Peter Moores – The right man for English cricket?

Peter Moores was announced yesterday evening as the man chosen to replace Andy Flower as the next coach of the England cricket team.

There had been plenty of speculation that Ashley Giles – the man who led England’s feeble attempt at regaining the World Twenty20 crown – was about to succeed Flower.

However, in a largely unsurprising call following Moores’ public statement of interest in the position, the ECB has elected to give Moores a second stint as coach.

His first stint ran from 2007-09 during which he had coached England to a record of just six losses in 22 Tests.

Despite that good form, England’s record during his reign in one-day internationals was less impressive as they won just 14 of the 33 matches completed.

Moores’ tenure ended after a bust-up with Kevin Pietersen and the 51-year old’s appointment would now suggest that an already improbable return to the England set-up for the Surrey batsman is becoming less likely.

The fact that Moores had previously been England coach has led some to criticise the move in the Press and on social media, but arguments of a lack of progression – or rather, regression – shown by the appointment are wide of the mark.

Moores is widely heralded in English cricket as a world-class coach, with some in cricketing spheres naming him as the best coach in England.

He leaves his post as Lancashire coach where he won the 2011 County Championship and where he has quietly gone about his work until this opportunity came about.

As opportunities go, this was one that both the ECB and Moores did not miss.

The ECB have had a fabulous track-record in appointing recent head coaches and so it is just as well that they have avoided choosing Ashley Giles.

Giles had neatly positioned himself as ODI and T20 coach, without much justification, and his critics’ worst fears came to fruition in March when he oversaw a disastrous World Twenty20 tournament in Bangladesh, the low point of which was a pitiful loss to the Netherlands.

The former England left-arm spinner may well coach England again in the future but he will urgently need to sharpen his skills and assess what he should do differently if that day ever comes about.

Other candidates had included Stephen Fleming, Gary Kirsten and Tom Moody but, after the latter two ruled themselves out of the running, Fleming was overlooked as the ECB highlighted a shortlist of Moores, Giles and Mike Newell.

So it seems that Moores is not only the right choice for England, but was the outstanding candidate for the role.

At the top of Moores’ list of priorities will be constructing a side which capitalises on the exciting emerging talents of Ben Stokes, Sam Robson and Moeen Ali while also ensuring that England mount a serious challenge in ODI and T20 cricket.

Limited-overs cricket, some feel, could be the defining measurement of Moores’ reign.

England have been noticeably poor since their World Twenty20 victory in 2010, but have been at their worst in late 2013 and early 2014 when heavy defeats to Australia in both the ODI and T20 series were followed by a disappointing loss to the West Indies.

There is also a distinct lack of quality in the bowling department across all formats, with Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad the only players worthy of a world-class tag.

With these current deficiencies it appears that Moores has a hefty workload ahead of him as England strive to improve after a succession of dismal displays.

If Moores can turn around England’s fortunes across all three formats and lead them to better performances while strengthening their standing in world cricket then his reign might be considered a success.

Anything else and his critics’ doubts, including those of a certain big-hitting batsman, would have been substantiated – and more importantly England will still be in decline.

  • You can follow me on Twitter @NeilWalton89
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England melt in Ashes obliteration

Before the 2013/14 Ashes series started, much of the build-up surrounded the scoreline by which England would win the series.

Sir Ian Botham was in typically boisterous mood, predicting a 5-0 whitewash for the visitors against an Australian side who, without attracting attention, deserved more respect than they had been afforded.

The warning signs were there during the summer. England’s 3-0 victory managed to sufficiently paper over the cracks of some flaky performances – and the foolhardy had not even noticed there were cracks in the first place.

Perhaps the most common theme of England’s summer Ashes campaign was that of the bowlers rescuing their side after some flatulent displays from the batsmen placed the team in precarious positions on more than one occasion.

Too many times England were reduced to 30-3 as captain Alastair Cook’s weakness outside off stump was badly exposed and Joe Root’s inexperience gravely exploited.

Australian seamer Ryan Harris was made to look world-class by some imprudent strokeplay, while Peter Siddle dismissed Kevin Pietersen more times than English fans care to remember.

On the face of it, Botham’s prediction was mischievous and unduly confident but few could have foreseen a dismantling of such gigantic proportions that would see his 5-0 prophecy inverted in Australia’s favour.

