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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Ashes analysis: It's not just in Australia that England are an awful away team

It was all down to the Kookaburra ball. Or the parochial press. Or the lack of fast bowlers. Or Ben Stokes.

Whatever reason England do fall on for their Ashes drubbing, which ended 4-0 after an innings defeat in Sydney, the root of the problem is worryingly greater than all of them put together.

They have said in the wake of this humbling that planning for the next Ashes in four years’ time starts now. A fair intention, of course.

But what happens the rest of the time?

England were entirely listless in this series, but it is hardly a new thing. They have lost seven of the past eight away Ashes. The trouble is, it is not just against their oldest rivals that they suffer.

England are an awful away team, not simply in Australia. In the past five years, they have won a mere four Tests of the 27 they have played overseas.

Ashes player ratings: England

Somehow, that was enough for a series win – their only one away in the past half a decade – in South Africa in 2015-16. The only other success they have tasted on Test tours has been in drawn series in Bangladesh and West Indies.

Their win rate of 15 per cent over that period is far inferior to the other leading Test nations, and their loss percentage (59) is worse than any of the top seven Test nations bar Pakistan.

It might be worth pointing out England are not the only nation who suffer from travel sickness. It is more or less endemic in the game at present.

Australia have lost 56 per cent of matches on the road over the past five years. In the 1990s, when they were peerless at the top of the Test game, they lost just 32 per cent of the time.

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Of all sides in the past five years, India are the only one without a negative split between wins and losses abroad. Their win percentage overseas in Tests is 32 (the same as their loss rate), which is a point less than Australia and Pakistan, but they lose far less matches away than either of those sides. It is not for nothing that they are the No-1 ranked Test team.

It is counterintuitive that away series should be more difficult now than in the past. International travel in easier than ever before. Young English players think nothing of flying to the other side of the world to progress their development with a winter spent playing Australian grade cricket, for example.

And the England and Wales Cricket Board are better than most at finding winter placements for their promising young players. Young spinners, for example, are regularly sent to India or here in the UAE to hone their skills, while fast bowlers have gone to South Africa and Australia.

Ashes player ratings: Australia

Plus leading players benefit from being able to fly to various places around the world to play Twenty20 league cricket. The negative effects of playing too much short-format cricket is a different debate, but the fact players can so easily go and sample different pitch, as well as living, conditions can only be a good thing.

But there needs to be a point to it all. England’s results – at Test level, at least – suggest the best laid plans are being wasted.

Navel gazing about the pace-bowling problem in Australia, for example, will be rendered pointless when they get to the subcontinent next, and realise they can’t play or bowl spin either.

The solution is not an obvious one, but at least the question should be. England’s most pressing concern should be about winning anywhere, not just in Australia.

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Leading run-scorers

1. Steve Smith, 687

2. Shaun Marsh, 445

3. David Warner, 441

4. Dawid Malan, 383

5. Joe Root, 378

Leading wicket-takers

1. Pat Cummins, 23

2. Mitchell Starc, 22

3. Josh Hazlewood, 21

4. Nathan Lyon, 21

5. James Anderson, 17