England back to old ways after a promising start to the summer.
After victory at Lords, the signs were there that England had learned the error of their ways and were ready to battle hard to regain the Ashes. That all changed in five days at Leeds. Not every day was poor and not every session was lost. Indeed the scores were level after the first innings and New Zealand were 23-2 in the second innings. Then the wheels came off. Again.
So what went wrong? At first glance the batsmen couldn't bat through the final day, however, whilst 255 was less than they'd hoped or expected to score, it's not an awful score for the 4th innings of a Test match with overcast conditions. The problems started earlier than that.
There were eight or nine dropped catches in the game, most of them in the slip cordon. Cricketing basics. The seam bowlers tried to bounce New Zealand out or tried to bowl 'magic balls' as Paul Farbrace described them. On a pitch like Headingley, you bowl at the top of off stump and nip it either way. If New Zealand knew that, why didn't England? Cricketing basics.
That is not to say everything is rosy in the batting camp. Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali scored 87 between them over two innings. An average of 8.7. You aren't going to win too many Test matches on that basis. Of those five, Root and Stokes are safe. Ballance and Bell will be looking over their shoulder Their recent form has been patchy but their overall average may save them unless someone like Alex Lees or Jonny Bairstow scores heavily in the next few weeks.
Mooen Ali is the player most in danger of being dropped, His 2015 form stands in stark contrast to his breakthrough season last year. New Zealand's spinner Mark Craig went for two an over, with Ali conceding runs at over 4.5 per over. Accordingly, Craig bowled twice as many overs as Ali. Twice as much rest for the seam bowlers and twice as economical. Only one thing can save Ali from being dropped - the lack of a replacement.