Hit the road, Joe. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
Hit the road, Joe. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

‘Mentally flabby’: England greats rip in

England legends have begun picking at the carcass of their Test cricket side after an unexpectedly humiliating series defeat against the West Indies.

The Poms were crushed by margins of 381 runs in Barbados and 10 wickets in Antigua with scores of 77, 246, 187 and 132 showing up flaws in temperament and technique.

Events of the past fortnight have punctured the optimism created in Sri Lanka before Christmas, where a 3-0 whitewash took the Test side's record to eight wins out of nine, and led to an outcry in the British press.

Former English opener Mike Atherton lamented the lack of "determination and application" from the top order in a column for The Times.

"Time and again, when challenged, England's batsmen seem incapable of toughing a crisis out. The cricketing vocabulary of these players is limited: there is no room in their dictionary for bloody-mindedness or obstinacy, or any other of the adjectives long tagged to English professional batsmen," Atherton wrote

"Taken in isolation, the performance this week could be brushed over but it is not an isolated event. Against virtually every team, in all conditions, England have been prone to collapsing ...

"It speaks of technical shortcomings but also a mental flabbiness, and an unwillingness to do what even the world's best player, Virat Kohli, had to do in England last summer which was set some limits to his ambition, in order to achieve his ambitions. Even the best must bow to conditions and the situation in this game, something England's batsmen seem incapable of grasping."

Joe Root and James Anderson of England look dejected in defeat. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images,)
Joe Root and James Anderson of England look dejected in defeat. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images,)

Test legend Geoffrey Boycott said the batsmen were "immune to engaging their brains" in a column for The Telegraph.

"Let us be quite blunt: The technique of our batsmen over the past few years has been poor," Boycott wrote. "New guys come in to Test match cricket having played on a lot of flat, easy county pitches against a lot of ordinary bowling. There are too many one-day matches in county cricket that require little or no technique but a good eye to slog it somewhere or anywhere. It is not a good grounding to make the step up to Test match cricket."

Former skipper Michael Vaughan, who has spent the summer in Australia in commentary for Fox Sports, is beginning to fear an Ashes defeat.

"England are unbeaten in nine Test series at home but if they are not careful they will get a nasty shock this summer against Australia," he wrote for The Telegraph.

"I said it two years ago that Australia are a lot closer to winning in England than England are to winning in Australia.

"Australia arrive in England in a few months time and even though they are struggling and have gone through a lot of turmoil, their bowling attack is strong, their leadership is good and with David Warner and Steve Smith back in the group they are going to be tough to beat. If they win a toss or two, get a couple of strokes of luck, then England might get a big surprise."

England coach Trevor Bayliss admitted his team was struggling to adapt its approach when moving from the one-day to the Test arena.

"We've got the one-day team that goes out and plays that way (attacking), sometimes I feel the message between one-day cricket and Test cricket gets muddled a little," he said.

"But certainly within the team there hasn't been a lack of talking about it. We've got to do the hard yards. That's been the chat the whole time. You've got to play your game and if that means doing hard yards, boys talk about earning the right. If they're bowling well early and there's a bit in the deck, get through that tough period. The longer you bat, the runs do start to come."

In particular, England's batting has the tendency to look lopsided with Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran and Ben Foakes all most suitable as stroke makers in the lower middle order.

The top three suffers from a chronic lack of options, with a revolving-door policy among openers in recent years and Bairstow the latest square peg wedged into the round hole at first wicket down.

"One of the difficult things is we've got six guys that are probably suited to batting six or seven and we're trying to fit them into the team," Bayliss said. "Without a lot of pressure coming up from behind then those guys are our best players, so we've got to try and fit them into the team.

"It would be great if somebody was pushing them from behind and giving them a little extra motivation to score runs and stay in the team."

Keep your fingers crossed they don't figure it out until after the Ashes.

- with AAP