Sunday’s Tri-Series final represents England’s final competitive preparation for the World Cup. Since their arrival in Australia, and the sacking of the Alastair Cook, England appear to have found a new lease of life. Two good victories against India and some competitive performances again the hosts, have left England with a feeling of genuine optimism.
With that in mind, today I turn my attention to the five questions that England need to answer in their final competitive match. If they can come up with some viable solutions to these problems, then they really can compete in the World Cup.
Can Moeen Kick On?
It’s widely accepted that Moeen has been a success at the top of England’s ODI order, his aggressive style has complimented Ian Bell’s orthodoxy, and given England a renewed impetus in the powerplay overs. However, thus far, in the 4 tri-series matches, Moeen has failed to pass 46. He has made starts in 3 of his 4 knocks and seems to be coping with the two new balls with relative ease. The biggest problem, has been the manner of his dismissals. In his last two innings he has holed out to the deep in an unnecessary rush of blood. If he can contain his rash strokes while still playing with his customary aggressive intent, then England could get off to even better starts.
Will Stuart Broad Rediscover His Wicket Taking Ability?
When thinking of England’s bowling attack, you will usually think of Anderson and Broad as being the leading bowlers. While this is true in Test cricket, in ODI’s, Broad has suffered a serious loss of form. Steven Finn performs the role of the searingly quick battering ram, while Woakes now takes the new ball. This seems to leave Broad without a defined role. His two wickets against India yesterday, represented his first returns in over 11 months. His wicketless run extended over 25 overs, and it has been 18 months since he has managed to take 3 wickets in an innings. England will need him to rediscover his wicket taking ability if they are to be serious challengers at the World Cup. If he doesn’t, Chris Jordan may be a better option, especially as Broad’s ODI batting returns have been next to nothing.
How will England react if they need a 6th bowler?
So far during the tri-series, England’s bowling has been relatively effective, and this has meant that the four frontline seamers and Moeen Ali have shouldered almost the entire burden. Bopara has sent down 3 overs, and Joe Root has not been required at all. The test will come, if and when, one of England’s bowlers suffers a serious off day. England will need to call on a sixth bowler, Bopara is the obvious choice, but he has had little bowling recently, and is struggling to justify his place in the side. Root often picks up valuable wickets at important times, but his style of off-spin may not be suited to antipodean pitches. If England can find an answer to their 6th bowler quandary, then they will go a long way to fine tuning their World Cup plans.
The Role of Bopara
Leading on from England’s problem with the 6th bowler, the role of Ravi Bopara has also been thrown into serious doubt. As I mentioned on this page yesterday, his contributions are becoming more and more inconsequential. England need to find a role for him or bring someone else in. The only viable replacement in the World Cup squad is Gary Ballance, however he doesn’t offer a bowling option. But with Bopara barely bowling anymore, maybe that’s not an issue in this tournament. I’d like to see England get Bopara through some overs in Sunday’s final, in an attempt to sort out the dual problems of the number 6 positions and the role to be played by Bopara.
Can England Learn to Win Ugly?
The evidence from yesterday’s victory of India suggests that England may have cracked this one. But it would be satisfying to see England pull off another ugly win in the final on Sunday. If they are to be successful at the World Cup, it is unlikely that they will waltz through all of their games with huge victories. The key to being successful in tournament cricket is to win games in which you are not playing to the best of your ability. If England can find a way to scrape a win when they fail to perform, then they may be able to upset a few teams over the next few months.