England planned for losing a wicket to the first ball of the Ashes
@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read
When Mitchell Starc cannoned the first ball of this winter’s Ashes into Rory Burns’ leg-stump, the left-hander’s front foot somewhere out near silly point and his bat even further away, there was a collective intake of breath in shock from everyone watching.
Well, almost everyone. Up in the England dressing room, head coach Chris Silverwood may even have had a knowing smile on his face. This was all part of the plan.
“It was quiet in the dressing-room when it happened,” he told reporters in Australia. “We do a certain amount of planning around ‘what ifs’: what if we lost a wicket first ball, what if we drop a catch in the first over? We try to make it if not normal, then ‘OK, we expected this – let’s move forward.’”
That’s right: while rain ruined most of England’s physical preparations, off-field the strategising was in full flow. Granted, it might be more impactful to discuss your intricate plans after you’ve recovered from being 0-1 to post 400, rather than ending up 147 all out. And maybe preparing to score 550 and then skittle the Aussies for 100 could be an idea too. Silverwood, to his credit, did admit a flaw in the thinking.
“But equally you can see the effect it has on Australia, with their tails up,” he said. “They were flying at that point. The first ball of an Ashes game is massive and they got it right.”
It’s a plan even Balderick might have balked at. ‘If we plan to be really shit, then when we are really shit, it’s OK because it’s all going to plan.’ And it must have made for a strange atmosphere as Burns came back into the dressing room, strangely calm as England followed the script to the letter. You can imagine Chris Woakes coming over to put an arm round the opener’s shoulder and saying, ‘Don’t worry Rory, we all sort of knew that would happen’.
Is this negative thinking, quite literally planning for failure? Or a sensible understanding of how things are going to turn out? Only time will tell. England are 1-0 down heading into the second, and one thing at least is certain: Silverwood expected this to happen.
“We get this out of our system,” he said. “We had a good chat in the dressing-room after. There are obvious areas we need to improve on, such as holding our catches and building big partnerships. Obviously they were hurting, but there is belief they can win this series. We have been in this position before. We have gone 1-0 down and then bounced back.”
Yep, this is all part of the plan.
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