From being one of the top-ranked Test sides from 2010 to 2013 – a period during which they won 17 out of their 26 home Tests, while losing only three – England have slipped to No. 5 in the latest ICC Test rankings.
While England’s ordinary away record in the recent past is understandable – a trend that holds good for most sides these days – their recent defeats in home Tests have raised a few eyebrows.
Since the beginning of the 2014 season – when they lost 0-1 to Sri Lanka in a two-Test series – England have lost 10 out of 30 home Tests. Four of those losses have come in the last 10 games, indicating a steady decline. These are some Key factors to be observed:
Middle-order’s exposure to the new ball
It helps if the openers can see off the new ball in English conditions. This makes it easier for the batsmen to follow, and gives teams a chance of posting competitive totals. Numbers back this theory.
Since 2014, the average total when openers have failed to play out at least the first 15 overs is 290.5. This average increases to 437.5 when the openers have successfully managed to grind this period through.
Since 2014, teams scoring at least 350 in the first innings in England have not lost 82.7% of the times. Teams are a lot more likely to get there if their openers give them a solid start. Teams have managed to score 350-plus only on 23 out of the 83 occasions where the openers haven’t failed to play out the first 15 overs. But when the openers have lasted the first 15, teams have posted 350 plus in 13 out of 21 instances.
This is precisely an area that has seen a worrying trend for England. In the last 10 Tests, their opening pair have failed to bat out the first 15 overs in 15 out of 18 innings. In 11 of these innings, they’ve failed to post 350 or more. Each of their four losses in the corresponding period at home have come when they have failed to post 350-plus in the first innings.
Cook’s addition to England’s opening concerns
England’s opening problems have stretched for far too long now, since Andrew Strauss’ retirement in 2012. They’ve tried 12 different opening combinations with Cook.
While his partners have averaged just 18.5, Cook himself has failed to convert starts, but for a 243 against West Indies at Edgbaston. Excluding that knock, he’s made 488 runs in 17 innings at 28.71.
Cook has been dismissed every 86 deliveries in his last 10 home Tests, 13 fewer than his average since 2014. Exclude the Edgbaston epic and this average further dips to just 68 – his dismissals have come 31 deliveries earlier than his average since 2014.