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Yearning for an end to Ashes nightmare

IT’S become a familiar refrain for those of us who wake up to the sound of the radio. “In case you haven’t yet heard, England have endured another day of humiliation at the hands of Australia.”

The Ashes series, so eagerly anticipated in this country after England’s thrashing of the Australians earlier in the year, has turned into a recurring nightmare as collapse has followed collapse and the Aussies have rubbed our noses in it.

Three slaughters in the first three Tests meant the urn returns to the host nation. So abject have England’s performances been that, with the new perspective, anything other than a 5-0 whitewash will be viewed as some sort of consolation.

There have been sub-plots aplenty to distract us from the bloodbath on the field, from Jonathan Trott’s shock withdrawal to Mitchell Johnson’s howitzer bowling, from the ill-feeling and sledging antics to the brilliant ton by England’s young Ben Stokes at the Waca.

The public mood is demanding wholesale changes, among the coaches, backroom staff and the playing squad, but team director Andy Flower is shrewd enough to know that England’s performances in the remaining two Tests could have a huge bearing on future plans.

Line-up changes are inevitable in the wake of such a depressing run, but pragmatism dictates that most of the regular cast will get another chance to redeem themselves. The future will have to wait – the next Ashes series is not until 2015.

The current squad have a good number of over-30s among their number, some of whom may well be making their farewell appearances for the team, while the likes of Stokes and Joe Root are the most prominent among a crop of promising young talent coming through.

All successful teams need to evolve or at least be freshened up with new blood from time to time, and the evidence suggests that the make-up of the England cricket team has passed its best-by date.

The selectors will face some tough decisions when it comes to deciding the future of players who have been key performers for England, men like Matt Prior, Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen.               

Right now England look so demoralised that the very idea that they could save some face by winning in Melbourne or Sydney seems far-fetched, but stranger things have happened. It would be nice to think the radio announcer would have a happier headline to broadcast.

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