Time for England to show some character – and three key improvements

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What can England get out of the fourth Test? Pride would be a good start. 

People will be judging a few individuals over the next couple of weeks. We always know an Ashes series can be a career-maker or career-ender. 

I want to see three things this week, starting with a determination to play competitive cricket. I don’t want to see the towel thrown in like it was in Melbourne. 

Secondly, I want energy and buzz in the field and commitment from the group to hold the chances they create. These guys can field. Prove it. 

Thirdly,  I don’t want to see a bowler bowling a no ball. It is a basic of the game. 

In 2002-03 we went into the Sydney Test 4-0 down and by winning that fifth Test I learned a huge amount about myself and playing cricket over here. 

It later drove my mindset as captain. I realised that everybody is beatable if you play good, hard cricket. Beating that Australian side was not easy. Beating this Australian side is not easy either so if England can get a victory it will give them a massive boost as a group. They should have learned by now that in Australia you have to play good, hard disciplined cricket for five days, not just a few hours. You have to stay in the fight, stay in the competition and you need individual players to step up and deliver.

A win is a win even though the Ashes have gone. Don’t rule out what winning might do for this Test team as well. If they beat Australia, it means individuals have done well. Someone has probably scored a century. It could set someone up for a decent career.

If Joe can get a victory it will give him a clear insight into what this team needs to do to be successful. I hope he carries on. I can’t see anyone else doing the job in the circumstances they are in at the moment. It is best if he carries on and lays the foundation for the cricket England need to play across the world. But if he gets a win or two it must not paper over the cracks. Changes still need to happen. 

These are England’s best players. That is the concern for the Test team. You could argue that James Vince should be here and obviously Jofra Archer and Olly Stone would be in the squad but that is about it. There are not many bashing the door down. 

You live your career as an England cricketer on your Ashes record. That is what people talk about when you retire. What were your Ashes numbers? What were your Ashes wins? How did you do at home or away? There is probably too much focus on one series but it is what the fans remember. They also remember when you have done really badly.

England were embarrassed by their performance in Melbourne. That is why they stayed in the dressing room at the end and let Root do the presentation on his own. They did not want to come out and they need to remember that pain and disappointment this week. Use it to motivate themselves.

I don’t want to hear any excuses any more. This has been building for a long time. It is not just because they are in a biobubble. This was happening well before Covid. Obviously they were on the decline as a Test team but they did not see it or they did not want to admit it. They were stubborn and thought they knew best. 

Now they have two Tests left to make a difference. Individuals have to take this chance. Jos Buttler says he wanted to carry on as a Test cricketer but for too long England in the field have lacked energy. Your wicketkeeper has to be your engine. He has to step up and if he is not that kind of character then England may have to make that call. 

I would play Jos this week but I want to see Ollie Pope back in. He is a young batter with a huge amount of promise. In the first innings in Brisbane he looked quite decent then he was out of the team after three more innings. I don’t like that culture. They made the call too early. But he only really comes in for Jonny Bairstow and he deserves another game. That is the problem they have created for themselves by chopping and changing.

Rory Burns has done a lot of work in the nets but do you want to put new technical changes under the scrutiny of a Test match so soon? He’s not had enough time. They are working on making him stiller and making sure his right foot is not going as far over. I’m not sure you can do that in a few days.

I would pick Stuart Broad and rest Ollie Robinson. He has been good enough but his pace has been down. He needs a break. Mark Wood, Ben Stokes, James Anderson, Jack Leach and Broad would be my bowling attack this week. 

Broad should have played at the MCG. He is fit but England have not believed he is in their best XI for two of the three games played so far. He has something to prove this week.

But it is not the bowling that is the problem. It is with the bat England have been so poor. They need to prove to us they can play and show some snarl, some real character.

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