England balancing act leaves them staring into World Cup abyss

England’s teamsheet encapsulated simply how shortly their plans have been thrown out of the window. Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone and Chris Woakes all performed in Ahmedabad on the opening night time of the match; 16 days later, they discovered themselves relegated to the dugout.

Matthew Mott had rejected the thought of «wholesale changes» in a media briefing in Mumbai on Tuesday, however England made three out of a doable 4 in opposition to South Africa. Ben Stokes, David Willey and Gus Atkinson featured for the primary time within the match, with Curran, Livingstone and Woakes all overlooked.

Four gamers who’ve collectively embodied one in every of England’s nice strengths, their wealth of all-round expertise, discovered themselves working the drinks. In reality, Curran and Livingstone ended up spending the vast majority of South Africa’s innings on the sphere as substitutes, as England tried to mitigate accidents and sickness.

In principle, it meant strengthening the bowling assault — Curran and Woakes had each leaked runs in England’s first three video games — whereas permitting England to select an additional specialist batter: Harry Brook was retained alongside Stokes, who won’t bowl a ball at this World Cup as a result of his persistent knee damage.

But in follow, it meant that England have been weak to any of their bowlers taking place injured or having an off-day. When Reece Topley damage a finger in his fourth over, Jos Buttler felt compelled to throw the ball to Joe Root, who had rattled by way of 6.1 costly overs by the tip of the twenty third.

And it meant that with the bat, England have been unusually reliant on their prime six, with Willey batting at No. 7 for the primary time in 4 years and Adil Rashid at No. 8 for the primary time in 5. There was some irony in the truth that it was their ninth-wicket pair of Atkinson and Mark Wood who saved some face with a 70-run partnership.

Mott’s rationalization was that Stokes’ return and the type of Curran and Woakes meant that England had little alternative however to change their steadiness. «We always knew something had to give and we wanted to do was go with the most aggressive option, which was to try to bowl them out,» he stated.

«We knew we were a bit light with the bat, but we were prepared to back our top six batters, who are our best six batters. When you lose a few in the Powerplay and you’re behind it [the game], it certainly doesn’t look like a great decision. But that was the method, and we’ll have to rethink that for the next game.»

Speaking to Sky, he added: «We’ll definitely look back and reflect on that. For a long time, having someone at No. 7 who can really influence a match like a Livingstone or an Ali has been, definitely, the blueprint… but I don’t think that was the difference between the two teams today. They thoroughly outplayed us.»

That a lot was true: England’s defeat didn’t owe to choice. Atkinson and Willey took 2 for 60 and 0 for 61 respectively from 9 overs every, and have been England’s most economical seamers; based mostly on their performances within the first three video games, Curran and Woakes might have proved much more costly, they usually have hardly contributed with the bat both.

Alternatives have been scant. Stokes’ highly-anticipated return proved a non-event — he made 5 off 8 balls, strolling out with England 23 for two in pursuit of 400 — however his inclusion was a necessity, to the extent Mott repeatedly described it as «a forced change». With Brook the one batter to exert himself in defeat in opposition to Afghanistan, a shift in formation was unavoidable.

But the steadiness of the facet — or lack thereof — uncovered the extent to which England have misplaced their identification in ODIs. Batting has all the time been their power and choosing a number of allrounders liberated their prime order to observe their attacking instincts: the crew that confronted South Africa appeared like neither one factor nor the opposite.

Four years in the past, England used 13 gamers throughout the 2019 World Cup; 4 matches into the match, they’ve already used all 15 gamers of their preliminary squad. Consistency of choice was as soon as a trademark of their white-ball set-up, however England have decided that it will likely be tough to realize in India as a result of variety of situations.

«Our message has been really clear: we will go from place to place, and pick the best team we think,» Mott stated. «I don’t shy away from the fact that the balance of that team was a little bit out today… That’s what happens when you lose: every decision is questioned. When you win, you can gloss over it a bit, but we paid heavily for it today.»

Mott additionally defined that England went with a fourth seamer, relatively than a spin-bowling allrounder, as a result of they believed South Africa could be weak in opposition to tempo. «Looking at our match-ups with South Africa, we wanted to go a little bit pace-heavy,» he stated. «We thought that was our best way of taking wickets throughout the innings.»

Mott additionally admitted his frustrations that England play so little ODI cricket: they performed 42 ODIs between the 2019-23 World Cups, in comparison with 88 within the 2015-19 cycle, and virtually none with a full-strength facet obtainable. «I would love us to play a little bit more cricket, if I’m being honest,» he stated.

«When you’re looking at trying to get your combinations and confidence, certainly, the more you can play together — and win and lose going into series — is going to help… we knew coming into this tournament we were guessing a little bit; we knew that with selections, in terms of being able to compare different players.»

But there may be nothing that Mott can do about perceived systemic points within the subsequent three weeks. Instead, he should persuade his gamers that, as he advised the press, «they’re still bloody good» — adequate to win their subsequent 5 group-stage video games, beginning on Thursday in opposition to Sri Lanka in Bengaluru.

«I still think we picked our best 15, and I still think we can win this tournament,» Mott insisted. «But it needs to turn around pretty quickly.»

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

Source web site: www.espncricinfo.com

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