Belfast Telegraph

Aussies to power on

By Robert Fenton

What now for a humiliated England cricket team? Given a pasting by a nothing special, but focused and determined, Australian side Down Under, the Test careers of several players are lying in ashes.

From Perth to Sydney, it was a case of incompetence, fear and a shocking inability to put up a fight.

The white flag was flying with skipper Alastair Cook incapable of matching any challenge his counterpart Michael Clarke put up.

And yet Cook is still determined to remain as skipper – but surely his days are numbered in the role.

He should step aside now along with coach Andy Flower, but that's unlikely to happen and thus bookmakers are going 4/9 that Cook leads the team and Flower stays in charge for the two Tests against Sri Lanka in the summer.

England are hot favourites to win that series (4/9) but there is little value there even though they won't have the pace of Mitchell Johnson to worry about and Sri Lanka are going through a transitional phase.

The Three Lions still have to contend with Johnson in the upcoming five ODIs against the Aussies, starting in the early hours of Sunday.

Another whitewash and both Cook and Flower will be shown the exit door.

Australia can be backed at 6/1 for that outcome, but one thing is for sure – 4/9 to follow up their Test success looks nailed on.

The only thing keeping Cook as captain is the paucity of potential replacements – possibly only Stuart Broad, who's worth a punt at 4/1 to take over against the Sri Lankans.

Kevin Pietersen emerged as top batsman with a paltry 294 runs which speaks volumes.

He constantly disappoints as a Test player and, along with Cook, Ian Bell, Joe Root and the rest of the top batting order, was left badly exposed in the cauldron of conflict. Cook could only muster 246 while his captaincy left much to be desired.

It would be a brave man therefore who would get involved at 5/4 England regaining the Ashes next year for which the Aussies are rated 6/4 to win outright.

Andrew Flintoff and coach Duncan Fletcher were removed after the 5-0 hammering in 2006-07 but faith was kept in Andrew Strauss as well as Cook, Pietersen and Bell who bounced back to push England to number one in the world and three straight Ashes victories.

Much work needs to be done if that scenario is to be repeated next year.

To captain England in 2015 Ashes series: 1/4 A Cook; 4/1 S Broad; 12/1 J Root.

Two Test series v Sri Lanka: 4/9 England; 7/1 Sri Lanka; 11/4 draw.

Five Test series v India: 8/13 England; 5/2 India; 9/2 draw.

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