Why England's Ashes gladiators are being put to the sword in World Cup

Expecting Strauss’s men to peak again so soon after the series Down Under now appears unrealistic, writes Stephen Brenkley

England lost their World Cup match against Ireland because they thought they had won it. They were still 118 runs ahead when their opponents lost their fifth wicket in Bangalore on Wednesday evening. The match was in the bag. It was virtually possible to see the words "ain't nothing gonna stop us now" forming on the fielders' lips.



A bludgeoning whirlwind in the shape of Kevin O'Brien stopped them. England had fatally relaxed, thinking they were home, and when they tried to find something extra again it was not there and it was too late.

Call it arrogance, or expectation, or loftiness, call it what you will. There were plenty ready to say that England had grown much too big for their boots, that they were full of it, after their bewildering three-wicket defeat in the Group B match.

Nobody should doubt that England played shoddily. They scored 327, which might sound reasonable but they had put themselves in a position where they should have made 370 and then the game truly would have been out of Ireland's reach. That was the first mistake. The second was the number of dropped catches, five in all, the most crucial being that of the new hero himself when he was on 91 and Andrew Strauss, England's captain, put down a steepler.

The third was the bowling, which never recovered after being disdainfully treated in the second powerplay. Men who had performed with surgical accuracy in Australia only weeks ago were now inches away from their correct mark and too often trying to bowl the wrong ball at the wrong time.

Before England are written off as a bunch of ne'er-do-wells and no-hopers and all the gloss is removed from an epic Ashes victory, it deserves saying that O'Brien played an astonishing, unrepeatable innings. Such occurrences are the lifeblood of sport.





But England are not the team they were in Australia and Australia is the problem here. Ten of the team that lost at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday night in an atmosphere that was ultimately every bit as vibrant as when it was packed to the rafters for the tied match between India and England last Sunday played some part in the Ashes victory.

These players are being expected to reach a peak for the two most significant events in their sport in the space of weeks. It is not entirely dissimilar from asking an Olympian who trains to reach a point of perfection every four years to do it again less than 12 months later. It is the last time they will have to go from Ashes to World Cup because the cycle is changing but it may be too late.

England are not necessarily physically tired and nor are they mentally drained. As Graeme Swann, whose spell of 3 for 47 seemed to have put Ireland out of the match, said yesterday: "There is an element of it somewhere, but that certainly is not an excuse we use because if you say you're tired, there would be a public backlash and rightly so because we are paid good money to do a job we love."

South Africa and India, let it not be forgotten, were engaged in a grand tussle for No 1 in the world when England and Australia were entangled. It is South Africa, looking titanic at present, who lie in wait for England in Chennai on Sunday.

Something has gone missing on the road from Australia to India (via England for three nights) as has been evident in all three matches here. England give the impression of not expecting anything they have not earned and the mantra of Andy Flower and Strauss during their tenure as coach and captain has been of individual responsibility within a team framework. That reached its apogee during the Ashes and it may be that those individuals simply cannot summon it all up again so soon.

Batsmen, bowlers, fielders are not thinking straight enough. The margins are fine in top-level cricket – Strauss had caught that high catch off O'Brien only for it to ease agonisingly out again as he landed on the ground – and to make up the gap England have to work harder than they have ever done before. It may be beyond them.

But there is another nagging possible contributory factor, of course, and it is one that has affected England Ashes-winning teams of the recent past. When England squeezed home in the momentous series of 2005 they were filled with expectation of getting better and storming the world. It never happened; no combination of the 12 men who appeared in that series ever took the field for England again.

England, make no mistake, won wonderfully in the Australian Tests. There is equally no doubt that they took their foot off the gas in the one-day series that followed. Is it possible they did so assuming they could swiftly regain the form and cohesion which had taken them so far only to find it is not that straightforward?

Swann, rightly giving O'Brien all the dues he merited, insisted yesterday that England could still win this World Cup. They can, they almost certainly will not now.

England's exhausting winter

* England's slump in form could be down to their busy schedule. The mentally and physically draining winter has seen Andrew Strauss's side play 24 matches since the beginning of the Ashes tour in November.

England's hectic winter

5-7 Nov 2010 Tour match v W Australia 11-13 Nov Tour match v S Australia

17-20 Nov Tour match v Australia A

25 Nov-7 Jan Five Tests v Australia

10 Jan Tour match v Prime Minister's XI

12 and 14 Jan Twenty20s v Australia

Between 16 Jan and 6 Feb Seven ODIs v Australia

16 Feb WC warm-up v Canada

18 Feb WC warm-up v Pakistan

22 Feb World Cup v Netherlands

27 Feb World Cup v India

2 March World Cup v Ireland

And the summer is no easier...

26 May-9 July v Sri Lanka:

Three Tests, one Twenty20 international and five ODIs.

21 July-16 September v India:

Four Tests, one Twenty20 and five ODIs.

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit