Yet Another World Cup, Yet Another Failure

You’d be forgiven for thinking you had a bad case of déjà vu on Tuesday night with the news that England’s World Cup campaign has been snuffed out at the group stage.

England’s shocking-but-not-really loss to Bangladesh and particularly the 8 wicket demolishing it suffered at the hands of plucky New Zealand were the lowlights in what Harsha Bhogle described as “a cell so dark, so distant that no fresh light can reach it”.

One solitary win out of five against minnow nation Scotland was all England could muster in their entire tournament. This has sparked calls for a complete top to bottom cleanout and a rethink of the way the ECB understands cricket. Former English opener Geoff Boycott has called for a total reshaping of the upper management and coaching staff.

It’s a massive fall from grace from the side that only three years ago were leading the international competition in ODIs and T20s. In fact, at the time the pools for this World Cup were determined, England were ranked the number 1 cricketing nation in those formats. In his own words, bowler Stuart Broad said that England would have to have “an absolute stinker” to miss the quarter-finals. Their performance has lead former player Ian Botham to call this side the worst he has seen.

To be fair, England historically have never been that great at World Cups. But the schadenfreude from another English failure is always fun to revel in.

The gormless Peter Moores left off on Tuesday night with the assurance that they’d “review the data”. It’s an assertion that borders on self-parody. Reviewing of the data doesn’t teach batsmen how to run between wickets, use their feet, or bowl yorkers. It can’t fix the fact that Eoin Morgan has five ducks in his last nine innings, with his last coming in the game against Bangladesh.

So how do we fix England?

First and foremost: their batting approach needs a total rethink. England especially fall down in their lack of footwork. Batsmen like Ian Bell and particularly Joe Root play well back inside the crease, even to spinners, where it’s important to reach the pitch of the ball. Their preferred stroke for dealing with spin, the sweep, is particularly dangerous. Indeed, since 2011 England batsmen have the highest number of dismissals while sweeping against spin.

The way that England has paced its innings is also particularly bemusing. While other sides use their first few wickets extremely aggressively, Moores’ men look to play conservatively and save their wickets into the later overs. The English player with clear X-factor is Jos Buttler, but he’s left batting at 5 or 6 when the slow motif of the innings has already been set by the top order. England don’t have an AB De Villiers, a Glenn Maxwell, or a Brendan McCullum.

Overall, the batting needs to be far more aggressive and batsmen have to try and come out of the box more, or at least use their wrists better.

Bowling wise, there is very little variation in their bowling attack. Four tall, right armed pacemen that bowl up around the 135-140 km/h mark: Jimmy Anderson, Broad, and Chris Woakes, with Steven Finn having made cameos throughout the Cup. Medium pacer Jordan rounded out the attack against Bangladesh. Late in the innings in particular, none offered enough swing or seaming to challenge batsmen’s defences, and they also bowled with little variation. They could do with a left arm quick to emulate what Australia can do with James Faulkner.

They also don’t have a strong dedicated spinner like India, South Africa and New Zealand do. This is a dimension that they should address: Moeen Ali and James Tredwell are serviceable, but they are far from world beaters that can really dry up an opposition’s runs.

Like in most things, there are no quick fixes. But perhaps this new low in international cricket can allow England to take stock and stop the rot. Moores will definitely be looking nervously over his shoulder and the selectors will also be under a great deal of pressure.