Instead of calling for Ben Stokes, some England players should be looking at themselves and apologising to Joe Root for costing his England team a shot at victory
- England are missing Ben Stokes, whose presence could have tipped the balance
- In reality, they had chances to win the first Ashes Test without their star player?
- Instead of calling for Stokes, England's players should be looking at themselves
- Some owe captain Joe Root an apology for costing his team a shot at victory
- REPORT: Read Paul Newman's rundown of all the day four action from the Gabba
- MARTIN SAMUEL: Australia's biggest players stood up when it mattered most
- LAWRENCE BOOTH: England have lost more than their sabre-rattling star Stokes
As England's last wickets tumbled on Sunday amid a barrage of bouncers and batsmen's blunders at the Gabba and then Australia's openers turned what had been a closely fought Test into a gathering humiliation, the cry went up for Ben Stokes.
Avon and Somerset Police, who are investigating an incident in which Stokes was involved, were urged to either charge him or clear him. One Test in to this Ashes series, England are battered, bruised and their supporters are already feeling the need to plead for someone to ride to the rescue.
The instinct is understandable. On the evidence of the first three days of this match, at least, Australia and England are relatively evenly matched and if Stokes were here instead of disseminating his training drills on Instagram and taking pictures of photographers parked outside his house, then his batting and his bowling might well have given England the advantage in this opening encounter.
Alastair Cook's ill-judged decision to hook Josh Hazlewood started England's batting collapse
Jonny Bairstow was at fault too; England must start showing determination and discipline
But Stokes is not here and even if a decision is made soon and he is not charged, it is far from certain that the ECB would ask him to fly to Australia. Some members of the England hierarchy are concerned both about the message that would send and the circus of publicity it would unleash were Stokes to arrive, say, for the Third Test in Perth.
The cry for Stokes is a crutch anyway. Perhaps it seems improbable now that England are staring at a heavy defeat in Brisbane, but they had chances to win this Test without him. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say they had chances to make it far more of a challenge than it currently appears to be for the Australians as they cruise towards the total of 170 that England set for them to take a 1-0 lead in these Ashes.
Instead of calling for Stokes, some England players should be looking at themselves and apologising to their skipper, Joe Root, for costing his team a shot at victory. England were very much in this game for three days but a couple of critical poor decisions let them down at crucial moments.
Alastair Cook's ill-judged, idiotic decision to hook Josh Hazlewood in the fourth over of England's second innings on Saturday evening was one of them. A player of Cook's experience and ability should, frankly, have known better.
Some of England's players owe captain Joe Root an apology as Australia steam towards victory
Root walks off the pitch at the Gabba after being dismissed for 51 on day four of the first Test
He had watched Aussie skipper Steve Smith play a masterful innings of iron will, avoiding the temptation to flirt with the traps England had set him. Then, 13 balls into his innings, he holed out to long leg. It was an amateur's mistake that gave Australia the momentum they needed.
The second critical moment came when England were on 194-7 in their second innings with Jonny Bairstow and Stuart Broad at the crease. Bairstow was going well on 42 and England knew that if they could score another 70 or 80 runs to their total, they might at least sow some doubt in Australian minds.
Instead of that, like Cook before him, Bairstow fell into the most simple of traps. Mitchell Starc moved Peter Handscomb to third man and dug in a short ball. Bairstow tried to waft it over the slips and succeeded only in floating it straight to the fielder who had been put there for that purpose. It was so weak it looked like Bairstow was giving Handscomb fielding practice.
Australia's impressive openers couldn't help but smile as they walked off the pitch at the close
England are crying out for Ben Stokes but had chances to win the first Test without him
It doesn't make Bairstow and Cook bad cricketers but it does mean they have to start showing the kind of determination and discipline that Smith showed. They are both seasoned players. They are the men that are supposed to be providing Root's chief support. Instead, they let him and the team down.
If Australia look dependent on Smith, England look even more dependent on Root, who top scored in the second innings with 51. That is why Cook and Bairstow, in particular, have to step up.
This series is not over just because England are almost certainly about to lose here but the inquest will be especially painful because it feels as if they blew a decent chance to win when they had Australia at 76-4 in their first innings.
Cook looks dejected, on his hands and knees, while fielding against Australia at the Gabba
England have to start showing the determination and discipline that Steve Smith showed
It feels now as if Australia were superior in every department in this match but that isn't true. Steve Smith and those rookie errors by Cook and Bairstow were the difference.
What feels ominous is that Australia got stronger and stronger as the match went on while England faded. Every session brought good news for Australia. Their under-fire wicket-keeper Tim Paine trapped Moeen Ali with a sharp stumping. Their debutant opening batsman Cameron Bancroft scored a maiden 50 in today's final session. Their quicks looked more and more hostile.
Australia may not be as vulnerable as they were at the start of this Test match for the rest of the series but there is still all to play for. They know, though, that they missed a trick here and if they make the same mistakes again, the Ashes will soon be back in Australian hands.
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