The selection of an unchanged Test side for Perth now seems to be unavoidable.
In the previous Ashes series, Fletcher’s famous ‘Bubble’ which surrounded the team was credited with the longest run of form the England team had enjoyed for decades. It insulated them from the bedlam of the Zimbabwe tour, allowed Pieterson to flourish in the teeth of the Wanderers and gave the whole side the confidence to take on Australia on equal footing.
Yet increasingly this bubble seems to be keeping out more players than criticism and Fletcher’s glass ceiling has been thrown into sharp relief on this tour.
Fans and pundits alike have more or less resigned themselves to the continued inclusion of Geraint “Whoops there goes another one” Jones. Chris Read looked almost resigned to being dropped again following his 59* at the WACA, and one suspects Jones’ golden duck will only ink his name into the team sheet more indelibly.
As he, Panesar and Mahmood watch Jones, Giles and Anderson throw away a series England could of won, you have to wonder how much more Fletcher will be allowed to get away with.
It was only the mental breakdown of Trescothick which allowed Collingwood, indisputably England’s best player, to keep his place. He, Read, Monty and Mahmood have been ignored (or summarily dropped when carrying the side) so often that I wonder they can bring themselves to be disappointed.
That these four were almost half of the side that humiliated Pakistan should not go un-noticed.
Now, as the saying goes, the plot thickens, Michael Vaughan is finding himself frozen out.
Vaughan and Fletcher have enjoyed a fabulous working relationship over the past few years. Between the two of them they healed the post Zimbabwe dressing room rift which would have wrecked any other team. The famous bubble is very much a joint creation of theirs.
Yet Vaughan is now on the outside – and getting further out the closer to fitness he gets.
When England flew out to Australia, Michael Vaughan joined them at the team hotel, was in constant conference with Flintoff and trained with the rest of the team.
As soon as he was fit he flew to join the Academy with a view to getting some time in the middle and rejoining the team.
Vaughan has continued to target the third or fourth Test as his comeback – yet as his enthusiasm grows, Fletcher’s has wained. For everytime Vaughan said his knee felt good and he was right on track, Fletcher would step out and insist he would “not even be considered”.
The talisamanic effect of Vaughan, his stature as a player and his position as nominal Captain ensured his place in the XI at the WACA, yet he did not bat and was not allowed to speak to the press after the match.
It now seems sure that he will join Monty and the rest in the Pavilion naughty corner and be made to watch as England surrender the urn.
Anderson, Harmison, Jones and Giles can, none of them, really lay claim to a spot in the team for perth. All have seen their form peak somewhere between poor and disaster. Fletcher’s “consistancy” is costing England very dear.
Examine again those who have fallen foul of the uber-loyal coach: Collingwood, Mahmood, Read, Monty and Vaughan – that’s five players.
Give me Stuart Broad, Jamie Dalrymple, Rob Key, James Benning, Graham Onions and Mark Butcher and I could turn out a side that would thrash Fletcher’s pets.
No one wants a return to the days before central contracts when all of Enlgand were fighting for their lives every match. But Fletcher has gone the other way, merit is being ignored and the natives, at least in my part of Esher, are getting restless.