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December 14th, 2017


Heading to Perth two down with three to play is the nightmare Ashes scenario for all England cricket followers but, as hard an equation as it looks, Joe Root and his team must maintain the belief they can still turn the series around.

Losing under the lights in Adelaide saw Australia land a huge blow in their quest to regain the Ashes but, while the series is still alive, all those of an English persuasion have to hold out hope.

For me, the second Test was lost very early on. There has been a lot of criticism about Joe’s decision to insert Australia after winning the toss but I still maintain that was the right decision.

The overhead conditions were favourable and Joe saw the chance to make early inroads into the Australian batting line-up and capture the momentum.

The fact is that the bowlers simply didn’t perform as well as they could have done. They didn’t bowl badly but they hit what I would call ‘pretty’ lengths – deliveries that don’t go for runs but don’t take wickets either.

We needed to get the Aussies on the front foot trying to drive and risk going for a boundary or two to get a wicket.

England deserve credit for the way they fought back as a team. James Anderson and our very own Chris Woakes bowled excellently under the lights to give us an outside chance of a famous victory.

I think we were all clinging to hope when Joe was still there on the final morning, but we needed him to go on and make a hundred to have a chance. Truth be told, English dreams were shattered within three overs on that fifth day with the loss of the skipper.

The other big decision under scrutiny was the one made by Steve Smith not to enforce the follow-on. I actually think Smith got that one right too.

I understand that bowling under the lights would have given Australia the chance to break the back of England’s second innings, but Smith was playing the long game to ensure his bowlers can get through a five match series.

In terms of England team changes for Perth, I don’t think there will be many at all – if any. The one that is being spoken about is bringing in Mark Wood, but Craig Overton did well on his debut and, for me, deserves another chance.

One alteration I would like to see is to the batting order. Jonny Bairstow is one of England’s biggest batting assets at the moment and needs to be higher than No 7.

This is a batting line-up desperately in need of runs and Bairstow should come in when he is able to make a real difference, rather than having to take his chances with the tail.

Unfortunately for England, the off-field sagas are continuing to dominate as much as the on-field action.

It’s an extremely difficult situation for the management and the likes of Andrew Strauss and Trevor Bayliss must be really frustrated that, each time things seem to be back on an even keel, another incident happens.

I’ve no doubt the riot act has been read to the players but these negative headlines are really undermining the tour.

It may be that the recent incidents wouldn’t have had half the impact in the media in normal circumstances, but the Ben Stokes affair has changed the whole dynamic of this tour and players have to make good decisions at all times.

The focus of the entire touring party should be on one thing – winning a vital Test in Perth in the most important series in world cricket.

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