A little over four years ago, Trevor Bayliss arrived as England head coach just before a home Ashes series. Now, the final Test of this Ashes summer will mark Bayliss’s 59th, and final, Test as England head coach.
“I’m a hard marker, so I’ll say five,” Bayliss joked when ask to mark his tenure out of ten. “Well, I gave the guys four or five and six out of ten for their fielding, because I always thought there was always room for improvement. If you give them eight, nine or ten, there’s no room for improvement, is there?”
After a summer which has brought the delirium of England’s World Cup victory - the task for which Bayliss was hired, and for which he received a hearty bonus - Bayliss said that now was “the natural time to go” and end his stint in charge.
“I’ve never spent more than four or five years somewhere, whether you’re doing well or not. It’s time for the lads to hear a new voice.
“Whether you’re doing well or not, you never want to become part of a problem. If you stay too long, that’s what can happen.”
Before leaving Australia for England this summer, Bayliss targeted winning at least one of the World Cup and Ashes. “I said to my wife before I came over, I’d love to win at least one of the trophies. When we won the first one, the World Cup, I felt a bit greedy. I would have loved to have gone out on a high but it’s professional sport.”
“Test cricket hasn’t gone as well as we would have liked,” Bayliss admitted. “Trying to find the depth in our Test ranks, as we have in our one-day ranks, will be a challenge going forward.
“It’s been a very tough period from a Test point of view. It’s a well-known fact that the depth of players we’ve got to play Test cricket, ready-made, is not as deep as it is in the one-day team. So from that point of view, it has been difficult. Results-wise, we probably haven’t won as many games as we’d like."
Like many England coaches before him, Bayliss suggested that county cricket was not producing a good enough calibre of players, with the paucity of high-quality batsmen a particular concern.
“The only questions you’ve got to ask is ‘is the competition underneath doing the job well enough?’ There are some talented players and coaches. Is the actual competition doing the job? Can we do it better?
“What we’ve got to do is actually work out a way of how to work with these young blokes so they can learn to play the ball later. That gets back to the wickets we play on, the strength of competition, all those are questions we’ve got to ask. Can it be better?”
Bayliss said that, while Joe Root had not enjoyed the success of Eoin Morgan in the ODI side, he was “under no pressure at all.”
“The two captains are different in their own right. There are two different games, two different approaches needed. Eoin suited the white-ball team and I think Joe is certainly growing into the Test team as well.”
For Bayliss’s final Test match as England coach, the main question is whether Ben Stokes is available to bowl. Stokes bowled in training at The Oval on Tuesday, but England are reluctant to only select four specialist bowlers if there is uncertainly about Stokes’s fitness.
While Stokes is certain to play, he could play as a specialist batsman, with an extra bowling all-rounder - Chris Woakes or Sam Curran - being recalled in place of Jason Roy. At least one of Woakes and Curran, at his home ground, are likely to play anyway, with Craig Overton likely to slip out the side.
And then, Bayliss will return home to Australia, ending his English odyssey. “For me, I’m looking forward to getting home and putting my feet up for a while.”