After England’s Worst ODI Performance Ever, Daniel Allerton asks – What went wrong?
England were handed their heaviest ever ODI defeat of 229 runs by South Africa as their title defence hangs by a thread.
The disastrous performance exposed numerous flaws in an England side who look worlds apart from the dominating side they have been since 2015 in white ball cricket.
It signals what seems to be the end of a golden era for English white ball cricket with Head Coach Matthew Mott describing the performance as “a real low point” that “felt like a bad dream”.
A dejected, tired England have it all to do if they stand any chance of reclaiming their crown.
So, what went wrong and why were England so bad?
England have built their success over the last 8 years on being an elite chasing side, with a powerful and dangerous deep batting line-up.
Therefore, when Captain Jos Buttler elected to bowl first at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai it wasn’t a surprise.
It was the first calamitous decision that set the tone for what would become a disastrous day.
The heat was unbearable and left England’s bowlers struggling. A self-proclaimed ‘Donkey’ due to his outstanding fitness, David Willey went down with cramp in the 36th over. The bowlers were left drenched in sweat as they constantly were on and off the field, struggling with the sweltering heat.
The humidity was a major factor in England’s struggles, but the weather should not have come as a surprise, with the temperature in Mumbai consistently over 30 degrees Celsius.
The decision to chase is made more perplexing by England’s recent chasing record, losing seven of their last 8 chases in ODI’s.
Jos Buttler admitted that he potentially should have made a different decision and recognised how “tough” it was for his team.
Another questionable decision that inevitably led to England’s was the team selection. A struggling Chris Woakes was dropped alongside Sam Curran and Liam Livingstone and Ben Stokes, Gus Atkinson and David Willey were brought in.
Former England Captain Nasser Hussain said, “the changes to the team moved the squad completely away from how they have been playing for years”.
England opted to take out batting depth in an attempt to solve bowling issues from earlier in the tournament and it did not work. The batting lineup was decimated as England were left 68 for 6, and despite some big hitting from Atkinson and Mark Wood, were all out for a measly 170.
The batting depth players like Livingstone, Moeen Ali and even Chris Woakes and Sam Curran bring has been key to the blueprint of the side and to rip it all up, with no alternative shows a side in disarray.
Reece Topley has been the best bowler so far this World Cup, often looking like the only chance of wickets for England. He is the leading wicket taker with 8, despite not playing the first game.
Disaster struck for the left armer when, after a bright start and the scalp of key man Quinton de Kock, he broke his finger fielding off his own bowling.
Topley bravely came back to the field and ended up with 3 wickets, bowling through the pain.
The injury will be a huge blow for England with the spearhead and only bright light of an otherwise abysmal pace attack will not play another game in the tournament. Brydon Carse will fly into India as his replacement.
Adil Rashid struggled with an upset stomach throughout the game, bowling through gritted teeth. The spinner was often seen in visible pain, bent double on multiple occasions.
Rashid had been taken off the field before the game even started. With the batting lacking and spin options waiting in the wings, England’s failure to make a replacement caused even more problems.
England look lost.
Eoin Morgan’s winning World Cup side of four years ago, was balanced and familiar.
On a batting front, an explosive top order was supported by a mixture of middle order stability and fire power, supported by a long tail.
The bowling lineup was the perfect balance of economical and dangerous, with specialist opening, middle and death over bowlers taking up key roles.
All of this knitted together to ensure the historical win. The win was cherished by fans, and all involved whether it be on or off the pitch. So, how has it been allowed to get to this point?
England have been arrogant and naïve in their planning for this World Cup.
The squad isn’t settled, and they haven’t played a run of games together. As amazing as Ben stokes is, England haven’t figured out how to get him in without unbalancing the 11, and he has been dragged out of retirement only recently.
Gus Atkinson has only played a handful of games. Malan is new to opening the batting. Harry Brook was not included in the original squad, only to be brought in at the expense of the experienced Jason Roy. The squad is the oldest in the competition and the lack of youth makes England look weary.
England have played almost half of the games in the run up to this tournament than they did last tournament and have played 22 less games in preparation than early pace setters India. The last series before the tournament against Ireland wasn’t taken seriously and the strongest squad wasn’t picked.
This shows how unprepared England have been and how they haven’t taken the build-up seriously. They have almost treated their title defence with a lack of respect, expecting to be able to turn up and dominate settled, well drilled sides like New Zealand and South Africa who know their best team and have had time to gel and work together as a squad.
While all is not lost, England leave themselves with a mountain to climb to progress to the semi-finals. They need to up their game in all dependents if they are to avoid embarrassment again.
Written by Daniel Allerton