England were outbatted, outbowled and outclassed for the second game running, leaving their World Cup dream looking more and more like a dream indeed. Here’s what we learned from their obliteration at the hands of a rampant Australia:
Eoin Morgan can say what he likes but really, the bowlers got their lengths wrong and were rightly criticised. It was a green pitch, the conditions were conducive, and it shouldn’t have been that difficult to know what to do. Put laconically, England had one job and they failed at it.
They might have been fuller by their own standards, but no, they were not as full as the pitch required them to. Since the last World Cup, no team to have made it to the 15th over of an ODI innings without losing a wicket has had a higher false-shot percentage than Australia’s 32 per cent yesterday. It might make you think England were unlucky, and maybe they were to some extent, but mostly, it was a case of poor bowling. The Aussies confirmed that when they bowled.
There was a confirmation of sorts in England’s body language after the first hour or so as well. They looked downcast and already resigned to chase 340. That was when and where England lost the game. Lesson learned? If you win the toss against India on Sunday, make sure you make it count, or they will make you pay.
Unless Jason Roy is still injured, there’s no way James Vince is ever wearing that England shirt again. Looking back in times, you’ll struggle to find an English batsman as meretricious as him. He’s almost always pleasing on the eye, plays some piquant strokes, and right when you think he’s finally going to go big, he’s on his way back to where he should have been anyway: the pavilion.
Against Australia, he didn’t even get the beautiful 20 that he normally does. He was just cleaned up by a delivery that, it is safe to say, he doesn’t have the technique, the ability or the nous to play. Simple as that. It is a sad end to what should have been a successful career, but there’s nothing more that can be done about it.
We have often compared him to Ian Bell – and rightly so – but if there had to be a similarity pointed out between the two, it would be that Vince has mostly batted like an out of nick Bell – classy, yes, but never a safe bet.
Moeen Ali only bowled six overs, so it’s clear he wasn’t picked as a bowler. He was sent in to bat after Chris Woakes, at eight, which reflects a lack of faith in his ability as a batsman. So what was he really picked for? He’s not in the team for his bowling, he’s not in it for his batting; surely, he couldn’t have been playing as a specialist fielder?
What’s worse? He was chosen ahead of Liam Plunkett. For those of you believe in the idea of a player being lucky for his team, Plunkett does apparently bring the luck for England. The hosts have not lost whenever he has played.
Luck apart, Plunkett is an important part of the team, not just because of the fact that he is the world’s leading wicket-taker in the middle overs since the last World Cup, but also because he adds variety to the bowling attack – and that helps. He has to play against India. Who for is another question as England might need both Ali and Adil Rashid on a turning pitch at Edgbaston.
It’s time we talk about Ben Stokes, England’s mentality monster. The kind of player Jurgen Klopp would be proud of. It is no coincidence that all three of Stokes’ best efforts with the bat have come when the situation most needed them to. When England most needed them to.
Stokes walked in at a precarious 111/3 against South Africa on an Oval pitch that wasn’t the easiest. He top-scored with 89 before taking the catch of the tournament, inflicting a run out and taking a couple of wickets.
The unbeaten 82 in the defeat to Sri Lanka was an even better effort. He arrived at the crease at 73/3 and while everyone wilted, he stood there right till the end, showing the fight that Eoin Morgan so often talks about. Who knows what would have happened had Mark Wood been able to defend that one ball.
Then there is the 89 at Lord’s the other day. The best of the bunch. England had been reduced to 26/3 and if ever there was hope for them to somehow beat Australia, then it was because Stokes stood up, once again exhibiting all the “values” that this team likes to associate itself with. Despite the consistency with which Joe Root and Jofra Archer et al have performed, it is Stokes who has been England’s best.