Ashes Betting: England dozing to another deja vu disaster

Moeen's injury has hurt England
Moeen's injury has hurt England
Join today

Ed Hawkins has seen and heard it all before from past Ashes tours and says the tourists are mentally shot...

"Stokes has, surely, become a distraction. And this is something that will probably be admitted to in time. The constant will-he won't-he saga has been a bit of a circus."

Before the start of this Ashes tour, BBC Radio 5 Live released a programme called Pomnishambles: the inside story of England's 2013-14 whitewash. It made for fascinating listening as an anatomy of a sporting disaster. It also wondered what lessons could be learnt.

With England 2-0 down following a hopeless effort in Adelaide and with Perth to come, where they have not won since bell-bottom trousers and Elton John had hair, history threatens to grimly repeat. So it really is worth dwelling on that ponderable from four years ago. More specifically what, as punters, have we learnt about England Down Under?

When you listen to Pomnishambles - and you remember that you were not on the 5-0 wager - it is hard not to wonder why the hell you didn't clean up. It was so patently obvious that England were broken, physically and mentally, individually and collectively.

There were fast bowlers looking impotent on hard, bouncy decks. There were doubts about the solidity of the opening partnership. There was a tail which were being blown away by home quicks. There was Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann leaving the tour early. There were injuries.

All of which was in clear view. What wasn't known was how the setbacks, calamities and defeats impacted the dressing room. We didn't know there was infighting. We didn't know that bowlers were blaming batsmen, senior players were being talked about as quitters by the greenest members of the squad. Had we done so, we would have done a mortgage job on 5-0.

The 2016-17 version is not exactly the same in terms of the setbacks, calamities and defeats. But it is not far off. So in four years' time will punters listen to another Five Live special and say the same 'oh, it was all so obvious'? Perhaps not. That's because England appear to have already been discarded. Lessons have been learnt. England consistently fail to display the mental fortitude to win in Australia.

England unbackable

A 5-0 whitewash is the [3.35] jolly on the correct score and Australia are down to [1.62] for a de rigeur win at the WACA. As for the series market, the [1.06] about Australia after just two games surely marks the contest down as one of the greatest anti-climaxes since Mary piped up top Joseph "he's not yours pal".

As we have said before in this column, Ashes tours in Australia are remembered by Aussies as to the first tangible sense that the series was theirs. We're not here to argue or suggest when that was because we do things a little differently. Our task is to try to get a sense for when England become unbackable, as we have a natural anathema, as most value seekers do, to avoiding the favourite.

Well, that time has surely come. And Pomnishambles has certainly assisted in that regard. Considering the fiascos that have undermined England so far, it is safe to assume that they are one routine Waca-ing from another meltdown.

For sure history will not remember Joe Root's decision to bowl first at Adelaide fondly. It perhaps gave a glimpse into the significant frailty of the England dressing room. That there is a stomach-churning realisation that, on these pitches, they are not going to take 20 Australian wickets.

So when presented with a bit of moisture and cloud cover, Root snaffled the treat like an over-eager puppy. And as if to prove him right, his bowlers then bowled short. Ah, but they then razed Australia under lights?

This is true. But you have to consider why England were suddenly able to hit their line and length. They could have bowled short again. That they didn't was, probably, down to pressure. With the game almost certainly lost, there wasn't any. England could relax. Minds and muscles were not tight. Any sports psychologist worth his salt would have made the connection and scribbled down that this lot are at breaking point.

Stokes a circus act

The respective fortunes of Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes are not insignificant. They are the Swann and Trott of this edition, although with obvious differences.

Moeen is, frankly, injured. He ripped his spinning finger in the warm-up and has not recovered. Just like Swann when he lost the feeling in his bowling fingers and was wracked with self-doubt, Moeen is hurting inside. It robs England of a genuine match-winner.

Stokes has, surely, become a distraction. And this is something that will probably be admitted to in time. The constant will-he won't-he saga has been a bit of a circus. And for this the ECB must take full blame. He should have been unequivocally ruled out of the tour or been allowed to play until charged by police. No doubt there are players in the camp who agree with one view or the other.

The all-rounder has become something intangible and mysterious himself this series, some feat for someone not playing. Now in New Zealand he is tantalisingly close. A saviour for his team-mates and country just out of reach. A reminder of what you could have won.

It is reminiscent of the crocked Michael Vaughan. During the whitewash of 2006-07 Vaughan was the spectre of captain's past. Like Tiny Tim he would hobble to each viewing window and tap weakly, with his nose pressed to the glass, desperately hoping to be allowed in or that his dodgy knee would miraculously heal.

This current tour has echoes of that trip, too. And again Adelaide was the turning point. Although the match circumstances were entirely different - England looked certain of a draw - the end result was the same. A horrible batting collapse and humiliation. The breakdown followed.

Join today

Discover the latest articles