The England cricket team has gone from tournament favourites to third favourites to go all the way meaning it’s been a bad week for the England cricket team and its fans. Defeat against Pakistan all those weeks ago was meant to be a wake-up call but the XI in baby blue just turned over and kept on snoozing. The alarm rang again, louder this time, after defeat against Sri Lanka in very different circumstances but still they slept a blissful sleep.
When they went down a third time, they were a little more powerless on this occasion. Whereas both Pakistan and Sri Lanka have their limitations that England just failed to exploit, Australia are a different prospect, and an increasingly dangerous one as this tournament progresses. The Finch big hits, the Starc yorkers, the Smith nurdles and nudges, the brilliant fielding.
So the obvious question is: what’s gone wrong this tournament?
- Misfiring opening partnership– It’s perhaps no coincidence that England’s problems started when Jason Roy got injured. It’s been a hallmark of the England cricket team’s revival over the past four years that the openers have got off to a flyer. His replacement James Vince has his moments but that weakness outside off stump isn’t going to be fixed quickly. Jonny Bairstow wasn’t having a particularly great tournament even before Roy’s injury but a new partner has put him under more pressure and brought further failures, to the extent that he’s now blaming the public and pundits for England’s failures rather than himself. It might have been somewhat avoided if…
- Alex Hales– Given he’s a class player who can have considered himself pretty unlucky not to have been in the team given his numbers, it’s now highly frustrating for all that he wasn’t in the squad to step in for the injured Roy. But Hales made his lifestyle choices and the England cricket team made their own choice when he was dropped.
- Poor Fielding- Roy’s drop of Mohammad Hafeez didn’t seem all that important now but it was probably the difference between losing to Pakistan or beating them. Jos Buttler has dropped a couple, missed a stumping or two and the standard of fielding has generally been lower than what we’ve come to expect from the England cricket team. Ben Stokes aside, of course.
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- Jos Buttler- Speaking of Buttler, a century against Pakistan in a losing cause aside, he hasn’t been himself. Everyone is allowed a lean run but one has to now question whether he’s as good under pressure as he is when he’s playing with freedom after a platform has been built.
- The pitches– It does the England cricket team no favours when their groundsmen keep preparing beautiful batting pitches in just about every home ODI series. That plays right into their hands on the day because the more runs that are scored in an ODI match, the better England’s chances of winning the game. But when the matter (of preparing pitches) is taken out of their hands (the groundsmen report to the ICC not the ECB) and they’re slow, sticky surfaces where 250 rather than 350 is par, England crumble because they’re not used to them. Either they need to ask for different pitches to be prepared or they need to just adapt better on the day.
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- The spinners- In truth,, no spinner bar Yuzvendra Chahal has taken this World Cup by storm in terms of taking wickets. But what the likes of Shadab Khan, Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Mitchell Santner have done is slowed down the scoring. The England cricket team’s two spinners- Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali- just haven’t. Rashid’s prolific wicket-taking of the past few years has gone missing, as has his control and England are feeling the pain of that.
- The pressure- It’s an obvious word to bring up whenever a team fails on the biggest stages but we can’t get away from it. It’s one thing smashing Pakistan 5-0 on the eve of the tournament and a load of other ODI series we’ll all quickly forget but this is a World Cup, on home soil, where England went in as favourites and were expected to win. They should have chased a below-par score against Sri Lanka and should at the very least have got much closer to chasing Australia’s total. So far they haven’t handled the pressure well.