Graeme Swann is treated for an injured hand.

Graeme Swann is treated for an injured hand. Photo: AFP

If England's Ashes campaign continues apace and its off-field hierarchy feels compelled to act, as Cricket Australia did after its 3-1 pummelling in 2010-11, a key aim should be to identify why its batsman are only half as good as they were on their past visit here.

England's bowlers, Stuart Broad excluded, have not been missed in the apportioning of blame for losing the first two Tests, but the targets should be the top seven batsmen who give them nothing substantial to defend with the ball.

England cannot do anything on this tour without being compared to the successful touring squad of three years ago. Given that eight of the present team were here then the comparisons are legitimate.

Ouch: Stuart Broad is out lbw to Mitch Johnson and cops a sore foot.

Ouch: Stuart Broad is out lbw to Mitch Johnson and cops a sore foot. Photo: Getty Images

England's 251 on Sunday was its second best score of the tour, and exceeded both scores it made in Perth three years ago. The difference is that while that past performance was an anomaly of the series its batsmen have been failing to produce ever since.

Even with two sub-200 scores at the WACA Ground in 2010-11 England's average innings across the five Tests was a mighty 409. The bulk of that run-scoring was assumed by the specialist batsmen and wicketkeeper Matt Prior, with the top seven averaging 363 per innings.

The seeds of England's struggles on this tour were sown in the winter series in England. Even though it triumphed 3-0, its average innings score had plummeted to 313, with the batsmen's contribution collapsing from 363 to 245.


Since arriving in Australia the dramatic fall has continued. At the half-way mark of this series England's average innings score was 210, with the top seven batsmen contributing, on average, 168 runs. Both are only barely half the tallies amassed here three years ago when Cook's defences were near impregnable and Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Prior all thrived, with a devastating Adelaide double-century from Kevin Pietersen.

England began day three with a legitimate hope of saving the Test, given its best batsman Bell was still at the crease, with all-rounder Ben Stokes, and Prior and the capable Tim Bresnan still to come.

As dependable as the English batsmen were on that past visit their role has been snared by the Australian seamers.

Ryan Harris, who managed only half that series before breaking down, claimed the vital wicket of Bell after a favourable DRS referral of a failed leg-before appeal. Johnson ended his barren spell with the prompt removal of Stokes and then Broad, who he incapacitated to boot.

While England's tailenders have not been able to match the batting exploits of Australia's, that should not overshadow the fact they are being called to the middle, with bat and ball, much earlier than they should be.