Ashes 2017/18: Poor conversion rate plaguing England in the Ashes
Totals of 302, 195, 227, and 233 don't win you Test matches. Those were the totals England racked up in the ongoing Ashes series, however, in spite of such low scores, England managed to dominate portions of the two Tests.
In the first Test, for a period of time, James Vince (83), Mark Stoneman (53) and Dawid Malan (56) dominated the Australian bowling. However, England collapsed from a strong position of 246-4 to 302 all out.
In the second Test, England showed glimpses of their fight and at one staged looked set for a memorable run chase. Chasing a total of 354, England made a positive start and were well placed at 169-3. Even though they lost Malan at the end of the fourth day, they still had Joe Root (67) batting with Chris Woakes.
Day 5 followed a different script altogether though. Josh Hazlewood got rid of Root and Woakes within a space of two overs and England collapsed yet again, all out for 233, handing the Aussies a 120-run win.
How the Aussies emerged victorious
On the other hand, Australia were struggling at 76-4 in the first innings of the first Test at the Gabba. However, they ended up amassing a healthy 328, 26 runs more than England, thanks to a sublime 141* from skipper Steven Smith. In the second Test, Shaun Marsh scored a brilliant 126* to help them post 442.
The two centuries had a significant impact on the outcome of both the Tests. Both were match-winnings knocks under pressure. Things could have been different had Smith and Marsh been dismissed after getting a fifty.
Moments can win you matches and thereby series as well. Vince was batting really well and looked all set to score his maiden ton in the first Test. Batting on 83, he took on Nathan Lyon and attempted a suicidal run, perhaps the only mistake he committed during his knock. Lyon's brilliant pick-up throw caught Vince short of the crease.
We could have witnessed a different Ashes had Vince carried on and made a hundred. It would have lifted spirits in the England camp.
Root has the habit of making fifties and then getting dismissed. His conversion rate is very poor. In the last eight matches, he has crossed 50 eight times but managed a single hundred, against West Indies at Birmingham in August 2017. In this series, he made a couple of fifties, 51 and 67. To get starts on a consistent basis is tough and Root is getting those. However, the time has come for him to convert his fifties into hundreds.
Malan and Stoneman also scored a fifty apiece. They too failed to convert it into a big score. Jonny Bairstow is batting out of position in this series. No. 7 is too low for a player of his calibre. It would be better to bat him up the order, maybe at 5 or 6.
Generally, when Alastair Cooks gets a start, he converts it into a big score. Unfortunately for England, he has been out of touch this season. Meanwhile, Moeen Ali has to learn how to tackle Lyon if he is to make a big contribution.
It is not as though England are having a torrid time in Australia but their conversion of fifties into hundreds is a concern. Fifties won't win you matches, fifties won't save you matches. It is hundreds, daddy hundreds that decide the fate of a match. If England are to make a comeback in this Ashes, they need work on scoring more centuries.