I am writing this as a cricket fan who was in some ways surprised by the happenings of the first Ashes test of this series, and in other ways not.  I am going to analyse the potential reasons for England’s demise, and in particular their batting collapse.
The Domino Effect
It’s fair to say any English cricket fans have had their enthusiasm for this Ashes series curbed by the outcome of the first Test.  With the exception of day one, it was an awfully one-sided test match.  England’s collapse in the first innings was calamitous.  England have been a consistent and successful team for four or five years now; yet somehow collapses like this shouldn’t surprise us too much.  
The numbers:

  • England have failed to score 200 in the first innings of the last 5 overseas tours, they have gone on to win 2, draw 2 and lose 1 of these series
  • England haven’t registered a total of 400 or more for the last 17 innings, until last week they hadn’t been punished for this with a defeat.

So why are players who on the whole average around 45 so prone to a team collapse?  There are a few theories doing the rounds.  Maybe they’re ‘fair weather cricketers’ who make their runs on flat wickets (of which there are plenty), or only against mediocre bowlers (the Indian, Australian and Pakistani attacks of recent years could all fall into this category).  A criticism levelled at a couple of the English players over the years is that they only score ‘easy runs’ – i.e. scoring a hundred when you’re team are 400/2 is a lot easier than when they’re 10/2.  A little harsh though this may be, I think there is some truth in it.  So much of England’s success has come when one of their opening batsmen are really firing.  An alternative theory is that since teams play such a high quantity of cricket nowadays, there’s bound to be the odd collapses here and there – and as valid as this may be it feels like a bit of a cop-out as a solution.
One thing we can be sure of is that this is a very real problem for England.  However, you only have to look back to India last year to see that England’s position in this series is very much recoverable.
Most of this data comes from memory and the radio as I followed the test, although the Guardian’s Spin, Daily Mail’s Top Spin, Wikipedia stats and Cricinfo have also been great sources.

I think it’s important that we spare a thought for the wellbeing of Jonathon Trott who’s had to return to England following a ‘long-term stress related condition’.  This is not an area that I profess to have any expertise in but it’s a terribly sad way for Trott’s tour to end.  It’s an illness that seems to be all-too-familiar with cricketers.  It puts the game into perspective.