Nick Knight: One-paced bowling attack failed the outstanding Joe Root

COLUMN: Root's exemplary 121 gave England a silver lining to their latest  woeful defeat

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The Independent Online

So another England loss, this one by nine wickets. Too often we hear the captain in the post-match observations utter the words “we can take positives from that performance”.  This time, strange though the judgement may seem, the captain is right. Or at least a bit right.

A high-quality innings by the dependable Joe Root underpinned an essentially solid, intelligent effort with the bat. Importantly, Root didn’t panic when the run rate slowed in the middle overs, instead realising if he was there at the end of the innings he and the team would likely have a good score.

His emergence as a fine one-day player, with three hundreds in 2014 and now this as the youngest English player to score a World Cup hundred, will give the side hope moving forward. Root is a splendid example of some of the young players now emerging in county cricket through their constant exposure to Twenty20 cricket.

They have a wide array of shots and, more importantly, the confidence to play them. The challenge is piecing that glorious ability together with the different demands of the 50-over game.

England’s batting line-up, though, should still have found themselves 20 to 30 more runs. Though it should be agreed that with the egregious way England bowled and the manner and style in which Sri Lanka batted, it might not have made a difference to  the result.

England’s management talk about a “debrief” after every game. I hope they address this subject as it’s becoming a recurring theme. It may appear picky but it’s one reason why I think England often enough don’t achieve a “par”  score when batting first (in fairness to them they may, just, have done so on this occasion). However, it appears England’s modus operandi with the bat is to keep wickets in hand in the middle overs and try to score quickly at the end.

This is not putting opposition bowlers under enough pressure. Being more expansive with their thoughts and ideas in this phase of the game would unquestionably help.  By that I am not urging so much hitting boundaries but being busier at the crease, showing more energy by running hard and putting fielders under pressure, thus creating mistakes that result in runs.

The best teams build partnerships during the eternally tricky overs from 15 to 40, but with one player operating at a different tempo to his partner. It was Root on this occasion for England batting through the innings – but his partner then needs to up the run-rate. England too often have two players batting at the same tempo.

During this management debrief the greatest concern, though, will probably be over the performance with the ball –  particularly the team’s leading bowlers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Both have been magnificent for England. They have not fired in this tournament.

During the break in innings, with a score of 309 on the board, the dressing room would have been quite content. With two new balls that are swinging in these conditions, all looked reasonable. There, though, lay the problem. England’s bowlers have not got the ball swinging anywhere near as much as some opposition bowlers.

I can’t explain why. One reason might be that they are not bowling a full enough length, but even when they do you would still expect Anderson to get more movement.

Certainly England’s attack is too one-paced. That is fine on fast, bouncy tracks in Brisbane and Perth, where they recorded victories against India in the Tri-Series prior to the World Cup, but not on these more even-paced surfaces in New Zealand. Variety is more important.

In all honesty, even the most optimistic England fan probably suspected that 9 March in Adelaide against Bangladesh would be a tense and nervy occasion. As for the pessimists, their view hardly bears contemplation. A win is now imperative. It is  not certain.

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