Tomorrow’s match with Bangladesh really is the last chance saloon for England at this World Cup. Their campaign so far has been akin to a granddad turning up to a rave.
Other sides have not just evolved in the last year, they have evolved in the last month. England haven’t moved on since their 2013 Champions Trophy Final defeat, and this World Cup has been a brutal visualisation of their archaic tactics.
The phrase of this tournament has been proclaimed loud and proud for the last three weeks: ‘400 is the new 300’. For England, it would be nice if they just set their sights a little higher than their current 250 to be honest. Their statisticians will tell them that the par score on many grounds in Australia and New Zealand is around 280. That’s fine, but it is based on statistics from the past 3 or so years. As I said, the game has evolved terrifyingly quickly, and as such, England’s backroom staff need to tell their players to ignore what the computer may tell them.
Of course, not all the blame can be placed squarely with the statisticians and analysts. These are professional international players and they must have the ability to think on their feet and to adjust their targets accordingly. England simply haven’t done that, and after this World Cup, the ECB needs to learn where the mistakes have been made. Whether that be in the analysis, coaching, selection etc.
While it’s possible to elucidate on England’s current shortcomings until the end of time, it’s not much use in the near future. Quite simply, England need to find a way to beat both Bangladesh and Afghanistan to qualify for the quarter final stage. On paper, England should have more than enough talent to breeze through both games. But cricket isn’t played on paper, and it was only four years ago, that Bangladesh beat England in the 2011 World Cup.
Would Bangladesh beating England be seen as a shock? Yes probably, but that is more based on historical results rather than recent form. Make no mistake, England are not overwhelming favourites, nor do they deserve to be.
So how can England beat Bangladesh? Well, there are a couple of clear strategies they could take that will drastically increase their chances of winning.
Firstly, the have to get their team selection right. Alex Hales, hasn’t played yet on this tour, but surely has to be given a go over the wretchedly out of form Gary Ballance. I’d like to see Hales and Moeen opening up with Bell moving down to number three. I would even consider opening with Bell and Hales and moving Moeen down to number 6, leaving James Taylor to slot back in at three, where he has enjoyed success previously.
England also need to be more flexible in their batting approach. If they get a solid start in the first 30 overs, then no matter how many wickets have fallen, Jos Buttler has to be the man next in. He is by far and a way the most destructive batsman England possess, and their continual wasting of his talents has been one of the most displeasing aspects of the sides performance.
To contain Bangladesh, England also need to have a drastic rethink in their bowling strategy. For a man whose stock was so high a few years ago, David Saker has experienced a tremendously quick fall from favour. England’s bowlers have been inconsistent, brain-dead and downright clueless in their opening four matches. To regain some focus, I hope they realise that the best way to counteract an attacking side is to take wickets. Containment will not work, especially so since the new fielding regulations. England need to bowl Test match lines and keep their close catchers in. Wickets will bring pressure.
This is a high-pressure game for England, and they don’t have a great record in similar circumstances. Their minimum pre-World Cup expectations would have been a quarterfinal. Now they are left fighting tooth and nail just to secure this low level aim. Now is the time for England to deliver, before it’s too late.