Alastair Cook is angry, he’s frustrated and he wants to stay on as test captain, desperate to help turn England’s cricketing woes around after another heavy loss in the fifth Ashes test became the last act in a 5-0 series defeat.
Australia won by 281 runs on Sunday, wrapping up the test with more than two days to spare at the Sydney Cricket Ground, as England capitulated to be all out for 166 chasing 448.
It was the sixth time in 10 innings this series that England had failed to make 200, with the last performance perhaps the meekest of all.
“There’s anger in me and frustration because for whatever reason we haven’t played very well, and the buck stops with me,” said Cook, who averaged a shade under 25 in the series, considerably lower than his career average of 46 from 102 tests. “I am desperate to try and turn it around. I feel as if I am the right man to do it.”
The skipper said, albeit tongue in cheek, that he retained the support of the English Cricket Board and would stay until he was told to go.
“I was given the vote of confidence from the board which usually means in football terms you have two weeks and then you’re on your bike,” he told a news conference. “If I’m not, and people higher up want a change because they think that’s the best way, I have to take it on the chin.”
Cook hadn’t lost a series as England captain after replacing Andrew Strauss, and the loss at Brisbane in the Ashes series opener was England’s first test loss in 2013. But critics of his captaincy got more vocal and more severe as the series went on with heavy losses in Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne.
The 5-0 series sweep is rare, and emulated only two other Australian triumphs Warwick Armstrong’s 1920-21 team and that of Ricky Ponting in 2006-07. But this was probably even more unexpected, considering England had arrived with high hopes of inflicting a fourth consecutive series defeat on Australia only a few months after retain the urn 3-0 at home.
That optimism quickly faded and England was comprehensively outplayed in all five tests, rotating 17 players into the test XI. Australia retained an unchanged starting line-up throughout the series, also a rarity.
“Credit to Australia, I can’t even count how many sessions we won in the series,” Cook said. “That’s a pretty daunting stat to take but a very realistic statistic.”
The problems started in the first test in Brisbane, where England lost by 381 runs inside four days. Jonathan Trott, a 49-test veteran, left the tour immediately after that loss due to a stress-related illness. England, after a detour for a tour match in the central Australia town of Alice Springs, was again comprehensively outplayed in the second test in Adelaide by 218 runs. Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson again proved near-unplayable for the England batsmen as he picked up his second player-of-the-match award.
England surrendered the urn in Perth, where it lost by 150 runs and Australia regained the Ashes for the first time since Ricky Ponting’s team triumphed in a 5-0 whitewash in 2006-07.
England improved in Melbourne, leading after the first innings despite the shock retirement of spinner Graeme Swann only days before the Boxing Day Test begun. But Australia stormed to victory after rolling through England for 179 in the 2nd innings and then chasing the 231 run target with ease to win by eight wickets.
Cook said many of the answers to England’s woes lay within.
“When you strip everything down, every single player now has to go back and have a look at themselves, have a look at their techniques,” he said. “Have a look at the way they’ve bowled and start rebuilding again.”
“And that hunger has to come from within to do it.”