsman Kevin Pietersen.

Constant Reminder

Every time Ian Bell, Gary Ballance or Joe Root gets dismissed for a low score, Pietersen’s name will be dragged into the headlines again, but it’s about time all that stopped if England are to have any hope of regaining the Ashes this summer. We all know that the guy who caused huge unrest in the England dressing room and then criticised all and sundry in his book, is not going to be picked for England even if every middle-order batsman was dismissed for golden ducks this summer.

So it’s time to put the Pietersen problem behind us and concentrate on whether England can somehow get the better of Australia later this summer. It’s not just the fact that they have been struggling in the past year but the return to form of Australia since they lost the Ashes in England two years ago.

Reverse of fortunes

At that time Alastair Cook’s men were at the top of the world rankings, while Australia had just lost a series in India 4-0 and then slumped to a 3-0 series defeat in England. However, a closer look at that series shows that Australia had the chance to win it. Just a few months later on home territory they destroyed England 5-0 and since then have beaten South Africa and India and won the World Cup.

That’s the World Cup in which England couldn’t even make it out of the group. That disappointment was then followed by a disappointing series draw in the West Indies that again illustrated the battling fragilities that are likely to be exposed time after time this summer.

All change

The return of Jonathan Trott to the side proved a short-lived one and new opener Adam Lyth made a disappointing start to his test career as England slumped to 30-4 against New Zealand at Lord’s. The prospect of our batsman facing Mitchells Johnson and Starc, and Josh Hazelwood isn’t a thrilling one. Aussie spinner Nathan Lyon is going to be a big threat too.

England can’t always rely on the likes of Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes to come to the rescue after Alastair Cook, Lyth and Bell have failed.

Australia’s batsmen look far more threatening with David Warner, Chris Rogers, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Steve Smith and Brad Haddin all capable of big centuries. England’s bowling line-up can of course be a threat especially when the ball starts to swing but if James Anderson or Stuart Broad get injured, then they are really going to struggle to be able to dismiss Australia twice in a match.

At least the home side will actually coach in place before the Ashes series begins with the appointment of Trevor Bayliss being confirmed. Surely though it should have been England’s top priority to get a new permanent coach in place before the New Zealand series began. Peter Moores should have gone after the World Cup disaster in order to get a new coach used to the job and imposing his influence on his players.

Regardless of that, the most important thing England can do is not to lose the first Test. Letting Australia get even more confident really could be the first step towards another 5-0 whitewash. England can regain the Ashes but they’re going to need at least four batsmen and two bowlers in peak form and no, Mr Pietersen, that doesn’t mean you.

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