Cow Corner

Who should be more concerned: England or Australia?

Cow Corner

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The two captains: Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke

After Australia suffered a crushing 4-0 series whitewash defeat in India following the farcical scenes of 'homework-gate', and given England have produced desperately poor performances against the lowly New Zealand, it's time to analyse which team should be more concerned ahead of back-to-back Ashes series later in the year.

Feel free to add your own analysis and opinions at the bottom of the page...

* Five reasons why England are in trouble *

1. Injuries to key players

Very few sides in the history of the game could cope with injuries to a group of key players, and England don't have a huge squad of established names from which to call upon. In losing Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann to serious injuries, there is the very real possibility that England may have to deal with one or both of their star players being sidelined for the Ashes series at home this summer. James Anderson's fitness has also been under intense scrutiny of late, while Steven Finn and Stuart Broad are both very, very injury prone.

2. A lack of experienced batsmen

England's middle order in the absence of Pietersen saw Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow occupy key roles with just eight Test appearances between them. Both players are extremely talented but lack crucial experience, while Nick Compton will be opening the batting and has just six Tests behind him - despite the fact that he is 29 years old. With Pietersen's fitness going forward a major doubt, England are not in a strong position at all with the bat, as demonstrated by their pitiful showings in New Zealand.

3. Obvious weaknesses against swing and spin

The debacle against Pakistan in the UAE highlighted England's quite drastic problems in facing spin bowling, an issue that has not gone away despite fleeting improvements on the tour of India. Alastair Cook's side also showed their staggering ineptitude against the moving ball, this time in the form of swing, as they capitulated against New Zealand on a flat wicket and in conditions that were not overly difficult for batting. Indeed, the hosts appeared to have no problems whatsoever in exploiting a far from tricky wicket.

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Another disappointment for Ian Bell

4. Unproven multi-coach set up

There was initial scepticism when it was announced that Ashley Giles would be the limited-overs coach of England, leaving Andy Flower to focus on the Test arena, and the early signs are not particularly encouraging. England's showing in New Zealand has been nothing short of shambolic, and Flower has come under intense criticism for his side's preparation for the tour and the way in which he has managed the players that are now under joint, but perhaps even disjointed, management. It is early days, but it could be regarded as a turning point in the Flower tenure.

5. An inexperienced and defensive captain

Let's be perfectly frank here: England's field settings were bewildering and desperately defensive throughout the final Test match in Auckland. Cook continues to come under fire for the way that he approaches attempting to bowl sides out, and he was shown up by the positive and proactive Brendon McCullum. An historic series win against India saw praise rightly heaped upon Cook, but his stock as skipper has plummeted in the opinion of many after the way he led his side tactically in New Zealand. And yes, the disastrous decision at the coin toss at Eden Park should be swiftly forgotten.

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England's Stuart Broad


* Five reasons why Australia are in trouble *

1. Epic infighting and a lack of discipline

Australian cricket was (and perhaps still is) in crisis following coach Mickey Arthur's astonishing decision to axe vice-captain Shane Watson, batsman Usman Khawaja and bowlers Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson from the team to face India after they failed to do their 'homework'. The fall out was quite astonishing as former players, including Mark Waugh and Shane Warne, lambasted decisions that left Australia as the "laughing stock of the cricketing world". Arthur defended his disciplinary action by listing numerous reasons why his players were lacking in effort, commitment and focus. It was a complete and utter shambles.

2. Poor form after a series whitewash in India

India raced through their 155-run chase in the fourth Test in Delhi with consummate ease to win four matches in a series for the first time in their Test history as they whitewashed Australia. Arthur's side are ranked at number four in the world, but continue to look rudderless after slipping to an emphatic and demoralising series thrashing at the hands of Duncan Fletcher's side, who have not enjoyed the best of form themselves of late. It was another chastening defeat for Michael Clarke's side, who remain very much in transition, and a huge run of high-profile matches now awaits.

3. A coach who winds up everyone, including his players

As touched upon already, Arthur's brash, autocratic style continues to divide opinion amongst the public, the media and the Australian players. He has demanded a "paradigm shift" from his underperforming players, insisting that they diligently complete their homework, fill in daily 'wellness' forms without exception and raise their commitment levels across the board. Will there be further fireworks within the camp? It's very likely indeed. The South African is far from popular on the most part.

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Mickey Arthur with Michael Clarke

4. An incredibly flaky batting line up

Australia's top six in the fourth Test in India read: Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade. Ian Chappell's verdict of that list? "Australia's batting order is in a mess," he said, with typical frankness. Captain Clarke insists that he will be fit for all 10 of the Ashes Tests, despite nursing a long-term back problem, but Arthur was perhaps more realistic when he admitted that he would need to be "monitored very carefully throughout". His absence would be huge for a side considerably lacking in experience and leadership.

5. No world-class spinner

It is well known that Australia have tried 11 spinners in their Test team since the retirement of Warne, and Arthur's side are desperate to find a bowler who can help turn their side from the "mediocrity of fourth place in the rankings, to world beaters". For now, Australia are reliant upon Nathan Lyon's off breaks, with the spinner having taken 76 wickets in 42 Test innings at an average of 33.18. While England are sweating on the fitness of Swann, Australia will just be happy to settle upon a consistent performer after constant chopping and changing. At the top of Clarke's wish list would surely be a truly world-class spinner.

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Shane Watson reacts after being suspended

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