By Ed Osmond
LONDON (Reuters) - England cricket director Andrew Strauss faces a frenetic start to his reign as he looks to appoint a new coach to galvanise a struggling team for the home Ashes series against Australia.
The highly respected former captain moved quickly to end Peter Moore's unhappy year in charge of the side and the identity of his replacement will dominate Strauss's agenda in the coming weeks.
Whether or not Moores was badly treated by the England and Wales Cricket Board will be debated long and hard but the cold reality is that, having taken over following the humbling 5-0 defeat in the last Ashes series, he failed to improve the team.
A depressing World Cup this year in which England were eliminated at the group stage after playing a turgid and outdated style of cricket was followed by a frustrating drawn test series against a modest West Indies side.
Moores decided to recall Jonathan Trott as an opener and the experiment was an unmitigated failure, the 34-year-old retiring from international cricket after admitting he was no longer up to coping with the demands of test cricket.
Trott followed Graeme Swann, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior out of the England fold, leaving captain Alastair Cook with just four other players who have experienced Ashes success.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad should still form a potent opening bowling partnership, particularly in home conditions, and Ian Bell and Joe Root are proven test batsman.
With Gary Ballance established at number three in the order, the batting looks in reasonable shape, but the new coach will have many other decisions to make to find a team capable of mixing it with the powerful Australians.
Strauss may be tempted to appoint an Australian coach with Jason Gillespie and Justin Langer among the favourites for the role.
Former fast bowler Gillespie, 40, has enjoyed success as coach of English county Yorkshire and is reportedly keen to step up to international level.
The 44-year-old Langer formed a prolific opening partnership with Matthew Hayden and knows Strauss well after they played together for Middlesex but he has strong family ties to his native Western Australia.
Langer famously once said that he took his baggy green cap to bed with him because he loved it so much and it is hard to envisage such a proud Australian trying to plot the downfall of his beloved fellow countrymen.
Paul Farbrace will lead England in the two-match series against New Zealand starting on May 21, giving Strauss a short window in which to find the right man for the job long-term.
As captain of two Ashes-winning teams, Strauss knows what it takes to beat the old enemy and he may care to think back to a famous day in Brisbane in November, 2010 to find inspiration.
Having scored a typically compact and stylish 110 in the first test, Strauss watched Cook and Trott share an unbroken second-wicket partnership of 329 to lift the touring side to an extraordinary total of 517 for one declared.
Surveying that surreal scorecard at the close of play, Strauss could little have imagined the situation he finds himself in less than five years later.