Adam Hollioake answered an 911 call to join the exhausted English coaching staff amid the Covid outbreak threatening the back end of the Ashes series and is now ruling Australia’s Travis Head from the fourth test in Sydney.
On the day Australia named three players to their testing roster in response to Head’s positive result and a slew of new cases gripped the Big Bash League, England asked Hollioake, their former captain, to travel down from his home at Gold Coast to work with the players next week.
Graham Thorpe is now the interim head coach due to Chris Silverwood’s forced isolation period, but currently only has Ant Botha and James Foster, two advisors who can help out. Jon Lewis (Seam Bowling Coach), Jeetan Patel (Spin) and Darren Veness (Fitness) all had to stay behind in Melbourne after contracting the virus.
Hollioake, the combative former all-rounder who completed four tests and 35 one-day caps between 1997 and 1999, was brought on board by Thorpe, his former Surrey team-mate. The 50-year-old will face a squad that is still affected by losing the series, even though, within 12 days cricket Australia’s Covid logs mean he can only work outdoors with the players before the fourth test begins on Tuesday.
“Adam is not just a couple of hands,” Thorpe said before England’s players passed their final round of PCR testing and flew to Sydney. “It can bring a bit of energy into the locker room and also into the philosophical side of life, which is very important in times like these. He will bring this nice sense of perspective with him.
“But for me, too, it’s about getting up. The players have a chance. We want to see struggle and character. I don’t want people to bow their heads – there’s no point in being like that. We have two more games in this series where our players can show that they have the character, the spirit and the skill to perform. “
While England’s outbreak remains limited to seven people – three coaches and four family members – and David Boon, the match referee, has also contracted the virus, Head is the first positive case among both players.
Australia’s reaction to the loss of their # 5 – the appointment of batsman Nic Maddinson, all-rounder Mitchell Marsh and wicketkeeper Josh Inglis – suggests they are prepared for more positive results in both teams’ now daily tests.
CA, which is also battling breakouts on two Big Bash franchises, is clearly determined to wrap a streak that moves on to Hobart, Tasmania for the fifth test. England, who are 3-0 down and can only play with pride and World Test Championship points, appear to be on board at this point, although a number of families have left the tour early.
Though Silverwood will be speaking to his assistant coach from a distance, Thorpe appears to be firmly in control of the helm alongside Joe Root, the captain. Your challenge is to restore the confidence to a batting team that failed to hit 300 and that was destroyed at the MCG at 68 overall.
Citing an example from his 100-cap career – England was defeated by the West Indies in Trinidad for 46 for 46 in 1994 before winning the following Test in Barbados – the 52-year-old has at least known the SCG well after starting his apprenticeship Career in New South Wales 2005-06 under Trevor Bayliss.
When asked about England’s shortcomings with the bat, amid a wider debate about the structure of the home, Thorpe replied, “They try to learn county cricket, but the truth is, if they come from county cricket they have to learn everything again, because test cricket is 10 times harder.
“We have been focusing heavily on white ball cricket for the past five or six years, our four day cricket is being pushed aside. We need to address these things.
“Some of our young players are training and if they didn’t know before they know how tough test cricket is. Not only on the field, but also away from it. “
Despite being frustrated, his protégés have failed to adopt his declared blueprint – “Keep the ball good, defend straight, cut and pull really well, strokes long” – Thorpe at least hopes the tour has served as a “wake up”, that could boost careers. Among them is Rory Burns, who has been deposed for Melbourne and doesn’t appear to be returning until adjustments are made.
Thorpe said, “I told him, ‘You played 30’ [now 31] Test matches and you average 30. We want you to do more and get better as a player. ”He has to do the simple things better, calm things down with his movements. It’s tough in competition. Sometimes they have to get out and then you can reset a bit.
“When players have a little success they think, ‘My path is the right one.’ And there is a balance. But the best bowlers in the world will analyze your technique and your right hand [runs] Column tells you whether you are getting it right or not.
“We saw that he has a combative character, but at the same time you need a technique and a temperament at the highest level.”