The loss to India was pretty grim, there were flashes of good bowling and India made things heavy for themselves, but nothing can disguise another batting collapse.
Through summer, winter and now autumn, England continue to be viewed as a side of stars. The Flintoff/Pieterson axis continues to be the major talking point before and after every match, yet KP’s form in ODI’s and Freddie’s injury blighted six months have offered little to sustain this.
Pieterson managed an average of 29 against Sri Lanka in the ODI’s, set that next to his 72 in the tests. Against Pakistan he was punching out at 28, next to 49 in the tests. India however, saw England comprehensively bullied in a nightmare series, yet Pieterson was making 58 – next to a test average of 36. In Pakistan both he and Freddie posted in the 40’s.
Flintoff’s batting has been a liability all summer as he has struggled with fitness, 15 in the tests against Sri Lanka and 20 for Lancashire. When his batting slumped, Vaughan was worth two places for his captaincy alone. Now Freddie can’t bowl and with Strauss at the helm all summer, can the same be said for him?
In India in March Flintoff looked a natural captain, leading from the front and carrying all in his stride, injured and out of form he is a changed man. England look ragged and headless. In Cook, Bell, Dalrymple, Monty and the rest they are still stiff with talent, but they need an officer in command.
Lieutenant Freddie’s first-over-the-trench eleven man charge works to great effect, as we saw in the Ring of Fire, but when he is stuck in outfield HQ he looks frustrated and the team looks distinctly village.
Last summer Vaughan looked the unflinching, unsmiling general. That is what they need now. If Australia hammer Fred and co in the next match they will be a massive mental point ahead come the first Test.
If Freddie and KP can’t lead from the front and Vaughan is really serious about making the last two tests, I wouldn’t complain if he captained from a deck chair for the first three. More than Freddie’s bowling or KP’s batting, England need a wise old head right now.