England’s World Cup campaign has been disastrous, there’s no other way to describe it.
They have been roundly beaten into submission by the three full member sides they have played, and conceded 779 in 110 overs and taken just 12 wickets. While the batting has taken a lot of flak, and rightly so, the bowlers are more to blame for England’s current ODI malaise.
Despite some uplifting results against India in the preceding tri-series, England were always foolish to enter the World Cup with a 4 man right arm seam attack. In a tournament that was that was always going to see high scores, the side with the best bowling attack will have the best chance to succeed.
To counter the batting friendly pitches, and increasingly innovative batsmen, bowling units need to have control, variation and nerve. England have so far exhibited none of these vital traits.
Control has been lacking at every stage of the innings. England have failed to make inroads with the new ball and haven’t consistently made the ball move either through the air or off the pitch as other sides have managed. Their variation has been completely miscalculated; a ludicrous amount of short-pitched bowling at the death and a complete failure to even bowl at the stumps has seen them chasing some serious leather. As for nerve, England have again showed a serious lack of it. At the death, their inability to bowl a simple yorker has been staggering, and their propensity to bang the ball in short at the first sign of aggression from the batsmen has been infuriating.
As George Dobell points out for ESPNCricinfo, England’s four bowlers are supposed to have different roles and assets. However, in truth, they are extremely similar. Anderson is supposed to be the swing exponent, Finn the quick man, Woakes a steady opening option and Broad able to bowl those unplayable spells.
Sadly for England, Anderson has been hideously ineffectual. His failure to swing the new kookaburra ball has been even more startling when compared to the generous movement gained from Starc, Southee and Boult amongst others. His inability to bowl anywhere nearing 85mph has made him redundant thus far in this World Cup.
Broad is quite simply no longer worth his place in the ODI side. Sure he has the ability to bowl out sides in one spell. But those occasions are becoming more rare. In the Test arena he is still a world-class performer; capable of taking wickets through pressure and perseverance. In the one-day arena Broad has become toothless, robotic and dangerously expensive.
So effective during the tri-series and capable of taking wickets without looking menacing, unfortunately for England, Woakes has lost his happy knack of picking up scalps. He has always looked a little innocuous, but in the past he has been able to take valuable lower order wickets and prise out some classy players too. He needs to be reinstated with the new ball and given a chance to utilise the kookaburra while the lacquer is still on.
Steven Finn completes the set, and is often referred to as the paciest of the attack. But that has not been true since 2011. Finn picked up a hat trick in the opening game, but you could hardly say he bowled well; conceding 71 runs in the process. He has bowled consistently far too short and has given batsmen easy runs on the true antipodean pitches the World Cup.
It’s a sad state of affairs when all four members of England’s seam quartet are this woefully short of form. Peter Moores is left with a simple option for England’s must win match with Bangladesh next week; he has to make at least 2 changes to his bowling attack.
Personally, I would bring in Chris Jordan, and also James Tredwell. Ideally, England would possess a left arm seamer to provide some real variation, but they are left with the 15 that they put their faith in. Jordan could be able to extract some genuine zip from the surface and perhaps hurry a few Bangladeshi batsmen. Tredwell has been harshly dealt with over the past year, he was England’s best ODI bowler for much of the last 3 years and his non-selection has been dumbfounding.
If England are going to scrape their way into the quarter-finals they will need to seriously rectify their seam bowling woes. They will have to freshen up their attack, and the four they select next week will need to be far more accurate, skilful and innovative than their predecessors.