SO NOW we see what England should have done during the Ashes series.
They should have fielded their one-day side instead of their Test side.
Apologies for the flippancy, but there will be plenty of people wondering how England could have thumped Australia by five wickets in the first one-day international in Melbourne yesterday having been thrashed 4-0 during the Test matches.
The answer, of course, is that they are two different formats – a Test match is played over five days, a one-day international over 100 overs – but it highlighted England’s split personality.
Since they last played a one-day international in Australia in March 2015, when their World Cup campaign ended in embarrassment, England have become exceedingly good at the one-day stuff.
Trevor Bayliss’s appointment as coach might have seen them take a backward step in the five-day game, but no one could deny the giant strides forward in the one-day format, where an attacking philosophy has paid great dividends.
This was England’s 35th win in 53 ODIs under Bayliss, who has lost 18 of his 38 Tests in charge.
Their total of 308-5 yesterday in reply to Australia’s 304-8, with former Yorkshire batsman Aaron Finch top-scoring with 107 for the hosts, was their 25th in excess of 300 since Bayliss took charge.
For all that the coach has encouraged the attacking philosophy, releasing the shackles of previous administrations, he is reliant on the players to execute it and, in that regard, England are blessed.
Never in their one-day history have they boasted such a talented and aggressive batting line-up, epitomised by Jason Roy’s blistering 180 yesterday – the highest score for England in ODIs, eclipsing Alex Hales’s 171 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge in 2016.
Roy, the 27-year-old Surrey opener, debuted in England’s first ODI after the 2015 World Cup.
His swaggering strokeplay epitomises the side’s spirit of adventure, one they hope will take them all the way in next year’s World Cup.
Roy, who faced 151 balls and hit 16 fours and five sixes, has bounced back well after briefly losing his place last summer.
A run of 68 runs in nine ODIs saw him dropped for the Champions Trophy semi-final against Pakistan in Cardiff – in the process earning Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow a recall.
But Hales’s suspension after the incident that led to Ben Stokes’s arrest earned Roy a reprieve for the last two ODIs of the summer against the West Indies, and he took his chance with 84 at the Oval and 96 at Southampton.
Roy hit 40 against Cricket Australia last Thursday in England’s solitary warm-up for the five-match ODI series and looks to be back to his best.
“What I went through, I needed to go through,” he said of his Champions Trophy axing, describing it as “a kick in the guts”.
It must have been doubly painful after Eoin Morgan, the England captain, unwisely stated at the start of that tournament that Roy was pencilled in for its duration, only for England to have to get out their rubber.
At the MCG yesterday, where he revealed his character and mental strength, Roy – who has yet to play a Test match – provided the sort of spark that was missing during the Ashes, riding his luck but carrying the fight to Australia’s attack.
There were a number of strong shots over long-on, long-off and cow corner, and plenty of artistry too, with Roy manipulating the ball well and using his bat not just as a cudgel but also as a wand.
The master of manipulating the ball into gaps, however, is Yorkshire’s Joe Root, who toyed with bowler and fielder alike on his way to an unbeaten 91 from 110 balls with five fours.
Root, who shared in an England one-day record third-wicket partnership of 221 with Roy, rarely took a risk as he put a bout of gastroenteritis firmly behind him with a bellyful of runs, proving once more that he is one of only a handful of players in the world who can adapt to all formats.
For Root to play in a such a calm and controlled fashion after two difficult months in charge of the Test team spoke volumes for his own character and determination.
Once again, he “failed” to convert, but only because wickets from his county colleagues Liam Plunkett (three) and Adil Rashid (two) helped to keep Australia’s score in check before Roy proceeded to blow it out of the water.