A couple of days ago, I wrote about how boring and predictable this World Cup was and how I wasn’t really paying attention to it any more. Well, England managed to reawaken my interest in an unexpected way yesterday.
In some senses, it should have been a predictable result, since Sri Lanka had won the last three World Cup games between the two sides. However, a lot has changed since 2015. Sri Lanka have been unable to replace key batsmen like Sangakkara, Jayawardhene and Dilshan, and their key bowler 35 year old Malinga now has a body more reminiscent of a middle-aged dad than an international sportsman. England, on the other hand, have replaced Ian Bell and Gary Ballance with good ODI batsmen (and James Vince).
Most fingers are being pointed at the pitch, which was quite a bit slower than you’d normally expect from Headingley. That doesn’t entirely explain away England’s poor performance though, since they did manage to win last year’s ODI series in Sri Lanka 3-1 in what must have been similar conditions.
I personally blame James Vince, or at least his (and Liam Dawson’s) selection. England’s surge to number one in the ODI rankings has been powered by their phenomenal batting. Since Trevor Bayliss took over in 2015, seven of England’s current World Cup squad average over forty with a strike rate around or over one hundred. The two batsmen who don’t are Vince (Ave: 26.50 SR: 89.22) and Dawson (Ave: 7.00 SR: 82.35).
There is a batsman with a significantly better record than Vince available: Alex Hales (Ave: 41.28 SR: 96.00). Hales was excluded from the team by the ECB due to his behaviour off the field, but the real cause of his omission is that he isn’t well-liked within the dressing room. For all Ben Stokes has done wrong in recent years, you can see he has been welcomed back warmly by the ECB and the team in general. Whilst Alex Hales is undoubtedly lucky to be available (The punishment for a second recreational drug finding in most sports is at least six months), the primary reason for his removal from the squad seems to be not coming clean with his teammates beforehand or apologising profusely enough after it was revealed.
At the time, the ECB probably thought it would have little impact on their campaign because they believed there was an abundance of talent just waiting for an opportunity at the international level. Eoin Morgan trashed Hales when given the opportunity, saying that, “Unfortunately Alex’s actions have shown complete disregard for those values. This has created a lack of trust between Alex and the team.”
Now England are in a situation where they are missing a world-class opener and they genuinely need to win at least two of their next three games to guarantee qualification for the semis. Those three games are against the top teams in the competition, New Zealand, Australia and India. Three teams who would love to knock a dangerous England team before they can even reach the semi finals. Can England afford to wait another game or two for Roy to regain fitness? Can they afford to keep playing Vince?
You would think that potentially failing to reach the semi-finals in a home World Cup, the format of which was designed to make such an event extraordinarily unlikely, would be enough to make the selectors and team swallow their pride. Unfortunately, as most of our readers know, that isn’t how the ECB works. Having spent the last four years devoting most of their resources towards winning this competition and hiring a white ball-centric head coach, they are still prepared to see it collapse in flames rather than admit they might have been wrong.
All of that said, England should still have enough to limp into the knockouts. Just one win from their last three games should be enough to ensure qualification unless Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, or the West Indies manage a truly remarkable run of form. England’s aura of invincibility has completely disappeared though. Australia are the only other team in the top four to have lost a game so far, and that was against fellow top team India.
The England team will be watching tonight’s game nervously, because if the West Indies can win the game against New Zealand then they could potentially mount a charge for the fourth spot. Given the form of India and Afghanistan so far in this World Cup, I’m not expecting an upset in the morning game. That said, they did tie their last ODI meeting in last year’s Asia Cup so perhaps Afghanistan can pull out another big performance.
If you have any comments about England’s performance, todays games, or anything else, please post them below.
Well put, Danny.
“they are still prepared to see it collapse in flames rather than admit they might have been wrong.”
Especially as, in Hales, they have a readymade scapegoat to hand. It doesn’t matter how transparent the ploy is if the press are unwilling to look through it.
(I’m still keeping an eye on the pace and style of the pitches. In general, I still hold that they are slower than what the ECB have been preparing these last two years – though there have been exceptions – despite the heavy hint provided by the Champs Trophy in 2017.)