England started the series well and probably shaded the first day, reducing Australia to 132-6. Where the tide began to turn however, was when England were skittled for 136 to concede a first-innings deficit of 159 runs.

The two Australian innings had finished and started on the same day, such was the level of England’s collapse.

It was a collapse masterminded by the resurgent Mitchell Johnson, who terrorised England’s batsmen with vicious pace, bounce and accuracy.

The latter quality had always been Johnson’s nemesis. Too often he had the tendency to drift wide – at times embarrassingly so – and he was consequently taunted by the Barmy Army.

However, in this series he made them watch with great pain as he continued a rejuvenation which had begun in April in India. Playing for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, he delivered a string of highly impressive bowling performances.

He had finally been able to rid himself of the inconsistency which had plagued his game and was showing great control of line and length in partnership with his more renowned pace and bounce.

Johnson was suddenly the cricketer England feared he would one day become, but when the two sides met in Brisbane for the opening Test the visitors were hopelessly underprepared – and they never recovered.

The left-armer succeeded in mangling numerous English innings throughout the series, stripping batsmen such as Jonathan Trott – who later flew home due to mental health problems – and Matt Prior of their confidence and rampaging through the tailend with a cruel ease.

Johnson took 37 wickets during the series – two more than Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad combined – complete with three five-wicket hauls and having snared 15 more wickets than Ryan Harris, who with 22 also had a superb series.

While it’s easy to focus on the brutality of Johnson’s form, England’s dire batting should also be spotlighted.

The previous Ashes tour was an incredible one for England as they routinely pulverised the Australian attack. They even broke records, memorably when they scored 517-1 in the second innings of the first Test in 2010.

Cook (235*) and Trott (135*) were the men chiefly responsible, while Andrew Strauss weighed in with a century himself.

How that form changed in just three years. In the 2010/11 series, England were scoring centuries almost at will. In the 2013/14 series, they mustered just one – Ben Stokes’ 120 at Perth.

Stokes, competing in his debut Test series, was by far the brightest light of England’s gloomy tour. He scored 279 runs at an average of 34.87, which was just 15 runs less than the reckless Kevin Pietersen despite playing four of the five Tests.

Australia were better than England in every department, but especially so at the crease.

The top six series runscorers were all Australian, while David Warner’s tally of 523 runs was only four runs short of the combined tally of his counterparts Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry.

Australia also notched ten centuries against England’s one, which is the most telling statistic of all.

Much credit should go to Australia coach Darren Lehmann, who has transformed the fortunes of a side who had lost seven of their last nine Tests before Brisbane.

He has crafted a new generation of cut-throat cricket, instilled a winning mentality into his side and constructed a batting line-up capable of scoring fifties right down to numbers nine and ten.

That depth of batting was perfectly illustrated by Brad Haddin and Johnson. Haddin, in particular, was a constant hindrance. He scored 493 runs at an average of 61.62 and counter-attacked at crucial times.

Just when England were looking to bowl Australia out for around 200, up popped Haddin with a typically aggressive half-century to further demoralise the English attack.

Lehmann will also be pleased that from Haddin down to Nathan Lyon at 11, Australia’s tailenders plundered 874 runs between them.

When matched against England’s top three runscorers Kevin Pietersen (294); Michael Carberry (281) and Ben Stokes (279), Australia’s tailenders outscored them by 20 runs – a truly harrowing statistic for England coach Andy Flower to ponder.

Flower will be pondering plenty after this series, for as worrying as England’s reliance on their bowlers is their lack of emerging talent.

So far only Root and Stokes have made plausible claims to a regular starting spot, but the likes of Carberry and Jonny Bairstow have not flattered themselves in a dismal situation wherein a run of confident displays could have cemented their Test berth.

The fact that Graeme Swann, England’s second-most prolific Test spinner after Derek Underwood, retired after three Tests of this tour also turns attention towards England’s spin talents.

Scott Borthwick did himself no harm by taking 3-33 in the Sydney Test, but Monty Panesar has had a damaging tour having taken just three wickets in the four innings he has bowled.

Flower and Cook have a massive rebuilding process to go through and must analyse the gory details of the series, extracting any positives they can.  England’s golden era is over, but after this Ashes obliteration Australia’s is only just beginning.

  • You can follow me on Twitter @NeilWalton89