Headingley collapse is the latest installment in a sorry English tale
Watching the sorry procession of English batsman heading back to the pavilion yesterday at Headingley after yet another injudicious shot reminded me that being an England cricket fan can be tough.
In fact, with alarming regularity, England’s batting has a tendency to brittleness and being prone to collapse like a house of cards in a force nine gale. On far too many occasions in 30 years of following England expectation and anticipation can quickly turn into crushing disappointment, misery and despair.
Here are ten of England’s worst batting performances over this time. Unfortunately, it is not an exhaustive list but merely one compiled of those disasters freshest in the mind.
1. 51 all out, 2nd innings, vs West Indies, 1st Test, Kingston, 4-7 February 2009
We only have to go back six months to the day to remember the last shambolic batting performance. In what proved to be the definitive day of a turgid series, England started their 2nd innings 74 runs behind. Just 33.2 overs later England were all out for 51, losing by an innings. Coincidently, this was a role reversal of what had happened at the same ground five years before when Steve Harmison, with 7 for 12 had bowled the West Indies out for 47.
2. 46 all out, 2nd innings, vs West Indies, 3rd Test, Port of Spain, 25-30 March 1994
Having played well throughout the match, England had been set 194 to win and were confident even though they needed to get the better of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh to reach their target. Nineteen overs of hostile fast bowling later, England were dismissed for a paltry 46, Ambrose with 6 for 24 and Walsh 3 for 16.
3. 79 all out, 2nd innings, vs Australia, 1st Test, Brisbane, 7-10 November 2003
After Nasser Hussain’s bizarre decision to insert Australia after winning the toss, England were always chasing this game especially with Matthew Hayden scoring a century in each innings. Set an unlikely 463 to win and needing to bat out a draw on a decent batting wicket, England were demolished for 79. And Mark Butcher scored 40 of this dismal total!
4. 175 all out, 2nd innings, vs Pakistan, 1st Test, Multan, 12-16 November 2005
After dominating this match, with the still sorely missed Marcus Trescothick scoring 193 in England’s 1st innings and Andrew Flintoff taking match figures of 8 for 156, England were set 198 to win on the last day of the 1st Test. However, they fell 22 runs short to the express pace of Shoaib Akhtar and the wily spin of Danish Kaneira. The balloon of optimism from the 2005 Ashes success had been burst after only one match.
5. 129 all out, 2nd innings, vs Australia, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 1-5 December 2006
On the flattest of flat pitches England had scored 551 for 6 in their 1st innings, with Paul Collingwood scoring a double century. Although Australia had responded with 513 all out, surely England couldn’t lose from here? Even the Australians, Shane Warne excepted, expected the game to meander to a draw. However, after a shocking and timid display England were bowled out for 129 in 73 overs. Australia won by six wickets, and England, with Flintoff crying as he bowled, never recovered and lost the series 5-0.
6. 82 all out, 1st innings & 93 all out, 2nd innings, vs New Zealand, 2nd Test, Christchurch, 3-5 February 1983
Not one but two dismal batting performances in the same match. The nadir of a shambolic tour to the land of the long white cloud in 1983 was the 2nd Test at Christchurch, where after New Zealand made 307 in their 1st innings, England were shot for 82 and 93, following on, to lose by an innings. Richard Hadlee had match figures of 8 for 44.
7. 162 all out, 2nd innings, vs New Zealand, 4th Test, The Oval, August 19-22 1999
In this fourth and deciding Test of the series, England suffered the ignominy of defeat against a New Zealand side that had previously been ranked the worst team in Test cricket. Chasing 245 to win, England slumped from 123 for 2 to 162 all out to replace the Kiwis at the bottom of the rankings. Fortunately, Nasser Hussain recovered from this inauspicious start to his captaincy to help forge a more resilient England side in tandem with Duncan Fletcher.
8. 203 all out, 1st innings, vs South Africa, 2nd Test, Headingley, 18-21 July 2008
Only one year ago at the same venue as yesterday’s sorry performance, England were shot out for 203 by a South African side that had just had to save the 1st Test at Lords. England, who had brought the hitherto unknown Darren Pattinson in for Paul Collingwood, were blown away in 52.3 overs. South Africa responded with 522 and England eventually lost by ten wickets. This defeat and another one in the following Test at Edgbaston led to the resignation of Ashes hero Michael Vaughan as skipper.
9. 155 all out, 1st innings, vs Australia, 1st Test, Lords, 21-24 July 2005
After bowling the Aussies out for 190, with Stephen Harmison taking 5 for 43, England collapsed to 21 for 5 thanks to their nemesis Glenn McGrath. Although the Aussies went on to win this battle by 239 runs, England won the war, the adulation, the Trafalgar Square celebrations and their MBEs. So, despite the humiliation yesterday and the defeat that is likely to ensue, can England repeat their recovery of 2005 and regain the Ashes at The Oval?
10. 102 all out, 1st innings, vs Australia, 4th Test, 7 August 2009
Or could this be the day that England lost the chance to regain the Ashes? Fears that in the absence of Kevin Pietersen, the England batting was totally reliant on Andrew Strauss came to pass. With Stuart Broad batting too high at number seven in the absence of Andrew Flintoff, and the selectors continuing to rely on an out of depth Ravi Bopara, at number three, Australia roared back into the series. The end of this story waits to be written.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, England have recovered from inept batting displays before. It may be clutching at straws, but solace can be found if we go back to the Boxing Day Test in Durban of 2004. England were shot out for 139 and South Africa replied with 332, a 1st innings lead of 193. In their 2nd innings, England scored 570 for 7 declared, with Marcus Trescothick (132) and Andrew Strauss (136) putting on 273 for the 1st wicket. This turnaround nearly resulted in an England win with South Africa struggling to 290 for 8, chasing 378, when the game ended.
Alternatively, we can always hope that the English weather could play a part. In 1997, with McGrath taking 8 for 38, England were shot out for 77 in their 1st innings in the 2nd Test at Lords. Luckily, for the home side, the weather then played a decisive part and the game meandered to a draw.
After yesterday, it may seem unlikely, but we can only hope for shades of Headingley 1981 and reincarnations of Botham and Willis!
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