NO-ONE needs to tell us that this Ashes series has been a massive disappointment.
To be 4-0 down with just one Test to play is not what any of us were expecting before we flew out to Australia and I can assure everyone at home that we share the frustration being felt by all fans of English cricket right now.
Having said that, I have found the criticism of Alastair Cook, as our captain, hard to take. He has come in for some stick and even though our results have been poor, I really don’t understand why.
Tactically, the captain is very good. Our problems have come with us not being good enough in this series to deliver the plans drawn up by Alastair and the coaching staff. That has been our problem.
To me, the criticism that has been written recently about the captain has been very much a knee-jerk reaction to what has been a bad series.
As a captain, you are only as good as the team that is put out can perform. And, in that respect, we have all been letting him down. That is the simple truth.
Our performances across a full Test have just not been good enough. Despite that, it seems a lot of the focus has been on one man and that is unfair.
People seem to be finding it very easy to forget just how well Alastair had done as captain before this series.
A little over 12 months ago, England won a series in India for the first time in 28 years. We followed that by beating Australia 3-0 in the summer to retain the Ashes.
No-one can deny that things have not gone to plan in Australia but this is the first series where we have struggled under Alastair Cook. That is why I find it hard to accept that people are calling into question his captaincy.
In many ways, the knee-jerk reaction to what has happened in the Ashes has been similar to what often happens in Premier League football, where three bad results can lead to talk of a crisis and the manager’s job being under threat.
But this is cricket and not football. The bottom line is we are the 11 players who go out there and, ultimately, the fault lies with us.
It is the same with the coaching staff. Andy Flower’s record in charge is second to none. We need to do better as a team because we win and lose as a team.
Some may believe we deserve the criticism we are getting. And that is fair enough. But I can assure everyone that we are giving everything.
During the fourth Test in Melbourne, we got ourselves into a decent position but then failed to capitalise. The series had already been lost but we wanted to get back some sort of momentum. Winning at the MCG would have done that.
Unfortunately, once again things didn’t go to plan despite us enjoying what had been probably our best day of the series on the second day.
We had got ourselves into a position where it was possible to push on for the win. So, to go from there to eventually losing by eight wickets was heart-breaking for every member of the team.
Regular readers of this column will know I have mentioned a few times how small the margins can be at the top level between winning and losing. By that, I mean the course of a five-day Test match can sometimes come down to a single hour.
At the MCG, the half-hour before tea on day three and then the half-hour afterwards were an example of that. That hour or so meant we had a horror of a second innings with the bat. We didn’t perform and in international cricket sometimes that is all it takes.
The most frustrating thing is the boys know what we are doing wrong. But we are still making similar mistakes and that is disappointing. You just can’t do that in international sport.
To win a Test, you have to play well over five days. We don’t seem to be able to put together a full performance. Melbourne was our best back-to-back days yet but, in the end, we lost again.
We moved on to Sydney on New Year’s Eve for the fifth and final Test.
Having two Tests so close together can be a good and bad thing. The plus is that it offers a chance to bounce back straight away after a disappointing result.
On the minus side, though, is that a quick turnaround means less time to practice and less time to work on ironing out any problems.
The plan going into Sydney is, obviously, to bounce back with a win. We might as well go out and play with a certain sense of freedom. If we do go down, let’s go down fighting.
Sydney, like Melbourne, can be a great place to play cricket. There was a warm-up game at the SCG early in the tour but I wasn’t able to play because of injury. I was, though, at the game and it brought back some happy memories of 2010-11.
The celebrations that followed our 3-1 win will stick with me for life. They are the sort of moments in a career that you just don’t forget. Days like that are why you want to become a sportsman and work so hard to get there.
It would be fantastic to revive memories of 2011 with a win in the fifth Test. I know I have been saying the same thing as we have travelled around Australia but we really want to finish the Test series on a high for the fans.
A lot of those who were at the Boxing Day Test are here in Sydney and all the lads are desperate to give the Barmy Army something to shout about.
New Year was a quiet time. We attended a function on Tuesday night but we had a training session at 9.30am on New Year’s Day. Just as we’d had on Christmas Day, after which Andrew Gale and his family invited me, my wife Hannah and son Max for lunch at their house.
Galey is playing out here this winter and has a lovely place just outside Melbourne. It was a great day, though we all found it strange that we were on the beach at 6.30pm on Christmas Day watching the sunset.
Finally, and as we are now in 2014, I would like to finish this column by wishing everyone a very Happy New Year. People often make wishes at this time of year and mine would be victory in the Sydney Test, Leeds United winning promotion in May and then, finally, Yorkshire being crowned county champions at the end of the summer. Have a great year.
Interview: Richard Sutcliffe.