The Ashes: England batting woes deserve county game overhaul, says Michael Atherton | Cricket news

Michael Atherton

Cricket expert and columnist

Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Rob Key joined Ian Ward on the Sky Sports Ashes podcast to discuss the fallout from England’s defeat in innings to Australia at the third Test in Melbourne; Australia retain Ashes with an unassailable 3-0 lead

Last updated: 29/12/21 11:28

Sky Sports' Michael Atherton says the English cricket system is not strong enough for the Test team to thrive at international level

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Sky Sports’ Michael Atherton says the English cricket system is not strong enough for the Test team to thrive at international level

Sky Sports’ Michael Atherton says the English cricket system is not strong enough for the Test team to thrive at international level

Former England captain Michael Atherton believes the home game needs an overhaul to produce test-standard batting in the wake of England Ashes humiliation.

The Tourists were ruled out for just 68 in Melbourne – where only Joe Root and Ben Stokes reached double figures – as they slipped to a defeat in innings confirming an unassailable 3-0 lead to Australia in the five-match series.

Although the county championship program has been reduced from 16 to 14 matches in recent years, the majority of matches take place at each end of the summer, where conditions make it harder for batterers to thrive.

In contrast, Australia’s domestic Sheffield Shield – contested by six states – has 10 matches each and a final, and Atherton, speaking on the Sky Sports Ashes podcast, said: “If your system is strong and competitive, all talk of coaching is something peripheral. …

Ben Stokes was one of only two English hits to reach double figures in their second innings (Associated Press)

Ben Stokes was one of only two English batsmen to reach double figures in their second innings (Associated Press)

“You want a Darwinian system where the best players get to the top of the pile and I do not think it is strong and competitive enough right now. An 18-county system with four competitions is basically too much to fit into too short a time.a space of time.

“A shorter, more condensed first-class high-quality competition would ultimately allow the best players to get through, and they should be able to take the step up to test cricket.

“Getting there is not easy, but the basics of Australia came from the fact that they have a better first-class system, and that’s really it – you can overcomplicate things.

“Much of the summer has been given to whiteball cricket, but there is still a majority in England who, above all, like Test cricket and Ashes cricket. There is anger and frustration that they feel England’s Test team has been marginalized, and the County Championship has been eroded. “

Former English batsman Rob Key blames the site's batting for their Ashes defeat in Australia and their recent test error

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Former English batsman Rob Key blames the site’s batting for their Ashes defeat in Australia and their recent test error

Former English batsman Rob Key blames the site’s batting for their Ashes defeat in Australia and their recent test error

Atherton was joined on the podcast by Ian Ward, Nasser Hussain and Rob Key – the latter urging the 18 first-class counties and governing body, the ECB, to put aside self-interest in the pursuit of an improved England test side.

“There have to be some sacrifices along the way to try to help our young players get through the system,” Key said. “There has never been a time like this where the batsmen have fought as they have now.

“You have to change the conditions under which people learn to play, but what you really need is for the ECB and the counties to finally work together for once, not go against each other.

“All this controversy about when we play Hundred, when we play T20 Blast, when we get our little bits of summer, it has to end. Counties and the ECB have to sit down and do what’s best for English cricket to help us succeed.

“It’s going to take a while. They’ll have to figure out how to make a county plan – at the moment it’s a complete farce. I feel sorry for the person who has to fit all the matches and formats in, you can not make everyone happy. “

Australian sailor Scott Boland finished with the figures 6-7 on his Test debut as England were beaten to just 68 in their second inning.

Australian sailor Scott Boland finished with the figures 6-7 on his Test debut as England were beaten to just 68 in their second inning.

Hussain also cited New Zealand’s domestic setup as an example of how change can prove beneficial at the national level – with the Black Caps crowned as the first Test champions earlier this year.

He said: “These are professional cricketers. It’s your game, take ownership of your game. I never went away when I had problems against Courtney Walsh or anyone and said ‘you know what, it was my coach’s fault’ .

“I do not mind that you have all these techniques, but it’s about running. If you have a problem with seats, talk to [ECB managing director of men’s cricket] Ashley Giles and tell him that the pitches in domestic cricket are not good enough.

“Look at what New Zealand did, they went through something similar and the only big change they made was in their domestic cricket.

“They played on better pitches, not flatter pitches, and you can see the results.”

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