Sport Writer Charlie King reflects on a difficult and disappointing Cricket World Cup for England, and what it means going forward
England’s abject failure in India in the Cricket World Cup over the past month is likely to usher in the end for many of their key players. Jos Buttler’s side have managed just two wins out of eight, coming against relative minnows Bangladesh and Netherlands. Reigning champions in both white-ball formats, England came into the tournament with high expectations upon them and have drastically wilted under this pressure.
A sense of clarity has been lacking in England’s one day approach for the past two years since the appointment of Matthew Mott as Coach and Jos Buttler as Captain, with the t20 World Cup victory in Australia this time last year being something of an anomaly. England’s success under the captaincy of Eoin Morgan, which saw them lift the World Cup in that thrilling finale at Lord’s four years ago, was based on sheer bravery and a commitment to an attacking approach. The same can be said of England’s recent approach in the test format. On the other hand, it has often been unclear in this World Cup whether England have been coming or going, defending or attacking, and this has been shown in a series of dubious displays.
The form of many of England’s key assets has been the main reason for their downfall. On the batting side of things, it is only opener Dawid Malan that can emerge from the tournament with much credit. Key players Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, and Jos Buttler have singularly failed to produce anything like their best form in the tournament. Talismanic figure Ben Stokes showed what he was made of in a brilliant century against the Netherlands, but has been significantly hampered by a knee injury which will require surgery sooner rather than later. Having come out of retirement for this World Cup, the days where Stokes can carry this side on his back must surely be over.
The bowling attack has often looked tepid and one-paced. The early injury to Reece Topley in a game against South Africa meant England lost their principal threat. England’s most explosive weapon, Mark Wood, has endured a disappointing tournament. Medium pacers Chris Woakes and David Willey have had their moments, but are overly reliant on favourable bowling conditions. Meanwhile, Adil Rashid has been solid, but lacked quality support in the spin department from Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone, or Joe Root.
If England take anything from a demoralising experience in India, it is that it is time to unleash their next generation. Yorkshireman Harry Brook has impressed on occasion, but has often been held in reserve for England’s more senior figures, to the frustration of many. Test openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett look well-placed to step into the one-day side. Gus Atkinson has looked like one for the imminent future, and should Jofra Archer return to fitness, the bowling lineup would be infused with a sudden potency. Promising young spinner Rehan Ahmed looks to be the next in line to replace Adil Rashid as England’s premier slow bowler.
So often in sport it is how you respond to failure that is of the utmost importance. England’s reaction to their dismal displays in the 2015 World Cup was key to setting them up for the success of 2019. Eight years later England seemingly find themselves in a similar predicament, and will hope their response can be just as enthralling and decisive.
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