England are trying desperately to rediscover their self-esteem in time to mount a realistic challenge in the World Cup. Their fear must be that it has already been sliced apart by Australia and is now lying in little pieces around Melbourne Cricket Ground.
It is no sort of shape in which to confront New Zealand, joint hosts and second favourites for the tournament, in their second match on Friday. They are adopting the attitude that everybody will find it almost impossible against Australia, so Saturday’s overwhelming defeat by 111 runs hardly matters.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed with the way we played,” said Moeen Ali, one of England’s misfiring batsmen, yesterday. “We must look forward now, almost forget about this, analyse it, do what we need to do because it’s a long tournament, it’s not over after one game.
“Whoever is going to play against Australia is going to find it tough, they’re such a good side at the moment so in a way it’s good to have got that game out of the way.”
The trouble for England, the trouble that has been looming since the draw was made, is that their two most difficult pool matches, possibly their two most difficult in the entire competition, are the two they have to play first within six days of the six-week event starting.
New Zealand might have been pushed harder than expected by Scotland yesterday on a Dunedin deck which dared to defy the apparent requirements for homogeneous flatness, but nobody doubts the exceptional power of their batting or the quality in depth of their bowling.
“They’re right up there with Australia,” said Moeen, immediately putting into context the size of England’s task. “It will be a great challenge for us and, if we come through that and get a good result, then the confidence will be sky high.”
But it was clear against Australia that England were not prepared for what confronted them, and if the Kiwis’ method is similarly muscular – which it is – the outcome could be similar. Much, however, is being pinned on what the name of the opposition is not.
“Australia have been very tough for us,” Moeen admitted. “Since we’ve been here they have beaten us every single time. Now we don’t face them for a while.
“With them out of the way now we can look to string a couple of wins together. I think we’re a good side, I feel like we’re a newish, fresh side with a lot of new players. I think we’re dangerous, if we can get everyone to chip in – rather than just one guy on a particular day – we will be just as dangerous as any other side.”
So many ifs, so many buts. England walked along the waterfront in Wellington last night being garlanded by the locals. They were then given a traditional Maori welcome, a powhiri, before signing autographs. The locals meant well, were only being hospitable, but if that was a welcome, England – with their confidence shattered – must have been relieved they were not being hostile.Reuse content