Where next for England?

WITH the Ashes gone and England licking its wounds following another thrashing in the third Test in Perth, the question being asked is: what has gone wrong since the 3-0 series win on home soil in August?

It seems the sorry tale of woe began with poor preparation for the tour.

Frontline quick Stuart Broad was barely sighted in practice games because of a bad back leading up to the first Test in Brisbane, while captain Alastair Cook also missed time in the middle because of a similar complaint.

While Broad has impressed so far with 14 wickets at an average of 25.21, he has received little assistance from his fellow quicks.

James Anderson, who troubled the Aussies with his swing throughout the entire Ashes series in England with the Duke ball, has struggled to do the same with the Kookaburra.

He has managed to take just seven wickets at an inflated average of 58.43, after snaring 22 scalps at 29.59 on home soil.

Much was said about the support Broad and Anderson would receive from towering quicks Chris Tremlett, Boyd Rankin and Steve Finn on this tour.

But Tremlett is the only one of that trio to have played a Test, finishing with four wickets at 30 apiece after bowling without pace or conviction in Brisbane. He was promptly dropped for the Adelaide Test to make way for second spinner Monty Pansear, who was subsequently axed for Perth after returning 2-198.

The sidelining of Tremlett, Rankin and Finn has raised questions about why fast bowler Graham Onions was overlooked despite being the leading wicket-taker in the last English County Cricket season.

The other bowling issue for the tourists has been the lack of form shown by off-spinner Graeme Swann.

On the slow, turning decks back home he was dominant with 26 wickets at an average of 29.04. But on the hard Australian wickets this summer he has taken just seven wickets at an average of 80.

Australia's bowlers, on the other hand, have stepped up.

Mitchell Johnson, not part of the series in England, has exemplified the difference between the teams. Bowling with extreme pace and venom, Johnson is the leading wicket-taker in the series with 23. He has also received good support from fellow fast men Ryan Harris (12) and Peter Siddle (11).

One could argue that England's tour fell apart the day batting rock and No.3 Jonathan Trott went home after the demoralising first Test loss, citing a stress-related illness.

All of England's batsmen have struggled with the pace and bounce on the three wickets to date, only youngsters Joe Root and Ben Stokes showing the determination and patience required.

On the other hand, the Australian batsmen have relished the bouncing decks, with Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Dave Warner dismantling the England quicks in every game so far.

While the tour has exposed serious concerns about England's ageing team of stars, the truth is the signs have been evident for some time.

The team has only passed 400 in the first innings once in its past 14 matches.

The question for new chairman of selectors Jimmy Whittaker for the two remaining Tests is: Do we start planning for the 2015 Ashes series and bring in some new blood, or do we let the guys who got us into this hole try to get us out of it?

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