England are under orders to go ‘back to basics’ for the Ashes in a bid to rediscover a ruthless edge against Australia.
Caretaker coach Paul Farbrace will hand over the reins to his new boss, Australian Trevor Bayliss, as England begin their bid to try to win back the Ashes after their whitewash defeat in 2013-14.
Farbrace’s exchange of information with Bayliss, if his de-brief following England’s drawn series against New Zealand is a reliable guide, will be centred on improving basic skills and achieving a consistency which has been lacking.
Both against the Kiwis – who won the second Test by 199 runs at Headingley on Tuesday – and the West Indies a month earlier, Alastair Cook’s team have lost 1-0 leads to end up sharing the spoils.
“We have said now for a few series that we have had opportunities to win,” he said.
“In the West Indies we should have been 2-0 up going into the last game.
“We weren’t, and it allowed them to come back into it.”
It is his task to work out why and report to Bayliss – and it seems, after New Zealand levelled up, he has drawn his conclusions.
“Ruthlessness comes from doing the basics right – if you do your basics well, catch your catches, you have opportunities to put them under huge pressure,” Farbrace said.
“We somehow missed those opportunities (at Headingley).
“They have taken theirs and put our bowlers under huge pressure.
“There were periods in the second innings where I didn’t think we bowled too badly.
“But as soon as we slightly missed line and length, they whacked it for four – and then our bowlers were under pressure all the way through.”
England came from way off the pace to win at Lord’s, but then lost the early initiative in the second of back-to-back Tests.
“When you get on top, you have to make it count,” added Farbrace.
“That is something the best teams in the world do, and they do it consistently.
“That’s the one thing we’re not doing – we’re not doing things as consistently as we should be at this stage.
“We haven’t quite done that – we seem to slip off the gas a little bit and let the opposition back in.”
Before the Ashes, Farbrace’s most pressing task is to ensure England build rather than fritter away confidence in their limited-overs series against World Cup finalists New Zealand.
They have picked a squad minus several household names such as Ian Bell, Stuart Broad and James Anderson – and it seems Bayliss, still at home in Australia and due to arrive only at the end of this month, has already had a significant say in the decision-making.
“I have had a few good chats with him,” said Farbrace.
“He’s had an influence in (the selection of) this one-day side … he’s had quite an input.
“He knows a few of the players quite well, and has had an influence from afar really.”