England has completely transformed their ODI and T20I unit since the ICC World Cup 2015 debacle when they were knocked out of the tournament, losing to Bangladesh in a must-win game and were overall awful in their performance.
This had led to many changes in their set-up which have led them to break the record of highest ODI team score twice. They first scored 444 against Pakistan, beating Sri Lanka’s score of 443, and recently, scored the second highest List-A score of 481 against Australia at Nottingham, which is also the highest ODI team score by some distance. They went on to win the match by 242 runs, their biggest win by runs in ODI history.
England has invested in players who have outstanding skills in the limited overs format and it saw the sacking of senior players like Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, James Anderson, Stuart Broad and many others. Eoin Morgan was given the command to lead a side that had the likes of Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Jos Buttler, Mark Wood, the Curran brothers and many more.
England has developed a good strategy to bat first, let their explosive batsmen loose at the opposition bowling and set up a big score. Then leave it to their bowlers to defend the total in the second innings.
However, amidst the run-fest at the Nottingham pitch that was as flat as a nicely ironed shirt, England has shown chinks in their armor on similar pitches away from home against a similarly talented ODI side like India. These drawbacks may come to haunt them as they prepare to have a victorious World Cup at home and win their first 50 over title.
Let’s have a look at five such issues that England must address
Pace bowlers with similar traits
Currently, the England team has pace bowlers like Jake Ball, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Liam Plunkett, Craig Overton, and Mark Wood. These names might be highly successful in the English county scene and for England in limited overs for past few years, but they have something in common.
As England scouted for limited overs specialists in county cricket, for some reason they liked all bowlers who could bowl at a similar pace of 80mph-90mph and had the necessary change-ups of pace, the knuckleball etc. Though these traits are very much in fashion in the current limited-overs environment, this makes all the bowlers similar to one another.
This creates a problem for them as in death overs, there is no surprise factor as each of these bowlers have the same tricks in their quivers and batsmen of today have answers to those tricks. However, nothing beats pure pace and a searing yorker at the toes of batsmen in any era and England lack a bowler who could do this.
England can change Mark Wood with Ben Stokes, Jake Ball with Craig Overton and no one will notice the change in the bowler. England is lacking a couple of bowlers with the serious pace of over 145kmph. All other teams have atleast one bowler who is of extreme pace like Kagiso Rabada, Billy Stanlake, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohd Amir Etc.
Therefore England needs just a couple of these bowlers to bring some difference to a monotonous bowling lineup and strengthen their death bowling as well.
Joe Root is a misfit in this ODI team
England’s batting lineup boasts of players who can play at breakneck speed. Bairstow, Roy, Hales, Morgan are all well equipped at scoring at high run rates and help the score moving at a good rate. But one batsman feels like an odd man out in this list of fast scoring batsmen.
Joe Root is a pure technical batsman who believes in setting up his game with singles and doubles and sometimes in doing so, hampers the progress of his batting partners. Opposition bowlers target Root, whose ODI strike rate is 86.81; and strangle him, bringing down the run rate. In an era where even the best of the batsmen have a strike rate of above 90, Joe Root is somehow a misfit in this England team.
England team management must try out different batting options in his place, as Eoin Morgan is there to keep the opposition spinners at bay, along with Buttler who can dominate in the middle order.
Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid are the two spinners in the England ODI line up at the moment. Ali is more of a batting all-rounder and Adil Rashid is a leg spinner who has modeled himself in current ODI set up.
With other teams having quality spinners in likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Shadab Khan, Rashid Khan, Samuel Badree and others; England’s two spinners look amateurs in front of those. England has the likes of Dom Bess, Mason Crane, Jake Leach, who are pure spinners and have done well for their counties in domestic one-day competition.
But team management has continued with Ali and Rashid, as they can bat also. Ali has proven his batting skills in all formats of the game and Rashid can also tonk the ball down the order. England has clarified that they want to bat deep and hence, no pure spinner finds a place in the playing XI.
But having a couple of pure, talented spinners will help them counter quality opposition batting in middle overs when scoring rates can be controlled.
Weak against quality spinners
Though England batting bats deep and all of the batsmen are big hitters of the ball; they have one Achilles heel to speak of. Almost all of the England batsmen have a highlighted weakness against quality spinners.
The likes of Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Ben Stokes and many more have shown that they cannot handle quality spin bowling. All the three played in the recently concluded IPL season and their shortcomings against very good spin bowling were exposed for the world to see.
Leg-spinners, in particular, proved to be the kryptonite for England top order batsmen and they struggled to get runs off them and often got out in trying to hit their way out of the trouble. Only Ben Stokes and Joe Root are comfortable handling good spin and have the skills to overpower them and score runs at will.
England will need to address this issue which might be used against them in upcoming series and the World Cup 2019.
One dimensional batting
The England top order Alex Hales, Jason Roy, and Jonny Bairstow have one thing in common. They are all big hitters of the ball and once they get their eyes in, no one can stop them from murdering bowlers. This one-dimensional batting creeps in middle and lower order as well with Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes also having similar traits.
Only Joe Root is a batsman with proper batting technique and ability to rotate strike and play at a steady pace, instead of hitting every ball out of the ground.
The ability and skill of big hitting are must in every team in current limited overs situation with the want of high run rates on flat wickets. But one needs to balance them with regular batting and need to rotate strike, taking singles and doubles and keeping the scoreboard ticking during the middle overs as well.
If England wishes to win the World Cup 2019, they need to iron out their flaws in order to accentuate their strengths.