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Afghanistan Shock a Scared and Toothless England. Daniel Allerton asks, what is going wrong for the defending champions at the Cricket World Cup?

Worries for Woakes.

Chris Woakes has struggled in all three games in the competition. The usually ever reliable, metronome has lost its tick. His first ball was down leg side and went for four byes under a diving Jos Buttler and it didn’t get any better than that. He bowled too wide and was punished with figures of 41 runs conceded from only 4 overs.

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As a key opening bowler for the last 8 years in ODI’s for England, Woakes has been pivotal to the success England have earned. Typically, the 34-year-old is a big game player, taking 6 for 57 across the semi-final and final of England’s World Cup winning campaign in 2019, but he has been off the mark in this tournament so far. His opening spells have been woeful, and he has bowled too full in every game. Punished by a tremendously aggressive and exciting Rahmanullah Gurbaz, he was smashed for 6 and two consecutive fours. Woakes was then taken out of the attack and reintroduced after England gained some stability through the spin of Adil Rashid. However, Woakes was smashed for another 6 and a 4 by Azmatullah Omarazi, a relative newcomer to international cricket.

Woakes was not the only poor bowler on the day, with Sam Curran displaying an equally poor showing. As the experienced, leader of the pace attack – questions need to be asked if he should play again in this tournament. Fellow veteran David Willey is waiting for his chance to take his place and has every right to be disappointed if he doesn’t play in England’s next game against South Africa on Saturday.    

Batters lack bite.

The key message that Eoin Morgan instilled in his revolution of English white ball cricket was the need to be aggressive, to take the game to the opposition. This philosophy has brought England unprecedented success with both ODI and T20 World Cup crowns. It has even filtered into the test match side, morphing with the help of Brendan McCullum and Ben Stokes, into Bazball. That message seems to have been lost at this tournament.

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Against Afghanistan, the only recognised batsman to have a strike rate over 100 was Harry Brook, who hit an impressive 66 off 61 balls, but in the end the hill was just too steep to climb. Compare this to England’s game against the same opposition during the last World Cup, when 5 of the recognised 8 batters had strike rates over 100. Eoin Morgan had a strike rate of 208 as he hit a mammoth 148. This shows the lack of positivity from the England batters.

While the more measured approach sometimes pays off, Dawid Malan and Joe Root proving that time and time again, England need to get back to playing with intent if they are going to have any chance of retaining their crown.

Is youth needed?

Afghanistan’s key performers in what is their first win against England in any format were Gurbaz, who smashed a thrilling 80 from 567 balls, Ikram Alikhil, who scored 58 from 66 in his first game of the tournament, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Kahn who took 3 wickets a piece. They are 21, 23, 22 and 25 years old respectively.

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The average age of Afghanistan’s lineup was 25.3, a whole 6 years younger than the average age of England’s lineup which was 31.3. The energy, pace and hunger Afghanistan showed were levels above what little positives England managed to muster.

This begs the question: do England need fresh talent?

It is possible that the lack of youth in England’s squad is hurting them and will continue to do so as long as the old guard are picked.

Written by Daniel Allerton

Twitter: @Daniel Allerton4

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