England face the sternest of tests at the WACA, Perth, a ground at which they have not won since 1978Edelmand

It is rare that one finds oneself agreeing with the Australian media. However, the headline of Australia’s Daily Telegraph sport section was both appropriate and correct. “Perthetic” is hard to beat as a one-word summary of England’s performance in the Ashes so far. Similarly, the labelling of the English players as “tourists masquerading as cricketers” in the same article is equally, sadly, hard to dispute.

The performances thus far have been underwhelming, even with expectations not being particularly high going into the series. Despite brief moments of optimism, when it seemed as if the English players had grasped the gravity of their situation, these have been comprehensively sullied by batting collapses, poor bowling and some admirable Australian performances. Shaun Marsh has impressed, nullifying my previous criticism. As a result, England trail 2-0 ahead of the third test at the WACA in Perth, a ground from which the visitors have failed to emerge victorious since 1978. If a similar fate befalls the England team this week, fears of a third Ashes whitewash in the past four visits to Australia will suddenly loom large.

“The reputation of the team has been well and truly besmirched; at the end of the day this is simply upsetting for fans”

However, what is perhaps particularly disappointing is that England’s troubles have not been confined to within the boundary rope. In fact, stepping over the boundary serves as a rather apt metaphor for the ‘antics’ of the team off the field.

One would have thought that the brawl in the early hours of September 25th – the so-called ‘Ben Stokes Incident,’ for which the all-rounder was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm – might have instilled a modicum of caution within the players' psyche. The team even made sure that it was public knowledge that they had collectively discussed and agreed rules for the ‘evening frivolities’ during the tour. Exactly what needed to be celebrated remains to be seen.

Yet, despite this, the off-field behaviour of certain players has dominated the papers in the series so far, leaving fans exasperated and frustrated. While Jonny Bairstow’s unconventional method of greeting people garnered more coverage than it perhaps ought to have received due to the ability of the Australian press to turn a mere smoke signal into an intense blaze, it should have served as a further warning.

Once a stalwart atop England's order, Alistair Cook has thus far failed to make a half-centuryNic Redhead

When I awoke on Saturday morning, I expected the news that England were once again struggling with bat and with ball; I expected the news that a second-string Australian team were putting up a strong fight. What I did not expect was the news of another off-the-field incident involving an England player. I did not expect it, because why would anyone in the England camp even get close to giving the Australian press a sniff of a story in the current climate? Surely, the touring party would be sensible enough to keep their heads down and avoid attention at every opportunity? After all, there was a curfew in place. How wrong I was.

It sounds perhaps a little condescending to say that, ultimately, it is simply disappointing. But it is the fact that the reputation of the England cricket team, particularly to those who do not follow cricket, has become one shrouded by the perception of a rampant drinking culture with players who engage in stag-do antics when they should be professionals playing sport that is most frustrating. The reputation of the team has been well and truly besmirched; at the end of the day this is simply upsetting for fans.


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It would be unfair, however, to group the whole squad under the banner of irresponsible, reckless and, ultimately, rash behaviour. The fact that the form of more reserved players such as Alistair Cook and Moeen Ali is being overtly scrutinised is testament to their off-field behaviour being relatively uninteresting, as it should be. Sadly, such sentiments cannot be extended to other members of the touring party, and it is these stories which grab headlines and aid in the construction of aforesaid imaginaries in the public’s consciousness.

In sum, English fans have been left disappointed by the team’s performances on the field and exasperated by their actions off it. It never rains, but it pours. While Ben Duckett decided to enact this metaphor literally, it is a sad reflection of the series thus far; any optimism I had harboured in those brief moments of quality at Adelaide is being washed into the gutter. Let’s just hope the team can at least restore some pride for the remaining month of the tour. Improvements with both bat, ball and in their off-field antics are necessary

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