Ashes 2019: England must go back to the drawing board after Ashes failure

By Sports Desk September 08, 2019

England have savoured the most glorious of Sunday triumphs over the last two months but they paid the price for their shortcomings at Old Trafford.

A fortnight after Ben Stokes' astonishing century gave them a one-wicket win to level the series at Headingley, and eight weeks on from winning the Cricket World Cup at Lord's, England's hopes of retaining the Ashes were shattered in Manchester.

Starting the final day in deep trouble on 18-2, Joe Root's side needed to bat all day for a draw against a potent Australia bowling attack to keep the Ashes within reach.

A win was highly unlikely after being set a mammoth 383, but England hung in there with a draw their goal until the final hour - roared on by a raucous, partisan crowd in Manchester.

New opener Joe Denly dug in for a half-century, while Jason Roy - down to number four - hung around longer than usual before Jos Buttler, Craig Overton and Jack Leach frustrated Australia with an old-school approach to Test batting.

There were textbook forward defensive shots, leaves and dot balls galore as a lively, packed crowd sensed another great escape.

It was not to be on this occasion, though, as with the clock having ticked into the final hour, Josh Hazlewood trapped Overton leg before to end England's resistance.

All out for 197 after soaking up 91.3 overs, their battling display of application was in vain as Australia, who began the series as Ashes holders, celebrated taking a 2-1 lead with just one match to play at The Oval next week.

A dejected Root said in his press conference: "The guys fought extremely bravely, really dug in, made it very difficult for Australia, put a really strong price on a wicket and that almost makes it a little bit harder to take.

"But at the same time, I couldn't be more proud of how we fought today."

Had they demonstrated the same patience with the bat before this tense last day, there may have been a chance of putting icing on the cake at the end of the English summer by lifting the urn.

While Australia were ruthless - holding their catches, with their pace attack showing relentless intensity and Steve Smith simply irrepressible - England were far too charitable in the penultimate Test.

Smith's magnificent first-innings double-century came after he was dropped by Jofra Archer and called back when Leach had him caught by Stokes at first slip, but overstepped.

Tim Paine made a half-century after being dropped twice as England continued to let Australia off the hook.

There have been head-scratching selections throughout the series, with the batting order changed time and again, and captain Root making some puzzling decisions at key times.

England might be able to salvage a series draw, but as the Australia squad celebrated with a beer on the outfield long after they sealed a deserved win, knowing they will retain the urn come what may, Root's men must go back to the drawing board.

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    Jordan Henderson demanded an apology from Krasimir Balakov after the Bulgaria head coach did not offer outright condemnation of the racist abuse directed towards England players during their 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win in Sofia.

    Play was stopped twice before half-time during a comfortable victory for Gareth Southgate's men on Monday, with an address over the Vasil Levski National Stadium urging an end to racist chanting before a number of Bulgaria fans were removed from the ground.

    England players informed the match officials of the discriminatory behaviour and an abandonment looked possible at one stage, although Harry Kane would ultimately round out an emphatic scoreline set in motion by Marcus Rashford's blistering opener and embellished by braces from Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley.

    Henderson exchanged words with Balakov during one of the breaks in play and was aghast when he heard the 53-year-old had stated after the game that the allegations of racism must be "proven", choosing instead to criticise the behaviour of England supporters and a pre-match focus upon a potential for racist incidents.

    "I had a few words with the manager. It wasn't acceptable – something needs to be done," the Liverpool captain told Sky Sports News.

    "He needs to apologise now, really, on behalf of the team and the fans. He knows what was going on. He was asking me what the problem was.

    "When I told him he knew what was going on, it was baffling how he didn't, really. Hopefully he looks back and apologises because anyone watching that game would be disgusted really."

    England discussed whether they should resume the match at half-time and Henderson, angered by what had transpired, took pride in their unanimous response in the face of adversity.

    "I felt angry," he said. "They're my team-mates, my friends who I've known for a long time and I share a dressing room with.

    "It was shocking to see. I was so angry at one point but the game goes on, you've got to switch the focus to the football.

    "At half-time we spoke about it, we wanted to carry on. If one person said they didn't want to go out then we wouldn't have done and that would have been it.

    "But everybody's message was we wanted to make them suffer and not make them win. I felt we did that brilliantly."

  • Kick It Out demands UEFA 'show leadership' after England players receive racial abuse in Bulgaria Kick It Out demands UEFA 'show leadership' after England players receive racial abuse in Bulgaria

    Anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out has slammed UEFA for its handling of England's Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria, and its previous punishments for racial abuse.

    England's 6-0 win on Monday was halted twice in the first half, with the match seemingly set to be abandoned amid chants from sections of Bulgaria's support at Vasil Levski National Stadium, which was partially shut due to previous incidents of racist abuse from some home supporters.

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    However, Kick It Out has questioned why the protocol was not followed afterwards, while criticising UEFA's attempts at tackling racism.

    "We are sickened by the disgusting racist abuse directed at England men's team tonight by Bulgaria supporters – including TV footage which appeared to show Nazi salutes and monkey noises," Kick It Out stated.

    "We applaud Gareth Southgate, his staff and players for the actions taken in reporting the abhorrent abuse, and offer our full support to the entire squad, their families and anyone affected by those appalling scenes.

    "We are encouraged that the protocol was initially enforced by the match officials, but UEFA must explain why players weren't sent to the dressing room during Step Two, as is clearly stated in the rules.

    "TV footage also clearly shows that racist abuse continued in the second half, so it is unacceptable that Step Three was not enforced. This match should have been abandoned by the officials.

    "It's now time for UEFA to step up and show some leadership. For far too long, they have consistently failed to take effective action.

    "The fact Bulgaria are already hosting this game with a partial stadium closure for racist abuse shows that UEFA's sanctions are not fit for purpose.

    "There can be no more pitiful fines or short stadium bans. If UEFA care at all about tackling discrimination – and if the Equal Game campaign means anything – then points deductions and tournament expulsion must follow."

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