It was probably just the arrangement, but when the Afghan anthem started with a striking horn chord, I thought we were getting ‘Jump Around’…
I hadn’t looked at Vince’s SR – but frankly there’s no excuse for selecting him in the squad once you do.
Vince, gets out early a lot and doesn’t even lift the run rate… what is he even for in ODIs?
(Dawson is at least an allrounder, so you have to look beyond just his batting, anyway, trashing LD is for another day.)
There’s some irony that we’ve been preparing all this time and we have so little depth in the batting. I can forgive lack of depth in (eg) spin bowling b/c it’s not a natural strength. But what’s painful with the batting is not just that Vince is ill-suited to open & Hales has been drugging, but that we don’t even seem to have a better middle order bat than Vince ready to go. (Root may prefer not to open, but he can do it in ODIs.)
Dawson is in the squad as a batting allrounder, I think. If another spot in the top 5 opens up then he (rather than Curran, who has a better ODI batting record) will come in. He certainly didn’t seem to be in the frame for selection as a third spinner when England were on a slow pitch, after all…
You are lucky. South Africa supporters have been asking similar questions with regard to Jean-Paul for FIFTEEN years. Can’t finish a game (a strike rate that is not even close at a run-a-ball batting at 5, 6 or 7. Hardly scores 50s. Hundreds only against the Netherlands and Zimbabwe, both of which are not in this World Cup. Strike rate generally lower than the openers, or numbers 3 and 4.
Has not ever scored a 50 in ODIs in England.
Can’t average 15 against spin, even if his life depended on it. Does not bowl, because he is too expensive.
Oh, and the best part, veteran of 200 ODIs, so no one can say he has had too few opportunities (one can at least make such an argument about pretty much everyone else, except for Virat Kohli – but he seems a pretty useful bat).
But agreed, Vince appears to be completely out of place in this England squad. Problem is, if not Hales, who else to pick instead of an injured Roy? Promoting Root to open, can leave England terribly exposed if the ball does something, and Root goes cheaply.
These pitches aren’t spin friendly enough to give AFG a chance against India.
That (alongside India resting a couple of key batsmen) is the difference from the Asian Cup.
(Would be great for the tournament if I’m wrong, but I just don’t see it.)
WI vs NZ will be really interesting as we’ll get a bit more info on “how good are NZ actually”?
They won the SA game, but didn’t really put the question of “did early games against weak teams flatter them”? Of course, unless the WI really perk up, we still might not get an answer…
Yeah. If New Zealand beat the West Indies today and then the West Indies beats Sri Lanka then that could effectively eliminate two of the three competitors for the fourth spot.
One team not being mentioned as a potential top 4 challenger is Pakistan. OK I know they’ve only won one game but they have 4 left none of which are against the big 3. Pakistan teams have a history of gaining momentum through tournaments and if they could win their next 2 they might start to believe. Four wins would give them 11 points meaning we would need to win two more to guarantee a semifinal spot.
I too cannot see why England are bothering with Vince. For all the talk about his supposedly excellent technique, he doesnt half get out to the same technical issue driving on the front foot a lot in a loose, wafty way. I do wonder if he was left-handed, whether people would describe it as a technical fault rather than a “mental lapse” one..
I’d make Root open if Roy isn’t yet fit, and shunt everyone up a place or two. Or maybe open with Buttler or Moeen, if we want to remain hyper-aggressive.
It seems according to England’s selectors regards Vince or the dressing room (whoever picks the team) ……..TINA.
I think Greg Ritchie has an English grandmother, if that helps.
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I would have thought you’d be keen to discover English ancestry for various Marshes ?
Oh yes! Yes please! With names like those, they have to be English. Australia got the best out of the Marshes with their Dad, Swampy. Time for the kids to return to their roots. We could loan them out to you for the world cup, we’d even do a buy one get one free deal.
You’re too kind…
Buy one, get one for free? I thought Australia ought to be offering money with that. Shaun seems way past his best in this format. As for Mitchell …
That was the joke.
