Thorpe, who was a part of the England team that slumped to the bottom of the unofficial world rankings with their 2-1 series loss in 1999, said that he hoped this defeat would spur a similar quest for higher standards among the class of 2021, after he himself played a central role in the Nasser Hussain-led team that went on to win four series in a row in 2000-01, including their first against West Indies in 32 years.
But, Thorpe warned, while today’s selectors were far more tolerant of short-term failure than they were at the start of his own career in 1993, the management would need to see evidence of greater mental application than was the case in the past two Test matches. That was particularly the case in the second innings at Edgbaston, where England slumped to 76 for 6 and ultimately 122 all out.
“We have some younger players in our team who are still developing and we’re wanting them to improve,” Thorpe said. “But sometimes the intensity and the spotlight of Test cricket, when you’re up against a good team like New Zealand, just highlights how much of a challenge our players found their decision-making and the execution of shots.
“Whatever technique you have, the basics are still the same,” he added. “You have to get in, you have to be positive in your defence, leave the ball well outside off stump and play straight. These are the things that have applied to batting in Test match cricket for as long as it has been going.
“So it is a mental skill to be able to train the brain to do these things, and if anything we’ve been lacking consistency in that area.”
“If you look at the techniques of all our batters from Sibley to Burns, to [Ollie] Pope to Lawrence, you can go down our batting order and to me it comes down to decision-making,” Thorpe said. “They have all scored runs at Test level and so it is about doing it more consistently and that is a mental thing really.
“It is about coping with the anxiousness when you first go out there and once you get in, and things become easier, it is about being hungry to score runs and to stay out there to accumulate. You can do that in a number of ways, rotating the strike, putting overs into the bowlers and making them work hard, and then we have the players who can take advantage.
“We have the talent, but you have to mentally push yourself on further as well and that is the area where we have fallen down in this series.”
The wider concern for England, who face India in five Tests from August before heading to Australia for the Ashes in December and January, is that the batters who failed against New Zealand were, broadly speaking, among England’s first-choice picks.
“He’s young, both in terms of age and his Test career,” Thorpe said. “He’s played 14 matches and he’s starting to get an understanding of what Test match batting is all about.
“He’ll be very frustrated. It is important for him to keep learning about what it takes to keep himself at the crease. That is the thing he will be most disappointed about in this series, but he has got to reflect and learn from what has happened. If he goes away and keeps working at his game I’m sure he will be successful, but you do have to learn from these moments so that when you come back you are better for it.
“As coaches that is what we are looking at. Do you have the game, the mental fortitude to improve and learn and push yourself forward when you have a bump in the road?”
The itinerary for the rest of the English summer does not offer much opportunity for the incumbents to groove their games on the county circuit, or for rivals to challenge for their berths ahead of the Trent Bridge Test on August 4, with two rounds of the Championship in early July giving way to the opening matches of the Hundred later that month.
As a consequence, Thorpe indicated that England would not be making wholesale changes against New Zealand, but warned that pressure for places was part and parcel of the job.
“These players have to show a desperation to stay in the side,” he said. “They’ve got to earn the right to stay in the side.
“And they will be fully aware of that, because we’ve got some players who will come back into that team and there are others on the outside putting pressure on so there is competition for places, which is a healthy thing for a team.
“That competition should drive the individual on so, when they get in, they smell that opportunity to perform and go and do it. Of course, that goes with the territory of playing at the highest level. You do have to keep producing. Your right-hand column is very important, it is what keeps you in the team.
“It is for us to keep observing the players to see whether they have the temperament to apply their techniques to score runs,” he added.
“Technique is hugely important and that is what keeps you scoring runs, but it is your decision-making that keeps you out in the middle whatever technique you have.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
Men’s Hundred – Eoin Morgan
Middle order failing to fire, absence of three members of Test squad, Maxwell’s relatively late withdrawal hurt winless London Spirit
But five games into their first season, the Spirit have been the Hundred’s weakest side. They are the only side in the men’s competition yet to win a game, and were thrashed in their fourth and final home fixture (one was a washout) by Northern Superchargers on Tuesday night. The table is still tight enough that they are mathematically in the running, but any realistic chances of qualifying for knockout stages have dissipated.
Their first three defeats were all tight, with each game going down to the final set of five balls. At Edgbaston, they were just short of par in setting Birmingham Phoenix 145 to win, and in the home losses against Trent Rockets and Southern Brave, they were two boundaries away from getting across the line.
“I think throughout tournaments, and group stages, you will be beaten by better sides. There are very few instances when sides go unbeaten throughout a tournament. Where the problem for us lies is that the previous two games we played, we played well for the majority but in clinical parts of the game, we didn’t finish the job and that’s hurt us.”
Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of their struggles has been the fact that the squad they assembled does not look like it was built with the long term in mind. While some sides have openly admitted that their draft strategy was to assemble a group that could develop over a number of years rather than simply targeting success in the Hundred’s first season, the Spirit picked a number of veterans and looked – to borrow terminology from the NFL – like a ‘win-now’ team.
All three players were signed as part of the draft in October 2019, rather than through the separate Test player mechanism. None of them held a red-ball central contract at the time – Crawley and Lawrence were both uncapped – and while it was not out of the question that they might miss some games due to inclusion in a Test squad in future seasons, the Spirit were unfortunate to miss all three simultaneously for the majority of this year. To make matters worse, one of the two games for which Crawley and Lawrence were both available was washed out.
“I think every team has gone through it, losing players, particularly their Test guys,” Morgan said. “It’s been challenging, but other sides have found a way. We’ve recruited well, we just haven’t managed to get over the line.
“We haven’t done a lot of things wrong in the previous games that we’ve played. Every game we’d played had gone right down to the wire but to be up there with the pace, you’re doing a lot of positive things. Today [against the Superchargers], we were just beaten.”
But the upshot is that the Spirit are the first men’s team facing a post-mortem into a season that has represented something of a false start. Mason Crane and Blake Cullen have shown flickers of promise with the ball, but positives for future years have been relatively hard to come by. Warne, who missed their last two games after testing positive for Covid-19, tweeted from self-isolation that their defeats against the Rockets and the Brave had been “embarrassing” – his verdict on the season to date is unlikely to be any more favourable.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
Bangladesh vs Australia T20Is, 2021
The 1994 tour to Pakistan was the last time a full series was not available to viewers in Australia
For the first time since 1994 a tour by the Australia men’s team will not broadcast into Australia after a last-minute deal failed to materialise for the rights to the T20I series in Bangladesh.
It had been hoped that in the absence of a traditional television deal the series would be streamed on YouTube but there was no live coverage into Australia.
While the occasional one-off limited-overs match has not been seen in Australia over the last few years, it is not since the 1994 tour of Pakistan that an entire series won’t have been shown.
The majority of Australia’s tours are broadcast by Fox Sports who secured the recent series against West Indies just a couple of days before it started but a similar outcome has not happened for Bangladesh.
The ongoing Olympics that is taking most of the attention, the 1am finish time of the matches in Bangladesh and the fact Australia are missing a host of first-choice players may also have been factors in the attractiveness of the series. However, it also highlights what is likely to become an increasingly challenging broadcast market, particularly for perceived lower-key tours.
The series will be the last chance for both sides to work on plans and assess players ahead of the T20 World Cup in October. It was confirmed on Monday that Bangladesh’s proposed series against England of three T20Is and three ODIs in late September had been postponed until March 2023.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
IPL 2021 – Eoin Morgan to return to Kolkata Knight Riders for second half of IPL
He says involvement of other England players in the tournament, scheduled in September-October in the UAE, was a matter of personal choice
England were due to play three ODIs and three T20Is in Bangladesh in September-October but the ECB and the BCB released statements on Tuesday morning confirming that they had “mutually decided” to postpone the tour until March 2023. The IPL is due to resume on September 19 after its postponement midway through the season earlier this year, with the tour’s postponement opening up the opportunity for England’s white-ball players to take part ahead of the T20 World Cup in the UAE.
Speaking after his London Spirit side were beaten by Northern Superchargers in the Hundred at Lord’s on Tuesday night, Morgan confirmed that he intends to return to captain the Knight Riders in the rest of the IPL, and said that the involvement of other England players with contracts in the tournament was a matter of personal choice.
“It’s a complete individual decision,” Morgan said. “I think it was a win-win either way. If we went to Bangladesh we’d play in conditions that are foreign to us. If some guys go to the IPL, they’ll play in similar conditions [to the World Cup] or for guys that need a rest, they take a rest.
“We’ve a lot of cricket to play between now and then. We’ve planned on the tour going ahead – that’s been part of our planning for a long time now – but equally, given the nature in which we now compete and live our lives, it’s not a bad thing for guys to either take time off or go to the IPL if they feel refreshed and have enough energy.”
England’s only two remaining T20I fixtures before the World Cup starts on October 17 are due to be played in Pakistan on October 14 and 15, with the ECB and the PCB both confident that the tour will go ahead. The IPL final is also due to be played on October 15, creating a possible clash for any players whose franchises reach that stage of the tournament.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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