sport

Willis: Get back to basics

Bob Willis says England have to return to getting the basics right if they are to regain their form following the Ashes thrashing by Australia.

The tourists are staring down the barrel of a 5-0 Ashes whitewash with the Sydney Test left to play and former England fast bowler Willis told Sky Sports News that the writing had been on the wall ever since the drawn Test series in New Zealand at the start of 2013.

He said: "It's been a chastening time out there for the lads out there (in Australia) but I guess in some ways we might have seen it coming.

"You have to turn the clock back to the end of the New Zealand tour where they weren't particularly convincing and had to battle through the last day in Auckland to get a draw in that match."

Willis felt England had stagnated throughout the past 12 months and was particularly critical of their batting order.

He added: "Well, you have to put it at the feet of the batsmen because after their prolific time in Australia last time, the likes of (Alastair) Cook and (Jonathan) Trott in particular, (Kevin) Pietersen to a lesser extent, and Matt Prior, they have been the three key players, stalwarts of the batting line-up who have stuttered and come to a halt really.

"(But) You have to give Australia plenty of credit fpr sorting them out because they couldn't stop scoring runs in Australia three years ago at 517-1 at the Gabba in the first Test, that seems a long while ago now.

"Stuart Broad bowled magnificently in the first Test match (of the 2013 summer) at Lord's. New Zealand, as always, had problems because of their players not being available until the 11th hour because of IPL commitments. (They were) a little bit undercooked when they came to England.

"England didn't help themselves with the pitches they prepared (in the summer) - they prepared pitches for reverse swing and for Graeme Swann's off spin. England's players prefer the ball coming on to the bat and the Australians usually pitch the ball up."

Alastair Cook's leadership down under has come under increasing scrutiny and Willis said: "Those runs he scored in Australia three years ago were mostly with the cut shot and the pull shot.

"Mitchell and company have peppered the England's batsmen with shorter balls and kept it up to Alastair Cook and he has found all kinds of different ways to get out.

"When your captain is always targeted by the opposition, particularly when he's a top order batsman, it's difficult. England were the same against Michael Clarke in the summer.

"They underestimated the Australians, thinking they'd won easily in England, knew everything about Mitchell Johnson - one day he blows hot but then blows cold for the next three. They had respect for the likes of (Ryan) Harris, (Peter) Siddle and (Nathan) Lyon but weren't expecting the thunderbolts from Mitchell Johnson."