Oh God, he’s haggling. How about we throw in Darren Lehmann as coach, no extra charge?
Here is my final table of the top 7 (assuming no more no result matches) with the results so far plus my hopeless predictions for the up coming matches. There are three matches I haven’t predicted…..
1 India 17
2 Aus 16
3 Nz 9
4 Pak 9
5 Eng 8
6 WI 7
7 Ban 7
Matches not counted are the following…..NZ VS Pak…….SL VS WI……Eng VS NZ……These will decide places 3 and 4. Looks like England must best NZ, otherwise they will have to either beat India or Aus to qualify.
I have given WI the win today against NZ. I fancy Pak to win 3 more matches but you never know with them. They could just as easily lose the lot.
One interesting possibility is Sri Lanka’s last game against India. There might be a temptation for the Indians to field a weaker squad if Sri Lanka could leapfrog England with an unlikely win…
Interesting how when Rohit gets out early India look a little vulnerable, esp with Rahul in for Dhawan at opener. (Not that Dhawan is Mr Reliable, but when he’s in he generally keeps the scoreboard ticking. Rahul is prone to get marooned – he can catch up if he stays in long enough, but the pressure builds on him. He does better down the order.)
It’s arguably hubristic to say it b/c England are clearly a flawed side, but on pitches that don’t allow Bumrah/Starc to blow the opposition away early, both India and Australia don’t look invincible.
This is a really curious innings by India. Almost passive.
Nothing to worry about, they should have more than enough to win, but it’s a little strange.
I’m not able to watch today, how is the pitch, looks from the figures that AFG spinners (in general) have found something in it?
If AFG could get Dhoni and Pandya out cheaply something might be brewing.
If not… I’d expect one of those two to accelerate and leave AFG chasing a tough total, given that India’s bowling attack is pretty decent.
Definitely nervous. It’s fine as long as it remains a distant hope, but when it becomes close enough to believe…
Afghanistan just falling short of the target. Still gave India a very good game, and only lost their advantage in the 79th over of the game, when Bumrah dismissed both set batsmen.
To lose by less than a dozen runs is no shame.
“To lose by less than a dozen runs is no shame.”
No shame? It’s heroic! It’s spectacular.
But damn I wish they’d won.
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It would have been wonderful, sadly it was not to be. This was not heroic. The Afghans must realize that they let this one slip away. And I am sure they are aware of that – and that this was a very good opportunity to make a statement..
I think it is partly due to lack of big match experience. But give them more games (and they will get them in the ODI League), and they will start winning these games. And for the global game that is only something that can be appreciated.
How can it not have been heroic for Afghanistan to have kept India to to 244, and then come within a mosquito’s dick of beating it? Given the context of both teams.
If that’s not heroic, then you have pretty high standards.
For everyone who supports Afghanistan, of course it is a heroic performance. 10 years ago, some of these players were playing cricket in refugee camps. And now they are competing with the best, and came within 11 runs of causing an upset.
But for the players themselves, I don’t think they’ll see the heroism in defeat. I don’t think the Afghan players are wired like that, nor are professional sportspeople in general. They will be proud of their performance, and rightly so. When they look back on this they will realize they let India get away with it. And will be trying their best to get over the line the next time they create such an opportunity. They will create more of such opportunities. If not this World Cup, then in the ODI League.
But this performance will inspire them, and give them confidence that on their day, they can compete with the best. Hopefully they can get a win in the next few games.
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That India performance had a very odd hue to it. I’m a very cynical person, I know.
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Disappointed. But the beauty of pulling for an underdog (see England 1983-2011) is that even in defeat, you can take pleasure in running the big dogs close.
Go on Carlos! This is great watching, no matter who wins! Good matches today.
Gutted, caught right on the boundary, when a six would have won it, so close yet so far, great century in defeat. NZ remain unbeaten……
Assuming WI don’t beat India, they cant now get 8 points. England’s biggest threat is in my opinion is now Pakistan. A SA win would help England tomorrow. Of course if England beat One of their last three games they may be safe.
Probably would like NZ to beat Pakistan to make sure.
NZ are the team to follow if you want the closest games in this WC.