AS ANYONE in any sport will confirm, you’re only as good as your last match, last innings or last putt. The extreme fortunes of the England cricket team in the space of a handful of days exaggerates that belief, although the criticism of the performance of the squad came from a corner that was least expected.
Current skipper Joe Root was stunned by former England captain Michael Vaughan’s comments that his side had failed to respect the traditions of Test Cricket during their humbling 340-run defeat by South Africa at Trent Bridge.
Vaughan, now a commentator with BBC Radio’s Test Match Special, made his comments as England lost seven first-innings wickets for 62 runs to be bowled out in just a little more than 50 overs for 205 in reply to the visitors’ 335.
Root’s 78 was the only half-century in a disappointing total that left England always chasing the game.
“The England batting has been appalling,” said Vaughan. “Maybe it’s a lack of respect about what the game is. They look like they are playing a Twenty20 game. They have this approach of attack, attack, attack. There is no thought or feeling of seeing off a bowler or wearing a team down.”
England’s second innings in pursuit of a world-record target of 474 fared little better, with the home side bowled out for just 133 with more than a day to spare on the fourth day and for the second match in a row leaving holders of fifth day tickets more than short changed. South Africa have now levelled the series 1-0.
As the test series began later than usual this season, it’s been forgotten, perhaps, that following on from the disappointment in the winter this was England’s sixth defeat in their last eight tests. Root, the new captain and in his second test in charge was more than taken aback by his mentor and family friend Michael Vaughan.
“I think that’s very unfair – I can’t believe he’s actually said that. We pride ourselves on winning series like this, and unfortunately we’ve played poorly this week,” Root said.
But the Yorkshire batting star did accept that his side ought to be able to bat in different styles according to the match situation, whatever the individual preferences of members of his team.
“We need to make sure we learn quickly … (so that) if we are in a similar situation (in the third test) at The Oval, for example, we play it slightly smarter,” said Root.
“Part of test cricket is trying to find a balance of both (attack and defence) – and even if it’s not your strength, you build it into your natural game. You have periods where you can absorb a bit of pressure and find the right moment to apply it when chances come along. We are capable of doing it and have done it previously, but this wasn’t a very good example of it.”