5 things we have learnt from England's tour of Down Under

Australia v England - Fourth Test: Day 1
Senior players have failed to step up when it has mattered the most

England's away form is depressing for the Barmy Army, to say the least. England's tour of the land down under was supposed to be the true test of their credentials. But not even the most pessimistic of their fans would have expected such a meek surrender from their players.

England has now equalled their worst run of 12 consecutive overseas test matches without a win. They managed to pick up 20 wickets in only two of those twelve matches. More embarrassingly, they have suffered innings defeats in five of those last seven matches. They narrowly avoided the lowest score in test match history, and they have to thank tail-ender Craig Overton for saving them from this agony.

It has reached a sense of inevitability now and this predictable tale of crushing away defeats has left England with a lot of thinking to do once they head back home.

Here are some of the key learnings from their torrid tour of the land down under

#5 Poor slip catching

England v West Indies - 2nd Investec Test: Day Five
The slip fielders provide no sort of assurance to bowlers

Six or seven years ago England possessed some of the safest fielders patrolling the slip cordon. Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Alastair Cook were some of the best slip fielders across the world during their time. Batsmen could start taking the long walk back to the pavilion if the edge carried to the slip fielder. This is not the case now, though.

England has had to shuffle their slip cordon multiple times as they are yet to discover top-order batsmen to replace the retired stalwarts. Alastair Cook has put down plenty of catches in recent times and is no more the safe slip catcher he once was. Joe Root has also been sloppy in the slip cordon.

Ben Stokes is the only one who is capable of inspiring some sort of confidence to his bowlers. Dropping catches demoralize the bowlers, and when wickets are at a premium when travelling, dropping catches is a sin and England have dropped plenty of them.

#4 Lack of a quality spinner

New Zealand v England 1st Test: Day 1
Moeen Ali has failed to add value with either bat or ball

Moeen Ali came into the Ashes nursing a finger injury and he has had a tour to forget. The off-spinning all-rounder was expected to provide England with the balance in the absence of the talismanic Ben Stokes and Ali failed miserably.

Ali has been ineffective with the ball and has been treated like a part-time bowler and he could only pick up 5 wickets across the five test matches in Australia. He failed to cross 50 in even of the nine innings at the crease as his inefficiencies were badly exposed by the mighty Australian pace attack. This is terrible numbers, to say the least.

Things didn't improve in New Zealand as he failed to pick up a single wicket in the first test match and scored a duck and just 28 when England were battling hard to save the test match on the final day.

It is high time England look for other options. Mason Crane, who made his debut in Australia, had a rough initiation on a placid Melbourne wicket and deserves a longer run. Jack Leach, who has been the best spinner in county cricket for a while now, also deserves a go. Mason Crane, being a wrist-spinner and Jack Leach, being a left-arm spinner provide something different to an attack bereft of the craft. Joe Root can fill in with his part-time off-spin as and when required.

#3 Inability to convert half-centuries into hundreds

Australia v England - Fifth Test: Day 1
Joe Root was expected to lead his team from the front, with the bat

Taking the recent Ashes as a yardstick for comparison, Australia had 20 fifty plus scores, out of which 9 were converted into centuries. England's conversion rate though pales in comparison as they converted only 3 of their 16 fifty plus scores into hundreds. The prime culprit behind this is none other than the skipper himself, Joe Root.

Joe Root, without doubt, is one of the best batsmen across all formats. However where he falls way behind his counterparts is his poor conversion of fifties into match-winning tons. He has scored 38 fifties and only 13 hundreds in Tests, in no way befitting a player of his class.

This has also rubbed onto his teammates, who seemed to have developed the habit of getting in and getting out once set. England cannot expect to win matches when their batsmen fail to score big hundreds to set up the game for the bowlers.

#2 Shaky and insecure top-order

CA XI v England - Four Day Tour Match: Day 2
How many more matches will we see these two opening together?

England has problems running all through their top order. The runs have dried up from Alastair Cook's bat, and more technical problems seem to be popping up game after game. Some people are even questioning his presence in the side and rightly so.

However, England has an even bigger problem at the other side as they failed to identify an opener to replace the big boots of Andrew Strauss. They have used twelve players in the opening slot and are nowhere close to finding the answer. It seems that it's only a matter of time before Mark Stoneman faces the ax too.

They have struggled to replace Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell at No 3 and No 5 respectively. Ben Duckett, Tom Westley, James Vince are some of the names who have been tried at No 3 and have failed to live up to the hope. They must be looking for divine intervention to sort out these never-ending problems.

England doesn't have too many options ready to replace them and they'll have to dive deep into the county circuit to pick up replacements, and the signs aren't promising either.

#1 One dimensional pace bowling attack

Australia v England - First Test: Day 5
The pace attack has flattered to deceive away from home

Stuart Broad and James Anderson have taken over 770 wickets between them in matches that they have featured together and displaced the highly celebrated pair of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh to become the most successful new-ball attack ever.

However, all good things come to an end and so it seems here too. Anderson and Broad have terrorized batsmen in England and even when they have toured South Africa, but they have failed to exert their dominance in other countries over the past two years.

Chris Woakes, Jake Ball and Craig Overton, the pacers that form the supporting cast are nowhere near the level of Broad and Anderson. The bigger problem here is that all these bowlers are good in overcast conditions in England and South Africa, which aid seam movement and swing but they are treated like club-level bowlers overseas. This is because there is no penetration in this one-dimensional bowling attack.

All of them are right-arm medium pacers with none of them having the pace and bounce of a Starc or a Cummins or a Rabada or a Wagner. It's shocking that England have come to a tour Down Under without fast bowlers capable of bowling fast and hitting the batsmen hard.

Mark Wood is the only bowler who offers something different to this attack, as he is capable of hitting the 90mph mark. However, fitness issues have plagued him from the time he made his debut and this has meant he has hardly ever had a long run in the playing XI. England will have to wrap him in cotton wool to ensure that he's on the pitch playing the important games. They will also have to identify a left-arm pacer to provide some variation to this one-dimensional pace attack.

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