Last Updated on 17 Jan 2022 6:33 pm (UK Time)
Silverwood’s departure should be the first of many, much-needed changes to English Test Cricket.
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Chris Silverwood, who took over the reins from Trevor Bayliss at the end of the 2019 season has spent almost 18 months now in charge of England’s cricket team.
Before Bayliss’s arrival, England experienced their most embarrassing result in the limited-overs format, which saw them crash out of the first round of the 2015 World Cup to Bangladesh.
It was clear to see why during a 4-year period under Bayliss, England’s approach changed to prioritising the white-ball format. This new focus lead to subsequent success as England reached the World T20 final in 2016 and became World Champions in 2019 by beating New Zealand in what can only be described as an ‘inconceivable’ game at Lord’s. Their dominance skyrocketed England to No.1 in the rankings for T20I and ODI for consistent cycles. However, this transformation in mindset and emphasis to the shorter format did not come without a compromise to the Test arena.
What did Chris Silverwood inherit?
One of the biggest changes to England’s white-ball cricket was the establishment of a fierce and aggressive batting line-up, that not only saw them set a new 10-year old ODI record in Bayliss’ first full year in charge of England, but went on to obliterate that total by scoring 481 runs on the same ground two years later against Australia.
A team that had only ever passed 350 runs twice before Bayliss’ tenure, back in 1992 and 2005, England demolished that feat on 16 occasions, as well as surpassing 400 on 4 separate occasions. England experienced such dominance that surpassing 300 runs became the new norm; setting a global precedent for the perceived par score in ODI matches.
Along with being handed over the reins to the World’s number one ODI and T20I sides, Silverwood was also given the burden and responsibility of fixing the abysmal Test side. In a manner, that can only be described as “dumped on”, Silverwood has had no choice but to inherit one of the worst-performing Test teams of late.
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During Bayliss’ tenure, England registered just two away series victories, one in South Africa in 2016 and the other in Sri Lanka in 2018. Unfortunately, other than for the scintillating masterclass from Ben Stokes in Cape Town, where he recorded the fastest-ever 250 in Test history, England’s series victory in South Africa was fairly uninspiring.
Later that year, England did muster a Test win in Bangladesh, but by just 22 runs; which is neither a victory to brag about.
England’s biggest failure however was not managing to win a single Test on the marquee tours of Australia and India.
A large reason for this has been England’s batting.
England’s Batting Woes
In an attempt to retain a very similar squad across all three formats, Bayliss assumed that the majority of his naturally attack-minded batsmen of the short formats would seamlessly adapt to the slower, more calculated demands of Test cricket. However, performances and results emphasise that this was very rarely the case.
England passed 400 runs just once in Bayliss’ last 18 Test matches as a coach and was also bowled out for under 100, four times.
During this period, England scraped a 2-2 draw in the 2019 Home Ashes Series with Australia. Again, though, if it wasn’t for the memorable heroics of Ben Stokes at Headingley, it was actually very difficult to argue England were the better side over the course of the Series; which did conclude in Australia retaining the urn.
It was evident that the hard-hitting mindset occupied in the shorter format of the game was so ingrained throughout Bayliss’ England side, that they just couldn’t adjust their play-style to the requisite patience of Test cricket. Even with the introduction of more recognised red-ball batsmen such as Keaton Jennings, Mark Stoneman and James Vince, they too struggled to settle within this heavily attack-minded England squad.
Towards his later years, Bayliss attempted to defend his sides appalling performances by saying that “we didn’t bat good enough” and that ‘they [England] are more suited to white-ball batting’. Whilst these comments were excused in exchange for World Cup triumph, it was clear to see that this unfairly deflected attention away from the genuine problems within the Test set-up and onto his players.
Even under Silverwood, England’s have continued to underperform. Not only have England’s struggles away from home persisted, but their performances at home have equally suffered. Repeating the away successes achieved by Bayliss in South Africa and Sri Lanka, England have only won 10 of their 27 Tests under Silverwood, with 4 coming at home in 12 attempts. Despite the encouraging improvement of a Test victory in India, England has still failed to win a series in either India or Australia.
It comes as no surprise, however, that England has remained stagnant when you analyse the team and the changes that have, or rather have not, been made.
Silverwood has handed debuts to just 4 batsmen over his tenure so far, and so, all-bar a few of Bayliss’s heavily white-ball orientated team have maintained their involvement in the Test side. Subsequently, it hasn’t been a revelation either that England has managed to pass 300 runs in just 16 of their 53 Test innings and that they have been skittled for under 200 on more (17) occasions.
In fact, six of these batting collapses have come from England’s most recent 4-0 Ashes defeat to Australia. Although England managed to salvage a draw in the fourth Test, it has arguably been one of their worst performances Down Under, prolonging the feat of 2011, which was when England last experienced a Test victory.
What Must Change?
To apportion the blame solely on Silverwood would be extremely unfair as England have continued to disappoint in the same manner they have for the last 10 years. But their performances haven’t progressed either and with the lack of changes Silverwood has made to this Test side, there is no clear vision of how things could improve.
When you look at the history of England’s performances in the Test arena, it is clear that there are far greater problems needing to be resolved than just a change of coach. Unfortunately, as the man at the helm, the responsibility falls heavily on his shoulders, and if England wants to return to the heights of the Ashes-winning side of 2010/2011, then replacing Silverwood can only be the start.