We’ve heard why England WILL win the Champions Trophy. In the interest of balance, Andy Hunter argues why they WON’T.
There is no doubt that English One Day International cricket has improved beyond all possible expectations following the debacle of the 2015 World Cup. Their positive brand of cricket and impressive results have captured the imagination of the public and gone some way towards banishing the ghosts of previous disasters. They will start Thursday’s opening game of the Champions Trophy on home soil and as firm favourites. However, whilst improvement is undeniable, doubts remain as to whether they can win an ICC ODI trophy for the first time.
Since the appointment of Eoin Morgan as captain the side has embraced the attacking intent with which other countries have been playing for a while. The top order has been firing on a relatively consistent basis and England have chalked up impressive victories over arguably superior opponents in the last couple of years. However, going into an International tournament and winning it requires ability, temperament and usually more than a dollop of luck. The most successful sides are the teams who adapt quickest to certain in game situations and it is an area that England have always struggled in limited overs cricket.
After watching England’s dismal batting display at Lord’s on Monday morning against South Africa, all the old frailties resurfaced and 2015 seemed like only yesterday. A side seemingly unable to think on their feet as six wickets fell in the opening six overs; it was a pathetic performance from players who should know better. All fell trying to attack the opposition and whilst the captain offered excuses about a poor pitch following the game, those that witnessed it knew differently.
It must of course be remembered that England won the series against the number one ranked side in the world and a one-off game should not completely change the fortunes of a side on the rise. Whilst context is needed it cannot hide the fact that there were players in that side who were not able to adapt their instinct and acclimatise first before attacking. On an overcast day at Lord’s when you get put in to bat, the first hour needs to be negotiated to provide a platform for the expansive players further down the order.
Attempting to play the game the way England do so is something that should be applauded. However, as international players they should also be able to think on their feet in a tight situation and attempt to provide a platform for the rest of the team. Had England’s top order all played like Jonny Bairstow they might have perhaps been dismissed for a similar score but they might also have posted a score of around 250 which would have kept them in the game.
Having two aggressive openers in ODI cricket has become commonplace and in Alex Hales and Jason Roy England have had a settled top order for some time now. As Hales demonstrated in his brief Test career though, he lacks the patience and ability to play the longer format and one suspects that Roy is the same. They have both enjoyed success on flat pitches where the bounce is true and the ball rarely moves but this tournament will present a much sterner test.
With only three grounds being used for the Champions Trophy it is likely that they will become drier and slower as the tournament progresses. It will be fascinating to see how England adapt if the pace on the ball gets taken off. They are not a team of nurdlers and accumulators, Root aside, and in knock out games that ability has always proved invaluable in the past.
Running up to this tournament it was felt that England’s ability to score big totals would not be an issue and rather it was their bowling that remained the weak point. One performance should not overshadow the improvements made by this current side but it was a wakeup for many of the players. England’s attacking ethos has seen very encouraging performances to date but this tournament could well be too early in their development. Attacking is all well and good but the best know when and how to use to it to its most devastating effect.
England are not quite there yet.