England’s stuttering campaign continuesPaul Wood |
England’s stuttering campaign continues to throw up unpleasant surprises with another defeat against a side they would have fully expected to brush aside, maybe not comfortably, but at the least, efficiently.
Bangladesh were the latest side to highlight the current deficiencies in an England side now in a real scrap to qualify for the quarter-finals. That England are potentially only one victory away from progressing to the knock-out stage should be seen a real bonus.
There has undoubtedly been some disruption to the squad of late with the departures of Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad, but that cannot mask another lacklustre performance. The much anticipated decision made by the English brains trust was surrounding the replacement of Pietersen at the top of the order, and once it was announced that Matt Prior was to return to the role, there was more a feeling of deflation than excitement and expectation.
Prior has been tried and tested at the top, and with little success. he has now batted in this position on 33 occasions and averages just 23.90, even his strike rate of 78.08 suggests he is not giving the side the impetus at the top that the move is intended to achieve. Ian Bell was seen by many to be the obvious candidate for promotion, even moving Jon Trott up a place had more going for it than reverting back to the keeper. Prior we know can be an effective batsmen, but a selfless cameo towards the end of the innings may be more suitable at this moment in time.
Ths is only one of a number of England issues currently. All those that saw Jimmy Anderson’s performance against South Africa will have been overjoyed at the sight of our attack leader returning to some kind of form. That was, however, to prove short lived, with him once again struggling to make any impact on the Bangladesh fixture, and a complete lack of control in his line when the pressure intensified.
England were up for the challenge of South Africa, despite a woeful beginning. They showed character to fight their way back into the game, and also to tie the game with India. The disappointments have arrived against the unlikeliest of opponents. Holland should not have run England as close as they did, the inability to defend 327 against Ireland was cause for major concern (and no less embarassment) while the defeat to Bangladesh heightened the anxiety around qualification prospects and gave a massive boost to a side they are now battling with for the fourth spot. One of the host nations looked down and out and resigned to disappointment until a ninth wicket stand of 58 between Mahmudullah and Shafiul Islam gave them the shot in the arm they so desperately craved.
Pitches that have offered little for the bowlers have seen England struggle to contain a side. Whether the plans have been poorly thought out or poorly executed is up for debate. Yet everything went swimmingly with the ball against South Africa when there was just a hint of movement around for the quicker men, and ample turn for Graeme Swann and Mike Yardy.
On the batting front we have perhaps not capitalised to the full extent when we have been in excellent positions. The top two runscorers in the World Cup to date (immediately after the Bangladesh game) are Andrew Strauss and Jon Trott, that we have played more games than most has to be accounted for, but averages of 59.60 and 57.80 respectively, indicate we have at least a couple of men in form, and of course the impact Eoin Morgan made on his first appearance is another positive.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, though try telling that to a number of England followers right now. All does not seem right with the side, we are effectively selecting from a squad of 13 as James Tredwell and Luke Wright do not appear to be in consideration for selection, which begs the question why were they selected in the first place ? Yet we are still only likely to be a win away from the quarter-finals and hopefully things will click into place, or is that English optimism ?
I am now determined to finish on a positive note. We have a strong side and as we have seen already, one capable of competing with the very best sides in the world, but time is running out for us to demonstrate our true capabilites. Roll on Thursday, England are now playing knock-out cricket, we are only four victories away from lifting the World Cup!