Three World Cup games in and all England have to show is a win over Scotland. Next up for the struggling side is Sri Lanka as they continue their battle to reach the quarter-finals of a tournament we know they won’t win.
With four teams qualifying from this group, it’s entirely possible that three wins over non-test playing opposition will see England reach the last eight. That’s not exactly going to instil too much confidence into a team that has done little to cheer its fans so far.
The loss against Australia was bad enough as England’s bowlers were hit all over the place by a dominant Australian team who many feel are unstoppable. Sure the Aussies are favourites to win another World Cup, but they shouldn’t have been allowed to score so many by the woeful English attack.
If that wasn’t bad enough then the New Zealand game was a total disaster. The World Cup began in the 1970s and I’ve watched England lose plenty of matches since… but this was the worst I’ve ever seen. A team that is so used to coping with swing bowling just fell apart against Tim Southie. Could the England bowlers do the same? Of course not, Brendon McCullum treated their attack like a group of schoolchildren who had somehow wandered onto the pitch.
True, they did manage to beat Scotland, but again the nature of the performance was disappointing. Facing an attack that included a spin bowler whose deliveries were slower than the Post Office, they should have scored more than 350 but ended up struggling to make 300. The bowlers fared a bit better against a side that would struggle in Division Two of the County Championship. Shipping 131 runs from the last 20 overs simply isn’t good enough.
With three games remaining, England know they can still qualify for the quarter finals and a possible tie against India or the West Indies. But the thought of our bowlers taking on Chris Gayle is enough to give anyone sleepless nights.
Next up for England is Sri Lanka on Saturday and that’s followed by games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The game against Sri Lanka isn’t entirely a must-win fixture and it’s beginning to look as if it will be the Bangladesh match that will decide which of the two teams makes it out of the group.
What can England do to improve their performances? Confidence is a big problem in the side at the moment and even though Moeen Ali and Ian Bell put on 172 for the first wicket against Scotland, they still don’t strike terror into the opposition. Bell isn’t in the best of form at present and really should have dominated the Scottish attack more than he did. He hit 54 in 85 balls with just two fours, not exactly what you need at this level of the game. England have to accept that other countries have moved up to another level in ODIs. Somehow they have to make that step up too.
Having Gary Ballance at number three isn’t working either. It’s always good to be consistent, but three scores of 10 isn’t going to scare anyone. Surely it’s worth giving Alex Hales a try-out in at least one of the remaining three games. At least Eoin Morgan showed some form against Scotland, but the way even the Scots reduced England from 201-1 to 203-4 doesn’t bode well for the future.
If England are going to achieve anything in this World Cup, they have to find some way of striking fear into the opposition. Out-of-form batsmen and bowlers who are prone to putting the ball just where the batsman wants it, isn’t going to achieve that in a million years let alone the next month.