Twelve Tests overseas without a win – equalling their worst run.
Five of their last seven defeats have been by an innings.
They have taken 20 wickets once in their last 11 away Tests.
Slumping to 27 for 9 before registering their sixth-lowest Test total.
You could say, at least they haven’t been caught cheating. But England’s travel sickness makes for grim reading. They say things have to get worse before they get better, well England pushed that to the limit with the 58 all out at Eden Park even if their second innings effort restored some respectability. It’s a long way back with such a record.
England have one Test left to try and rescue something. There is a limit to what can be done with a touring squad of 16 and there are those that will say kneejerk reactions don’t solve anything. Sometimes, though, you can only continue on one path for so long. Joe Root, himself, said as much before the first Test.
“I think there’s a lot of emotion knocking around now, and it’s still very raw,” Root said when asked of team changes. “I think it’s very important that we have some rational thinking behind that, and we sit down and make sure we go into that Test match with the XI we think is going to win the game.”
Much will depend on the fitness of Ben Stokes. He had problems with his back towards the end of his four-and-a-half hour stay in the middle at Eden Park, which ended when he carved to point in the final over before dinner. He will be assessed over the next couple of days, but it would seem highly unlikely he will be able to bowl in this series.
England tried to compensate in Auckland by picking an extra bowler – Craig Overton – but outside of James Anderson the attack again looked toothless, even allowing for the fact they didn’t have any runs to work with. Wood surely has to play to at least try to inject some extra pace, while Moeen Ali is a shadow of the Test cricketer who lit up the previous English season.
“It’s not for lack of trying,” Root said. “We’ve got to make sure we continue that work ethic and continue to look to improve. The first opportunity to do that is this next Test. We’re going to have to make sure that, when we get that opportunity, someone stands up – or a couple of guys do – and take it on themselves to put in those match-winning performances, which we do quite frequently in our own conditions.”
There were glimmers to take from the second innings in Auckland, led by Stokes’ resistance at No. 5 which could yet become his long-term position, but only that. Three half-centuries by the top-order went unconverted – including by the captain again – while three batsman fell in the final overs of session. The draw – albeit a lucky one that it would have been – was close enough to show how costly those lapses were.
“I asked the guys at the start, before we warmed up, ‘Show everyone how much it means to you to play for England, and represent your country’,” Root said.
“I thought we got that today from the guys. It’s obviously a massive task, coming back from the start we had in that first innings – which was bitterly disappointing.
“We were always fighting our way back into the game. But the character the guys showed today, I think, was a step forward – and we simply need to be better when we get to Christchurch.”
Root was naturally asked about the situation with the Australians. “I personally have got plenty on my plate to worry about,” he said in midst of one of his answers. Of that there’s no doubt.