Ashes Debate Podcast: Bob Willis says England ‘abject’ at Headingley, calls for change to county schedule

Bob Willis says England’s “abject” batting display at Headingley must force the ECB to focus more on red-ball cricket.

England were skittled for just 67 by Australia on day two at Headingley, having been rolled for 85 by Ireland at Lord’s in July, and face a huge battle to prevent Tim Paine’s side taking an Ashes-retaining 2-0 lead.

Willis has called for change – both to England’s batting technique and the county schedule, bemoaning the fact Specsavers County Championship fixtures are now principally played at the start and end of the summer.

“That was abject, absolutely pathetic, totally depressing. It’s as simple as that,” former England seamer Willis said on The Ashes Debate, which you can listen to above or download here.

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“It is going to be all over in three Test matches and if the penny hasn’t yet dropped with England’s cricket administrators about the programme of four-day cricket [it needs to].

“If they want to keep Test cricket alive they are going to have to do something about it and pretty damn quick, because this was totally unacceptable.

“The dismissals were all the more galling as they were going hard at the ball outside the off stump. At Headingley you have to make the bowler come to you, leave everything outside off stump and nurdle into the leg side.

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“Opposition bowlers find out England’s batsmen’s weaknesses straight away. We saw a very brave hundred from Rory Burns at Edgbaston [in the first Test] but the Australians have sorted him out with the short ball.

“The selectors have this dilemma.

“They have plucked players who have scored runs in county cricket in Burns and Joe Denly but the four-day game in April and September is not designed to produce Test-match batsmen.

“So they have gone to white-ball players with no red-ball cricket in England at all and then we are backing our World Cup stars to win us the Ashes.

“The cricket-watching public want England to win the Ashes. Winning the World Cup was fantastic, a real shot in the arm, but the real fans want England to play Test cricket at the highest level.”

Jonathan Trott joined Bob and host Charles Colvile on the Ashes Debate to dissect a day which ended with Australia 171-6 in their second innings and leading by 283.

Also on the agenda…

– How brilliantly Australia bowled, particularly the “metronomic” Josh Hazlewood, who snared five wickets

– How Marnus Labuschagne has battled his way to twin half-centuries in the Leeds Test

– Do England have any chance of winning the game at Headingley

– Ben Stokes showing his character in a “monumental” bowling spell

– Is pressure getting to Joe Root – and who, if anyone, could succeed him as captain

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