Stephen Brenkley: It is a terrible time for England's skillsets to hit the skids

Two inadequate totals have been mixed with weak bowling efforts

England are suddenly in a mess. With less than a week to go before the start of the Champions Trophy they are in that worrying place where they appear to have forgotten how to bat, bowl or field. Apart from that, as they say, all is hunky dory.

Two matches against New Zealand have exposed multiple defects at exactly the wrong time – the eve of a global tournament it was widely tipped they might easily win. They remain joint favourites but that is beginning to look increasingly fanciful.

Two inadequate totals two days apart have been complemented by two weak bowling efforts and increasingly shoddy catching and ground fielding. It is their third consecutive loss of a one-day series at home to New Zealand – they were beaten 2-0 in the 2004 series and 3-1 in 2008 – and is wretched preparation for their first match of the Champions Trophy against Australia on Saturday.

The side have one match left in this series against New Zealand to salvage something, anything from the wreckage of two heavy defeats, one by five wickets with 19 balls left, the other by 86 runs as England were bowled out with 35 balls unused.

England will have to make changes for the third match against New Zealand at Trent Bridge tomorrow while trying to avoid devising policy on the hoof. There is only so much they can do with injuries to Stuart Broad and Steven Finn likely to continue to keep them out.

That may mean an England debut for the 28-year-old Warwickshire fast bowler Boyd Rankin, who has played 37 one-day internationals for Ireland. He renounced the country of his birth last year to seek higher things.

Under International Cricket Council regulations there are no restrictions on a player who has appeared for an associate member who wants to represent a full member. In Rankin's case the move was primarily made because he wants to play Test cricket and nominally at least has a better chance with England of winning one-day trophies.

But Rankin is not in the Champions Trophy squad, or not yet at least, having been summoned as a precaution last week for three matches against the New Zealanders. Chris Woakes, his Warwickshire team-mate, is one of England's 15 officially announced players and is badly short of form.

Woakes may keep his place tomorrow but only because the other option, Jade Dernbach, who has also been dealt with severely by New Zealand, is not in the party for the tournament. Dernbach was also called up as cover and has had a bad time of it.

England's batting order, which has looked innocuous so far, needs refreshing and Eoin Morgan, who should be their most important attacking player in the tournament, looks at risk. They will not change the opening pair of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell at this late stage.

Jonathan Trott's position at No 3 was untouchable even before his fourth ODI century which was also the third fastest of his 24 innings above 50. Joe Root has neither outrageously failed nor succeeded at No 4, Jos Buttler is obviously struggling to adapt to the demands of batting at six in internationals but he is the wicketkeeper so must stay.

This leaves Morgan, a proven and spectacular match-winner who has made one half-century in his last 15 innings. What was working sublimely for him now looks like uncultured risk-taking. Such are the narrow dividing lines in modern batting. Ravi Bopara, a veteran of 83 one-day internationals going back to 2007 without a single century, may now be given a last-gasp opportunity to restate his claim as a bowling all-rounder.

England looked for all the world as though they had an effective strategy, honed last summer at home. It was based on five specialist bowlers, two of whom fit the bill as all-rounders, and six batsmen including the wicketkeeper. It leaves little scope for one of the bowlers to have a bad day and when two or more happen to do so the upshot can be unpleasant.

This is now a stern challenge, not only for Cook's captaincy but also for the fledgling international coaching skills of Ashley Giles. He cannot tear up plan A and go to plan B because, as has been suspected of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there is no plan B that can be put into operation at this late stage.

Panic will not help but nor will the usual England response in these circumstances which runs along the lines of stating that everyone knows there are outstanding players in that dressing room and they do not become bad players overnight.

New Zealand, as ever unsung and under-rated, have so far taken 19 wickets, one every 26.32 balls for 500 runs, while England have taken eight wickets, one every 73.75 balls for 590 runs. New Zealand have scored at a rate of 101.55 runs per hundred balls, England at 88. If those gaps do not close quickly, the next fortnight could be an embarrassment for the host nation.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003