Sri Lanka v England, 26th March 2011, Colombo
England lose in the quarter finals. Again. After an abject performance where they were outclassed in almost every department, England are eliminated. The players looked tired, the management didn’t seem to know what their best team was, and before long they’ll be jetting back home to Blighty to the inevitable inquiry with everyone, from players, commentators and fans alike wondering how on earth it all went so desperately wrong.
And no this isn’t a delayed reaction to the England football team crashing out of the World Cup last year in South Africa. This was the England Cricket team’s turn to dash a nation’s hopes and dreams!
The defeat to Sri Lanka in the 4th quarter final of the 2011 World Cup was so savage that by the end of the match, the home team’s opening batsmen were only worried about rotating strike to ensure both of them got centuries before they ran out of runs and, oh yeah, won the game – by a mile!
Conversely England’s footballers beat Wales 2-0. Alanis Morrisette would have loved that.
Sri Lanka bowled 35 over’s of spin. For the duration of this World Cup, it has been evident that spin would win most games, and Sri Lanka knew only too well how rotten most of England’s batsmen are at facing spin. Sure, they can defend it, they can block it, they can “nurdle” it around the park for ones and twos, but they can’t score big against it.
In Kevin Pietersen’s absence, Eoin Morgan is perhaps the only England player who can and although he was dropped several times in his innings, he did well for his 50 off 55 balls. Prior also did well coming in at 7 (Swann at 6; why?) Ironically Prior was the only England bat who scored at better than a run a ball – great decision to bring him in down the order then?
England’s bowling, a couple of half-chances notwithstanding early on, was just ineffective. I wouldn’t say it was poor per se, just impotent. Swann bowled well enough but didn’t get the breakthrough England craved. Even if he had, there was so much batting talent to come that defeat would surely still have followed. Sri Lanka had 4 spinners on their bowling card. England had just 2.
But we’re splitting hairs. England’s whole One Day mindset has been off this winter. The Ashes was the focus, rightly, but no planning was put in for the ODI’s that followed, or this tournament either.
We’ve done the “Crazy to play all those One Dayer’s after the Ashes” debate to death, but it must be a factor, not least because of the injuries that occurred during those 7 matches.
But more obvious than that was the lack of basic planning for the ODI’s in Australia, leading into this World Cup. I think there was an expectation that England would do well-ish in Australia, and a winning team would emerge from the experience, but it didn’t happen that way and as a result, players have been in and out of the team, just trying to stumble upon that winning formula.
Simon Davies, remember him? He opened in the first ODI in Australia. Prior was then called up to the squad with an eye on the World Cup, and replaced Davies at the top of the order, only to then go to the World Cup and himself be demoted to 6 and Pietersen take over instead. Now granted KP did look good up top before injury curtailed his participation, but a lack of a clear plan thought processes can certainly be identified there.
Taking both Tredwell and Yardy, when neither seemed to be that fancied, was curious too. Surely the need for spinners was known in advance of arriving in the sub-continent, so why not take some spinners you’d back from the start? Tredwell was given a go in the do-or-die match against West Indies, got 4 wickets, and was suddenly seen as the missing link in the team. Again, England it was a stroke of luck, rather than a cunning plan.
To win in these conditions, a team needs to take some pace off the ball, like England did so well in the game against South Africa, where Bopara and Pietersen both bowled and helped restrict the Proteas to a low total that led to a good England win.
Whether Strauss will continue as captain after the World Cup, who knows? He looked all at sea in the first few over’s against Sri Lanka, not knowing whether to use his feet and attack, or defend, and it was Dilshan, a part time bowler, that got his wicket. Tactically, he was slow to use spin to open the bowling, and was conservative in the field more often than not.
It’s impossible though to look back at the winter as a failure. The Ashes were won in Australia and that was a massive achievement. But Test and One Day cricket are mutually exclusive forms of the game and there is no doubt that, whilst we are a good team in Test cricket, we are some way behind in the One Day game. Things will change, investigations will be launched, but can you be successful in all three cricketing codes at the same time?
The next World Cup in 2015 will be played in Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps we can co-inside an Ashes series with that visit and we’ll be better prepared?