Something is clearly amiss. England have had more than three years to plan for the next World Cup from which they are now less than six months away.
They played as if these time scales were the other way round: six months in with the raw material of a master strategy, three years left to do the fine tuning.
To compound this felony, they are following almost exactly the template laid down by their predecessors on their way to the last five tournaments, all of whom failed lamentably. The rest of the world, or that bit of it which counts in one-day cricket, is playing a different game and in truth may as well be on a different planet.
England went 2-0 down in the series against India with two matches to play, their batsmen completely dumbfounded in the middle overs of their innings. From a relatively prosperous start of 82-0 in the 18th over, England crumbled to 149 for six and were all out for 227, at least 80 short of what they needed.
Between the 18th and 44th overs, they hit one boundary. India won by six wickets with seven overs to spare, galloping gleefully to what passed for a target in front of a crowd which sometimes felt as if it was cheering the boys on in Nagpur, not Nottingham. Ambati Rayudu, in his first match of the series, made a delightful 64no from 78 balls, with support from Suresh Raina, who has found a rich vein of form.
But they had it easy. If either of England’s openers, Alastair Cook and Alex Hales, had gone on as they should have done it might have been a slightly different story.
But England as so often around and in World Cups are in that place where they can usually find a place to lose.
As soon as Hales and Cook went yesterday, both guilty of carelessness, the middle order was hapless. The question might be posed why the pitch favoured spin, albeit slowly, when India had four men who could turn the ball and England only two. But a more pertinent query may concern the ineptitude of those tasked with confronting it.
There was neither wisdom nor guile in England’s batting. It has been like that so often before that it is possible to imagine England’s future batsmen being perched on their mothers’ knees to be told: “On no account will you ever play spin properly in limited overs cricket or you’ll have me to answer to.”
When the squeeze was put on yesterday, England had no idea how to break free. India merely squeezed a little harder, recognising the fallibility of their opponents. Considering the abject way that these tourists finished the Test series this has been some turnaround. They are at home playing limited overs cricket in a way which England, after all these years, are not.
Maybe there is time for a transformation before the World Cup but it seems improbable. England are stuck with what they have chosen so far and the clamour for some of the young sluggers who have been hitting the ball miles in domestic cricket is likely to go unheard.
It is difficult in any case to blame the way in which England set about their innings after being put in. Somehow Cook survived the early overs though he used anything but the middle of the bat in doing so, Hales was as blissfully assertive as the selectors and his supporters imagined him to be.
For the second match in a row, Hales played a faulty cross-batted shot, this one looping off the glove to the wicketkeeper, MS Dhoni. It was a pity because there is an innocent power about his batting which is always worth seeing but being in means going on.
Cook is out of form again, happy only when pulling, and when he walked past a wide one from Rayadu he was easily stumped. Perhaps Cook was unlucky in the sense that Rayudu, who had never taken an ODI wicket before, has a dodgy action about which questions should presently be asked, but in every other way it was plain daft.
Gumption went into hiding thereafter. Joe Root was stumped, stretching forward against Ravi Jadeja, successfully revisiting the ground where he had his infamous row with Jimmy Anderson. Jadeja’s record against England embodies the frailty. He has a bowling average of 18 against England in 16 matches compared to 31 overall.
Eoin Morgan, initially turning to leg changed his mind and edged behind, Ian Bell, who was at least adept, was then gormlessly run out. The slip catch from Suresh Raina that accounted for Ben Stokes, for whom international cricket is suddenly becoming a hard road, was a beauty.
It meant that Jos Buttler had to play a different hand from that for which he earned his reputation. He played it diligently, perhaps too diligently but was out charging down the pitch. James Tredwell’s late hitting gave England a semblance of respectability. It was only a semblance.Reuse content