Ashes lessons so far: from Australia’s fab four to England’s failure to convert | Rob Smyth | Sport

1) England’s failure to seize key moments proves critical

England have not been pulverised as they were in 2013-14. Theirs is a different kind of pain, the torment of life’s cruellest question: what if? History can also be written by the vanquished, even if few people want to read their version; and though Australia have been the better team, England will reflect on their inability to either recognise or seize a number of key moments. At Brisbane they were 246 for four in the first innings, and then had Australia 209 for seven before the mysterious case of the absent Jimmy Anderson. And they will forever wonder what might have happened had they performed in the first innings at Adelaide as they did in the second. This is shaping up to be England’s most frustrating tour of Australia since 1990-91, when they were competitive in all five Tests – and still lost 3-0.

2) Bigger contributions needed from Cook and Root

Hope is not an abstract concept. The mind paints vivid pictures of how dreams might become real. Almost every visualisation of England retaining the Ashes had Alastair Cook scoring runs in industrial quantities, wearing down Australia’s four-man attack in the baking sun as he did seven years ago. Cook looked a bit better at Adelaide but 62 runs in four innings is sadly short of par. The same is true of Joe Root’s aggregate of 142, even though he is England’s leading run-scorer and played admirably on the fourth evening of the second Test. Their struggles have put too much pressure on the other batsmen. The decision to move Moeen Ali above Jonny Bairstow, hard to fathom at the start of the series, now looks almost perverse.



Alastair Cook edges behind to Steve Smith off Nathan Lyon for 37 in the first innings at Adelaide. Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA

3) Lyon becomes a late-flowering leading man

Nathan Lyon might be cricket’s Bryan Cranston, the character actor who became a leading man late in his career. He has had a profound…

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