England Lions, the England second string side, has crashed to a fourth successive defeat at the hands of their Australian counterparts Australia A. The tour has been an absolute disaster for England’s hopeful reserve stocks, having lost not just four times in a row to Australia A, but also in the tour games to Victoria.
There were major problems on the England Lions case that meant this catastrophic failure took place. Firstly, in all the tour games, only twice did they bat out the full 50 overs, and on the bowling side of things, only one out of the top five wicket takers. Although three of the top five run scorers were from the Lions, there was only one hundred and six fifties in the entire tour compared to Australia A who managed four hundreds (three in the unofficial ODI series) and 7 fifties in the tour.
The disparity in both departments is perfectly evident.
The lack of success with the ball is a major concern especially because currently the major issue with England’s national test side is the bowling depth that has fallen away. A number of the Lions bowlers have been tipped for England futures, most notably Chris Wright, Toby Roland Jones and Stuart Meaker. In fact, Meaker was selected for the tour of India after injuries to Broad and Bresnan, so he is literally on the cusp of the national side.
A year or two ago, arguably there was a rich stock of six or seven bowlers to chose from, and now many of the main bowlers have suffered from injury (Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan), others were not being picked perhaps due to risk of injury or inexperience (Graham Onions, Stuart Meaker and Chris Woakes) and other issues such as running into the stumps (Steven Finn) have all put sufficient doubt into the actual England bowling line-up. Good back up stocks are therefore essential for depth and options.
The lack of potency and success on this tour to their opposite numbers in Australia is therefore particularly worrying not only because these are the potential ‘next generation’, but there is another more indirect element that needs attention. With 10 Ashes tests in the next year, and 44 different players having been selected in the last year for Australia, it is likely that some of the Australia A players that have demolished this England tour side will at some point play in the next year for Australia proper.
With a champions trophy and two Ashes tours in the next 12 months, it is more than likely that there will be an impact on bowlers in particular, forcing selectors to delve into reserve stocks such as those in the England lions. It is certainly a possibility that some who have faced up to each other in this Lions vs Aus A tour could also therefore face up to each other in the last year.
We have all seen in the past, players coming from both Lions and Australia A squads and walking straight into test cricket. Obviously most notable examples have been the likes of Alastair Cook and with the bowlers, Stuart Meaker, Chris Woakes and James Harris have all been plucked from England lions duty before to play International cricket. For Australia, the likes of Jackson Bird, Matthew Wade, John Hastings and Moises Henriques are all more recent examples. If this was needed, clearly Australia A players have the wood over England Lions players. Australia seem to have more deapth.
This has been a resounding and comprehensive tour defeat for England Lions. Australia A have out batted and out bowled their tourist rivals and signalled to the next generation that it means business.
By Jack Mendel – Follow me on twitter @jackmendel4