/England defeat was excruciating – Agnew

England defeat was excruciating – Agnew


England’s eight-wicket defeat by New Zealand in the second Test at Edgbaston was like being back in the 1990s.

To win the toss on that pitch, bat first, then nearly lose by an innings is excruciating.

For England to surrender the series, and with it a proud record that had them unbeaten at home since 2014, is one of the worst results I’ve seen in a long time.

New Zealand were excellent – disciplined, energised and confident. England had no energy, which we saw when they were presented with the opportunity of a run-chase in the drawn first Test at Lord’s.

It is no coincidence they have turned in such a performance at Edgbaston after that final-day trudge in the series opener, because of the mindset they are in at the moment – negative, timid and defensive.

Decisions that England have made both over the course of this year and in the past two weeks can be dissected.

England have not picked their strongest team for any of their eight Tests in 2021 for reasons that are well documented.

However, for all of the talk of workload and protecting players from the problems of the Covid era, we have still seen Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson and Trent Boult play in this series for New Zealand after taking part in the Indian Premier League.

Yes, New Zealand have had the carrot of preparing for the inaugural World Test Championship final, but every Test is a big game.

I have never liked the idea of international caps being handed out here and there because certain players are having a rest.

You should pick your best possible team at every opportunity and if a player gets injured that, I’m afraid, is part of the job.

By making Chris Woakes and Sam Curran unavailable, England had problems balancing their side for these two Tests, meaning spinner Jack Leach was squeezed out.

Even then, England’s pace attack was out-performed by New Zealand, who bowled fuller and got the ball to swing more.

When England did create chances, catches went down. In contrast, the Black Caps held on to pretty much everything.

Still, when it comes to the reason England lost, all of these pale in significance to the batting displays, which are starting to look like a worrying hangover from the tour of India earlier in the year.

Questions have been asked about technique, but England captain Joe Root has instead spoken about mindset and confidence.

He’s right, too. Mentality is where England need to make a change.

There isn’t a lot of time for them to make alterations, though. Between now and that first Test against India, there are two rounds of County Championship matches.

Even if a batsman plays in both of those, there is then a three-week window for white-ball cricket before the India Tests start, rendering those first-class games pretty much worthless.

That means England have to find a way of getting together and gelling a squad, because it cannot be a case of turning up at Trent Bridge in early August and hoping everything is OK. They may look to get the team together for a few days before then.

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In terms of personnel, they will certainly be boosted by the returns of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, but it is at the top of the order where England have the most thinking to do.

Rory Burns got a century at Lord’s and Zak Crawley looks like he has something. I would move him up to open with Burns.

Even though Dom Sibley battled away on that final day of the first Test, it should be a consideration to move him aside and bring in someone else to bat at number three. Dawid Malan is a name that has been mentioned.

When I spoke to Root in the aftermath of the defeat at Edgbaston, he said this was not a time for England to panic.

Perhaps not, but I suspect some alarm bells will be ringing in the background.

It is not inconceivable for England to beat India later in the summer. If they do, the outlook will seem a lot brighter.

However, they will need to make considerable improvements for that to happen.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport’s Stephan Shemilt.

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