Throwaway line hints at England discontent

Joe Root insists England can still retain the Ashes despite 0-2 series deficit and poor WACA record

It was only a throwaway comment from James Anderson at the end of his newspaper column, but the admission that he was frustrated with England’s coaches during the Second Magellan Ashes Test in Adelaide indicated all is not well in the tourists' camp ahead of a make-or-break match in Perth this week.

Captain Joe Root made all the right noises on the eve of a third Test his team, at 2-0 down in the series, cannot afford to lose if they are to hold out any hope of retaining the urn.

But Anderson’s words in the UK’s Daily Telegraph regarding the performance of England’s bowlers on the opening day in Adelaide were not helpful to the wider cause.

Indeed, the hint that there is disharmony or friction between the players and coaching staff is the last thing England needed following a week in which their preparations have been overshadowed by yet another off-field incident – Lions player Ben Duckett disciplined for pouring a drink over Anderson in Perth's Avenue bar.

"We should have bowled a touch fuller," said Anderson. "It was an oversight from the players on the field but also from the coaches who could have had an input too, which is frustrating."

Anderson, if you needed reminding, is 35 has played 131 Tests and has taken 514 wickets. He really shouldn’t need the coaches to tell him what length to bowl. It’s probably just as well Shane Bond, England’s temporary bowling coach for the first two Tests, has now left to join up with Brisbane Heat in the KFC Big Bash League.

Root, though, played down any talk of disharmony in what could be seen a mild rebuke to Anderson, his country’s all-time leading wicket-taker.

"I think the relationship has been really good," he said.

"I think we got it wrong on the field. It’s easy to look back and say 'go and try to bowl that little bit fuller'. We all knew that was the case and it’s probably slightly harsh to put the blame on to the coaches.

Root backs England to respond to 0-2 Ashes deficit

"That might not be exactly how he (Anderson) wanted that to come across in the way it did but I think ultimately us guys on the field, we’re the ones responsible for what we are doing out there.

"We have to be smarter, react quicker. I take responsibility for that as well, as captain. You’ve got to pick up on these things quite quickly and as a group we’ve got to adapt.

"That’s a lesson we’ve definitely got to learn for this surface and make sure we find that right length which is going to cause Australia as many problems as possible."

England’s record at the WACA Ground is dismal, winning just once in 1978, drawing three Tests and losing nine, including the past seven. Their chances of turning the series around with a victory then are, historically speaking, remote.

In terms of current form, a team that has been unable to match Australia over five days so far during this series also look badly positioned to recover from what currently appears a hopeless position.

WACA curator prepares for final Ashes pitch

That didn’t stop a bullish Root issuing a rallying call ahead of the Test, the Yorkshireman saying: "We know what’s at stake. That attitude has not been different for any of the other Test matches.

"We know how important each game is over here. The real thing to hit home here is it’s an opportunity to create history. It’s a real chance to flip the dynamics of this series on its head and if we do come away 2-1 from this game, it does blow the series wide open."

The party line from almost every single England player since defeat in the opening Test in Brisbane has been that they are still in the series and need to produce good cricket over five days to put pressure on Australia.

Root repeated that mantra on Wednesday.

"We have to make sure we put in that rounded performance which we know we can do," he said.

Smith undecided on XI, praises Handscomb

"It’s just about putting all the good stuff we’ve done so far on this tour together for five days. If we do that, we’ll win."

The time for talking, though, is over.

England, and Root as captain, need to back up those words with substance on the field. Fail and the Ashes will have been surrendered after three matches for the third time in four tours.

This is a group of players capable of producing that performance, especially against an Australian team who are far from the finished article.

However, England need to do it this week in Perth or all the positivity generated by Root winning his first two series as Test captain during the last northern summer will evaporate.

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21