Opinion: England's silent horror movie
Peter Moores hiding behind a window, Alastair Cook picking fights with Shane Warne, Matthew Prior acting like Iker Casillas. It's all going horribly wrong for England, says Tim Ellis.
That was abject. Numbing in its predictability, England's latest botch-up isn't even shocking.
Ian Bell said it was "absolutely gutting", and spoke about kicking opponents when they were down and burying them. His words sounded oddly aggressive and a bit jarring, given the events that had preceded it.
The screech of the Sri Lankans for every wicket was set against the background of a deadly silence at Headingley.
Bell said that fielding is a window into the team. If that is so, not even a pneumatic dental drill would have awoken this sorry lot from their slumber.
Angelo Matthews and Rangana Herath were allowed to bat for two hours without so much as a minor disturbance. Matt Prior's erratic day mirrored the current form of Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas behind the stumps – thrown into the team based purely on seniority rather than match practice. If your 'keeper is sloppy, the rot sets in.
England have only themselves to blame for letting the series slip. They were in dominant positions in both matches but casually managed to take the foot off the accelerator, disengage the gears and stall.
Peter Moores appears to have kept a safe distance from the press so far. He should be aware that hiding behind a window will not work. Coaches who are given a second chance don't enjoy a honeymoon period.
Nor can he expect a generally conservative cricket press to accept the manner of this pending defeat without asking serious questions. There is a rancid stench in the air already, full of the re-opening of sores from the winter. The new boys – Gary Ballance, Chris Jordan and Sam Robson – look like they can take care of themselves. They might need to.
Clearly, Moores does not believe it his job to motivate the players. He said as much when he signed up to the job again. In some ways, he is right. Andrew Strauss believed that the coach was not there to push and prod the squad, but to keep the players calm.
However, there is a big difference between calm and detached. You wonder where the fire in the belly is going to come from when so many of the senior personnel are clearly struggling to lift themselves.
The fourth day showed all the organisation of a Sunday pub team. Reviews were taken without quality control. James Anderson and Stuart Broad bowled like they had double vision. Alastair Cook refused to believe he could dismiss Angelo Matthews. This had the net effect of making Rangana Herath look and feel invincible.
Moores stared on expressionless. It was everything English fans didn't want to see again after the horrors of the outback in 2006 and 2013.
Where does Alasatair Cook go after this? He seems in constant shellshock, not able to move on from the recent past. As a captain he is getting increasingly distracted and defensive. Picking a fight with Shane Warne over "personal" criticism before the match was pointless and showed a weak spot that the opposition will pounce on.
"Support and positivity is what this England team needs", the England captain demanded before the match. Yet all Cook sees is criticism and his reactions on and off the pitch are severely dulled.
England underestimated Mitchell Johnson in Australia and he shattered their confidence. The home series against Sri Lanka was supposed to be a gentle step on the way back to rehabilitation. Don't believe it on this evidence. They can chirp at the opponents all they want, but their confidence is still in a critical condition.
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