England are wrong to blame pitches for Ashes defeat - they just haven't been good enough

Michael Vaughan
The Telegraph
England did not fail to regain the Ashes because of the pitches, they were just not good enough - Action Images via Reuters
England did not fail to regain the Ashes because of the pitches, they were just not good enough - Action Images via Reuters

We always go through a cycle in English cricket when we win or lose. When we lose at home it is because the pitches have been too flat and have not assisted our bowlers. When we win a series at home it is because we are really good and have played brilliant cricket. 

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When we lose a series away it is because the pitches at home offer too much assistance to bowlers and we cannot produce batsmen who can bat for long periods of time. It is just one big circle of excuses. 

When our greatest ever bowler, James Anderson, said this week he was disappointed the pitches have not helped us more in this Ashes series it showed the cycle had started up again. 

Eventually English cricket has to decide do we continue what we are doing or make a change? We generally win in England because the ball zips around. But we are not going to beat the best teams overseas on flatter pitches if we only play in helpful bowling conditions in England. 

The only time in recent years we have beaten a high quality team away from home was in India in 2012. Winning in Australia in 2010-11 was a great achievement by our best team for years. But if we want to produce cricketers who can play the relentless style of cricket then we cannot be complaining about the pitches and the ball not swinging enough.

<span>England bowler James Anderson said that the pitches in the Ashes could have been more helpful to England's bowlers</span> <span>Credit: PA </span>
England bowler James Anderson said that the pitches in the Ashes could have been more helpful to England's bowlers Credit: PA

We just have to accept in this series we have not been good enough. It has nothing to do with the pitches. Australia were 122-8 at Edgbaston and England were not good enough to capitalise. England were bowled out for 67 at Headingley and won the game because they were bailed out by one person. 

The pitches have offered plenty of help. There has not been one flat wicket in this Ashes series. If they had been really flat then England should have scored a lot more runs so what Anderson is really saying is that England’s batsmen must be really poor if they have been unable to cash in this summer on dead surfaces. 

I’m not having a go at Jimmy. I said the same sort of thing in my day as a player. But realistically if England want to produce a team that can compete all over the world, then we need to change our attitude in this country. How you do that is the million dollar question. Anderson is a legend so what kind of message does it send to a young English bowler when he hears him complaining about the pitches not being helpful enough? 

We all have to get together and ask what we have to do to improve our Test game. Maybe we play with the Kookaburra ball for a couple of rounds of the championship, like Australia used the Duke in Shield cricket. Why don’t we try and play on flat wickets and make batting points worth more than bowling bonus points to see what would happen? Something has to change because I am getting bored of the same old excuses. 

Old Trafford did not have the pace we expected but England got their selection wrong. They were good at complaining about the pitch but then picked the wrong style of bowler for it in Craig Overton. 

Perhaps the pitch at Old Trafford needed an extra yard of pace and bounce. But there was a result with ten overs in the game remaining despite the fact rain had taken time out of the Test. You could say England were fortunate the rain came because without it they would have been hammered with two sessions to go. 

The only way England are going to improve is if they train their brain to bat better for 140 overs. That means also working out how to bowl teams out  in 110-120 overs and not in 50 or 60 overs - that is only going to win you Test  matches in England.

Look at the Australians at Old Trafford. They had to bowl a lot of overs to dismiss England. They have been relentlessly bowling that 6.5m length. That is the kind of cricketer we need to produce here.  Anderson and Broad have done that in the past. But what I don’t want is two senior players passing on the message that the ball has to be doing something all the time to win in England when they have won overseas by being relentless and bowling with patience and accuracy. Look at how Jimmy bowled last time England were in Australia. He gave nothing  away. 

Five or 10 years ago Jimmy was known as a bowler who was only effective when the ball did something. Well how has he become this brilliant bowler reliable in all conditions? It is that knowledge I want him passing on to the next generation. How does he keep his concentration, hold length and produce wobble seam? He will be retired soon, so we should grab his knowledge as much as possible and produce conditions where we can find  bowlers who can emulate his skills without relying on dodgy pitches. 

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