Saturday, 30 August 2014

England's recurring nightmare

Saturday, 30 August 2014
Yes, it really is that bad. The World Cup is the next major event on England's horizon, and it's still hard to see them being competitive when they get there. And what might be the worst thing is that it isn't even surprising. England were bowled out for 161 on Wednesday chasing 295, bowled out for 227 today setting a total. It's just not good enough, they don't look able to set or chase the totals of 300-plus that are needed now to win games. It could well be another miserable winter coming up.

It's partly a matter of personnel and partly a matter of mindset. The bowling is more or less there - providing Broad is back fit and firing by the time of the tournament and Finn really settles back into the team, England do have a strong attack - yet the batting continues to come up short. The selectors have finally given into the Hales hype, good to see after such strong performances in the Twenty20 side, yet still the team is short of those power players who really have the ability to change a game. Hales can be one, Buttler is another, Pietersen was one (though really his one-day record over the past few years could have been much better) - but who else? Morgan has been, but has struggled to find the runs this summer. Cook is a player who really innings should be built around, Bell and Root similar though with more natural flair and invention; but the question seems to always be repeating - how many of this type of player can England accommodate? In the mean time, calls for players such as Taylor, Vince, and Roy are growing ever louder as they rack up the runs in county cricket -  how long can England ignore them? Bopara is another who I'd want back in the team, and was rather harshly dropped from the side after arguably being England's best ODI performer last year. Even though he has struggled so far this year, it still seems a bit unfair.

Again, England found themselves in trouble against spin in the middle overs. Only one boundary was hit between the 18th and 44th overs, going from 82/0 to 182/7 in this time. When the more part-time bowling pair of Raina and Rayudu came on, England failed to take advantage when if anything they were the pair England should have been trying to take the game to. But it was the same old story - the spinners strangled them once again. India's spinners were great at really getting through the overs quickly; the batsmen had to go from playing themselves in to needing to hit out in what felt like no time. And as the wickets kept falling and the run rate kept stagnating, more and more pressure was placed on the lower order to rescue England from a situation they should never have really been made to face. When it took James Tredwell - with 30 from 18 - to take England close to 230, it's obvious that something's not going right.

The plus point, if there is one, is that it was a slow pitch quite unlike the ones that England are likely to face when they travel to Australia and New Zealand for the World Cup. On the downside, after making it through this series they travel to Sri Lanka first where they are likely to face more of the same - in itself a slightly odd place to go in preparation. Ideally, they would know their best eleven for the World Cup by now, but if not - as the case does well seem to be - then that tour and these last two games will be the last chance if there are any changes to be made. Myself, I'd like to see Taylor and Bopara back in the side - Taylor has been putting in some great innings for Nottinghamshire over these past through months and has never really been given a proper chance, whilst I do feel Bopara's drop was slightly unfair, plus his bowling is enough to be an extra option and relieve a few overs. Ballance and Ali, currently in the ODI squad as it stands, also have strong List A records and strike rates and would also be worth a shout, though Ballance hasn't really got going in the ODIs he's played so far. Instead, as usually seems to be the case, a bowler will probably be held responsible after the batsmen have failed again. It's been the same old story from the players, and the same old nightmare for everyone else.

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