Brutal truth highlights impossible England Ashes dilemma

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  • Joe Root
    Joe Root
    English cricketer (born 1990)
  • Michael Vaughan
    Cricket player of England. (born 1974)
England have everything to prove on an SGC pitch that looks to be offering little for the bowlers in the fourth Ashes Test. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
England have everything to prove on an SGC pitch that looks to be offering little for the bowlers in the fourth Ashes Test. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

It says a lot about this Ashes series that Australia's biggest problem heading into the fourth Test is ensuring they're drinking the sponsor's beer and not a rival brew should they be celebrating another victory over England by the end of the week.

While the England camp is beset with illness, more confusion over selections, speculation about Joe Root's future as skipper and some mild internal rumblings, the Australians' preparation has been almost seamless.

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Yes, Travis Head is in Covid-forced isolation and out of the game, allowing Usman Khawaja a hit, but that's about it on the headache front.

That's unless you consider who to leave out of an already in-form bowling unit a headache.

With Josh Hazlewood still not 100 per cent, MCG hero Scott Boland has retained his spot alongside NSW trio Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.

There, easy.

As for England's XI, well, as ex-skipper Michael Vaughan said: "They can shuffle the chairs around but it’s at the same table."

Puzzlingly, veteran paceman Stuart Broad looks likely to return to bowl on the least conducive fast bowling surface in Australia.

If England did any homework on this series, the dog must have eaten it.

There will be a lot of questions asked back at Lord's when the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) sits to review this disastrous series, but they should send Vaughan a Zoom link for his input.

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For one, he never wants to head into another Ashes campaign in Australia without a cricket-hardened back-up squad shadowing the main team and playing games.

Vaughan says it should be a non-negotiable that the host nation provides matches for England's second XI at venues close to the Test grounds, so players can easily come in and out of the Test squad.

"My belief is they’ve got to start putting (tour) games on when Test matches are on," he told Fox Sports.

"Tours are so compact that you’ve got Test matches back-to-back-to-back, you've got to get the six (from the main squad) who aren’t playing some cricket.

Ben Stokes says it is simply not the right time for England to consider moving on from Joe Root as Test captain. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Ben Stokes says it is simply not the right time for England to consider moving on from Joe Root as Test captain. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

"If that means they are playing cricket during the Test match – and you bring other players over to play in those games an act as 12th man at the Test – I think that would be a sensible way to go."

Vaughan argues it will also create competition for spots rather than carrying players who are not performing simply because there is no alternative.

Australia have been without Hazlewood, Cummins and Head throughout the series but have not been badly affected – and have the luxury of calling on any number of players who are at least getting some BBL cricket if a crisis hit.

It's been all ladders for the home side and snakes for the Poms.

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