Following England's humiliating 10-wicket loss in the third and final Test against the West Indies, the usual questions popped up once again. How can the team's young batters rectify their techniques? Will Joe Root remain as captain? Is the County Championship fit for purpose? Who will be the next coach? What to do next with Stuart Broad and James Anderson?
In the immediate spotlight after the series loss in the Caribbean were England's remarkable batting collapses on pitches that produced lamentable draws.
Young England batters left with work to do
To put it simply, England have an oversupply of young white-ball talent, or even just one-innings wonders.
But the exigence of Test cricket is far more challenging as a batter needs to spend hours in the middle and in the nets, refining a technique that can withstand countless hours of top-notch bowling.
It is incumbent on Test batters to make sound decisions for extended periods of time, with any slip in concentration often contributing to their downfall.
England batters are now excised for getting out through lapses in concentration, with a stack of them repeating a cycle of being picked, not performing, getting dropped, and then reappearing when external pressure is at its heighest point.
England lack players at the top of the order who can bat for a long time and build important partnerships, often dumping added expectations and hope on Joe Root. If the skipper falls early, it often leads to a batting collapse for his side.
Realistically, England only have two other senior batters in their lineup alongside Root - Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes. The experienced duo bat in the middle order, leaving added pressure on the fragile top order.
Mediocre scores of late have not been singled out as one-off occasions. They happen regularly, which has taken England to the bottom of the World Test Championship standings.
Additionally, the nation's domestic first-class set-up does them no favors. The County Championship is marginalized, making batting techniques more and more scrutinized. Concern over techniques begins with players not developing properly through the emergence of white-ball cricket.
The County Championship has long been a breeding ground for defensive techniques, but that important apprenticeship is falling away. The premier domestic competition lets batters learn how to defend.
Leading English cricket broadcaster David Lloyd believes the County Championship is critical to developing sound Test-match worthy batting techniques. He explained while speaking to the Daily Mail:
"I’m old school and believe that young players will learn the game at their counties, experiencing the rigours its different conditions, pitches and opponents provide. For young players to improve, though, you have to play county cricket no earlier than May, play three divisions, keep all 18 counties and have a one-up, one-down competition over the summer."
He said that the greatest batters to have played the game could all hit the ball, but could also defend one too, adding:
"I will give you some names: Viv Richards, Martin Crowe, Kevin Pietersen, Brian Lara, Virat Kohli. You associate all with expansive stroke-play. But they only took that route when the situation dictated. If they sensed a time to take stock and absorb good bowling, they could. All the great players of this game have been able to change gears like that."
England's spectacular batting collapses in the third Test
Root's side fell to 114/9 on Day 1 before an innings-saving last-wicket stand took them to 204 in the series-deciding third and final Test.
After the Windies posted 297 in reply, the visitors' second innings followed a similar story on the third day. England were bundled out for a mere 120, owing to an incredible bout of bowling from West Indies pacer Kyle Mayer, who returned with figures of 18/5 from 17 overs.
The hosts chased down the platyr target of 28 without losing a wicket, thereby clinching the series.
England will next host New Zealand for a three-Test series in June, before a re-scheduled one-off Test match against India in July and a three-match series against South Africa in August-September.
It remains to be seen if Joe Root and Co. can fine-tune their techniques to avoid similar batting collapses in the upcoming series.