12 March 2015

Are there any positives for England?

If you have been living in a hole (sleeping) for the last few days, or just given up on England in ODI cricket, you may have missed that they are out of the World Cup after a fourth defeat in five group stage matches. Eoin Morgan's side slumped to defeat to Bangladesh for the second World Cup in a row and now many questions will be asked. There are not any good signs, surely?

The English, not just in cricket but in sport in general, love to talk about the positives after a heavy defeat. Peter Moores' team have had plenty of crushing losses in the last few months in One Day Internationals to stew over and that dreadful form did not only continue, but worsen at the World Cup.

The obvious positive is that it cannot get any worse, well unless defeat to Afghanistan follows on Saturday of course. If England have to bat first against a talented Afghan seam attack that is not even an impossibility.

There were some real positives too; Joe Root is now a top quality performer in all three forms of the game and Jos Buttler again proved his destructive power, although there is no doubt that sometimes he should bat higher up the order.

There were also some shoots of light that failed to materialise though, Ian Bell was typically pleasing on the eye, which just made his dismissals all the more frustrating. England's all-time leading run scorer in ODIs now has just four centuries in his 160 matches, despite reaching fifty 38 times.

Moeen Ali is one of England's few players that attacks the match in the modern way, but apart from his innings against a club-standard Scotland team, he also failed to go on to post anything seriously meaningful.

World Cups since 1992
Result for England
1996 (Sub-continent)
1999 (England)
Group stage
2003 (Africa)
Group stage
2007 (West Indies)
Super 8
2011 (Sub-continent)
2015 (Aus + NZ)
Group stage

The main thing that England can take out of this tournament is that the way they are doing things simply does not work. They have some good players, probably not enough to reach the final, but definitely enough to reach the knock-out stages.

Changing the team so close to the tournament was baffling. James Taylor had done well at three and then found himself down at six, while Gary Ballance was drafted in despite having hardly played an ODI in a year. Ravi Bopara missed out despite his useful bowling and death-hitting potential. One of the most bizarre decisions was the one to replace Chris Woakes as opening bowler with a completely out-of-sorts Stuart Broad, which clearly must have come from the bowler having too much power in the dressing room.

The way Morgan and Moores spoke before and after matches was in stark contrast to some of the other teams. They were clearly over reliant on statistics, but then when there was a statistic that mattered (that if you bat first in Australia you are more likely to win), they ignored it and paid the ultimate price.

At the end of the day though, England and their supporters focus much more on Test cricket and quite rightly so. The longer format is still the pinnacle of the sport but now there will be serious worries, not only over England's Ashes prospects in the summer, but also of their chances in the preceding series against a refreshingly attacking New Zealand out-fit.

Alastair Cook will need all of his experienced players in form this summer to stand a chance in either of those series, himself included. Whether or not he will have the experience of Jonathan Trott remains to be seen, although he would be a welcome addition. A Kevin Pietersen return is about as likely Nigel Farage winning the general election, if he cannot find himself a county. Even if he can it is about as likely as Ireland winning the World Cup.

But Cook does need the likes of James Anderson, Trott and Bell firing (Broad is not really that important to the team any longer), or England could find themselves in an even worse state come the end of the English summer. So if you were one of those who thinks that having a good night's sleep is better than watching cricketing failure, your sleeping pattern should be safe for a while yet.

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