England's one day woes continued in the series against Sri Lanka, writes Christopher Clark.
England fans went into the one day series against Sri Lanka with low expectations. We anticipated a hammering, but with England there is always that vain hope that at one day cricket they may finally turn the corner. That corner was not turned in Sri Lanka.
England lost the series 5-2, and the two victories were rain affected. The first victory was a duckworth-lewis inspired win. The 2nd win was a glimpse of how England could bat in sub continent conditions, when they chased down 240 in 50 overs.
However the five Sri Lankan wins were thrashings. Sri Lanka rubbed our noses into the dirt, and England were made to look second rate. So what can we read into this series defeat:
1. Alastair Cook should not be in the side
Everyone knows this, it may even be the case that some of the players in the side think this now. His batting is now fraught, and the tension he brings with him to the crease is rubbing off on other players. Mooen Ali normally composed at the crease, has lost his wicket to some awful shots. In the back of Mooen’s mind, is that it is up to him to get the run-rate going, as the captain does not have the skills to bat that way in one day cricket.
Also as the captain always has to play, it has led to some of England’s best players in the series moving from the positions in which they had given their best performances. In the final game of the series, James Taylor was moved from number 3 to number 5 to ensure that Cook and Hales could play. This also led to Ravi Bopara, consistently England’s best one day batsman, inexplicably being dropped.
It is not only Cook’s batting which is under question, it is also his negative approach to captaincy in the field. England took early wickets in each game, but once Dilshan and Sangakkara for example, hit a few boundaries, Cook retreated. The key to restricting runs in one-day cricket is to keep on taking wickets, and stop partnerships building. Cook’s plan is to restrict the runs for the first 35overs, then hopefully pick up a few wickets when the opposition tee off. This plan would never work. It was noticeable in the game Cook missed, and Eoin Morgan was captain, that the fields were more aggressive. Morgan backed his bowlers, they responded, and England won the game.
2. England’s back up seamers are not good enough
In the 7 match series England bowled 71 wides. That’s 10 wides a match. We were giving the Sri Lankan’s 1.4 overs extra a game. For a side as poor as ours, it is giving the opposition an advantage we cannot afford to give.
Whilst Chris Woakes ended up top wicket taker in the series (14), his figures flattered to deceive. He was invariably bowling too short and wide. On the hard bouncy tracks in Australasia he will be taken apart. He needs to learn to pitch the ball up, and give it a chance to swing.
Chris Jordan has undoubted potential, but cannot be trusted to bowl an over without giving away a wide or a no-ball.
Steven Finn towards the end of the series was beginning to find the menacing pace and bounce, we know he can deliver. For some reason he was dropped/rested for the last day. Finn should be used as an enforcer in one day cricket. Used in short sharp spells, his job is to un-ruffle settled batsman, though under the current Captain he will never be used like that.
Harry Gurney appears a likeable guy, but he is not international class. He won’t be going to the World Cup, but may re-appear in the English summer, as he may offer something in overcast conditions.
Ben Stokes is the conundrum for England. He bowls quick, and bats in an aggressive manner. However he has gone from England’s brightest hope at the start of the year, to a shadow of that. His bowling at times was shambolic and embarrassing. Whilst batting he looked completely devoid of confidence.
Stokes has that X-Factor however, and I would still take him to the World Cup. England don’t have many game changers, Stokes is potentially one of those.
Stuart Broad and James Anderson cannot come back into this one day side quick enough, but I fear if either of those get injured, England could be chasing some huge totals in the World Cup.
3. Eoin Morgan needs to improve
The vice captain had a terrible series with the bat, and scored 90 runs throughout the 7 games. Not good enough. Interestingly he scored 62 when he captained the side in Cook’s absence. Could Morgan thrive with the extra responsibility of captaincy? I am desperate for him to be given a chance. Eoin Morgan will play in the Big Bash league in Australia over Christmas and the New Year, where I fully expect him to find his form, and expect him to come into the World Cup in prime form.
4. Mooen Ali should be the only spinner in the side
Mooen Ali at times turned the ball more in the sub-continent conditions, than the plethora of Sri Lankan spinners (Herath, A Mendis, Senayake, Dilshan). He did not disgrace himself at all, and is more of a wicket taking threat than Tredwell. James Tredwell is a solid citizen, and reliable, but on those flat tracks in Australia, he will be destroyed! His slow loopy bowling will be feasted upon by the likes of Warner, Finch, De Villiers, McCullum (this is turning into a long list!). Mooen has proven that he bowls the odd unplayable delivery, and can be trusted to bowl 10 overs if required.
5. Finally James Taylor has been given a chance
Taylor has been batting excellently for a number of years in County Cricket, and once he was finally selected in the 4th One Dayer, he responded with an excellent 90. He dovetailed superbly with Joe Root in the middle order throughout the remaining matches; their positive running between the wickets and artful batting was a delight to behold. He seemed to have made the number 3 position his own in his handful of matches, but a shambles of a selection in the final game saw him shunted down to number 5. Apart from Joe Root, England’s batting was a sorry mess in the last game.
England move onto Australia in the New Year, to build up for the World Cup, and this is the side I would love to see play. However we all know this isn’t going to happen.
Remaining squad members – Stokes, Tredwell, Jordan, Bell.