England: Muddled and Middling

Posted on February 8, 2011 by

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The one day series has been something of a come down for England fans, after the elation of the Ashes the sight of us being comprehensively beaten four times out of five (so far) has been somewhat less entertaining.

So what does the World Cup hold for England fans?  It’s been oft-quoted that after the last one day series Down Under, which England unexpectedly won, they were still utterly crap in the World Cup.  Embarrassingly crap in fact.  So can we assume that after being embarrassingly crap in this series, we’ll have a stellar World Cup campaign?

No, we can’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think we’ll turn in better performances in the World Cup.  We have Broad and Swann to come back, Bresnan too.  The bowling is looking in decent nick (though quite why James Tredwell was taken over, say, Adil Rashid, is beyond me).  It’s the batting that is of the most immediate concern.

Readers of the Guardian’s excellent Spin blog will know that in this series only three fifties have been scored by people other than Trott, and the people who’ve scored those fifties (Strauss, Prior and KP) don’t look in especially good form, never mind the ones who haven’t passed fifty.  Perhaps we learned to rely too much on Eoin Morgan who is now experiencing the first major form slump of his career so far.

That fearless approach that Flower and Strauss have been so committed to ever since the Champions Trophy in 2009 has borne little success in this series, it’s just resulted in some pretty reckless shots and an absence of an ability to play the situation.

A bowling attack of Broad, Anderson, Swann, Shahzad and Bresnan with able assistance from Collie ought to have enough about it to deal with most batting lineups, but Bresnan at seven is a place too high, especially with Collingwood and Morgan in dodgy form.  You can have all the bowling in the world but if your batsmen can’t regularly get you 250+ you’re making life difficult for yourselves.

So what’s the answer, I hear you cry.  Well unfortunately the man who is acknowledged by many to be the answer, Samit Patel, isn’t on board with this England’s fitness regime.  His batting at number seven would be superior to Bresnan’s and his left arm spin is a more attacking option than Yardy’s.

Then there’s the problem of Trott.  His batting is all well and good if there are players in the order who can up the pace as and when required, but with the rest of the batting unable to scratch together decent scores his (relative) slow pace doesn’t seem quite right.  I accept that it’s pretty daft to be critical of Trott himself for that though.

So the long and the short of it is that England do have a collection of players going to India who are capable of winning the World Cup (even if personally I would have taken Tremlett), but they don’t have the right players in form and the right level of application to do so.  You never know, something might just click over the next few weeks, the warm up games and opening gambit against the Netherlands might see our batsmen snap back into the kind of form which saw them win the World Twenty20 and beat Australia at home last summer.  But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Best case scenario – No more injuries are picked up in the group stages, in which everyone gets a hit and the bowlers find some rhythm. Early qualification allows rotation and some much needed R ‘n’ R for Straussy, Trotty, KP, Belly and Prior. Come the big three matches, Broad, Swanny, Jimmy and Bresnan are fresh and firing on all cylinders, taking wickets, while Colly, Yardy and the part-timers plant the ball into the pitch and strangle the middle overs. With the bat, Prior repays the Andies’ faith with 50s off 40 balls, Trotty and Belly play anchor roles (accelerating from 30 off 50 to 50 off 70 and on to 80 off 90) and KP delivers at least one match-winning assault. And, perhaps most important of all, the run out chances are taken and the catches stick.

Worst case scenario – Form, fatigue and fitness failures conspire to make the World Cup less a new chapter in the Flower / Strauss march to world domination and more a coda to the post-Ashes ODI series. England stop just short of calling up Dermott Reeve’s Mum and Darren Pattinson in order to get eleven on to the field. Tournament passes utterly unnoticed by the UK’s mainstream media and Ricky Ponting holds up the Trophy saying, “This is compensation for the loss of The Ashes”.

Predictions: Semi-finalists if Morgan sorts it out.

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Preview by Josh Green and Gary Naylor