Are England Losing Momentum Ahead Of The World Cup?

Positivity. Positivity. Positivity. It’s the MO of Eoin Morgan’s team. When disaster strikes it’s essential to brush yourself off, pretend it’s an aberration, and get right back on that saddle.

As a strategy this isn’t the worst approach in the world. England would be daft to try something new with the World Cup just around the corner. Changing course at the last minute would be a huge  gamble. It’s not like 50 free spins thunderstruck no deposit. There would be too much to lose. This kind of approach has undermined plenty of England World Cup campaigns in the past so it’s the last thing we should do now.

It’s just a bit frustrating that we still haven’t learned – have we even tried? – to develop as a team over the last year or so. Bayliss, Farbrace and the selectors did a very good job in revolutionising our ODI side but now we’ve got a bit stuck. It’s champagne cricket all the way or bust.

England play some brilliant cricket – we’re probably the most entertaining side in the world – but it would be nice if we we were a little more adaptable. It would also be nice, necessary even, if we showed a bit more consistency.

Yes this team could very well win us the World Cup. As hosts we’ll be able to tailor make surfaces that suit us. But we’re certainly not the finished article. We are not, for example, an all conquering machine like Steve Waugh’s Australians.

Lots of people seem to be saying that yesterday’s batting collapse was probably a good thing. “Thank heavens we’ve got it out of our system now rather than in the World Cup”. But I think this is misguided. After all, collapses like this happen quite regularly to this England side. We just forget about them rather easily.

Many seem to have forgotten that we collapsed in Barbados earlier in the series too. And if you look at our recent history it’s actually quite likely we’ll have the odd collapse in the World Cup too. We just have to hope it’s in the group stages rather than a knock-out game.

However, I think it’s suboptimal to think in terms of batting collapses alone. Instead we should simply look at wins and losses. And the uncomfortable fact it that this England ODI side loses far too much to be dead certs for a World Cup.

Of our last 20 completed ODIs – which seems a pretty good sample size as it spans exactly a year – England’s record is won 14 and lost 6. And five of those wins came against an Australia team is disarray after the Smith and Warner bans. We therefore basically lose every other game. That’s hardly champion form. This winter we’ve won 5 and lost 3.

Two key questions therefore emerge. A) Are England a good team? And B) Are we improving and building momentum ahead of the World Cup?

The answer to the first question is obvious. Yes we are a good team. We’re a bloody dangerous team. Even if we’re occasionally a danger to ourselves.

The answer to the second question, however, is a little trickier. And unfortunately recent results suggest that we are neither improving nor building as much momentum as we’d like.

World Cup winners peak at exactly the right time. My worry is that England might have peaked a year or so ago. Results certainly suggest this because we’re losing more games now than we were then. In the 20 ODIs completed in the year before last we won 17 and lost 3. That’s a much better win to loss ratio.

No doubt the headline writers will focus on England’s record score of 418 last week. And this will be used as evidence that we’re undoubtedly World Cup favourites.

But what about the other unwelcome records? Yesterday was England’s heaviest defeat in terms of balls remaining in history. That’s a shocking statistic. The game was over before the scheduled interval! It’s natural to feel a little negative after an experience like that. And can the players really shrug it off as much as they pretend they can? It must eat away at their confidence somewhat.

So what have we learned? Basically when England are good they’re amazingly good. But when we’re bad we’re unbelievable and unacceptably bad.

Does this sound like a world champion team to you? Probably not. Although it is possible.

The other day George Dobell interestingly compared Eoin Morgan’s side to Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle football teams in the 1990s: “however many you score, we’ll simply score on more than you”.

I liked this comparison. It seemed apt. Newcastle were great to watch and they were everyone’s second favourite team for a while. But what did they actually win? They were understandably too inconsistent to win the league. But tellingly they didn’t win an FA Cup either.

England may indeed go on to win the World Cup. I bloody hope so because so much has been sacrificed to give us the best possible chance. But playing this way, and failing to improve over the last 12 months, has not given us the best possible chance.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with Lucky Street


  • To be honest with you i have very little interest in white ball cricket as its fast becoming a batsmen friendly binge. I know England were skittled yesterday but bowlers dominating a game is now a rarity. ODIs are starting to resemble the Pot Noodle Porn version of cricket that is T20. Bloody awful.

    I couldn’t care less who wins the World Cup…but for what its worth it wont be England.

    Looking forward to the Test series though.

    • “To be honest with you i have very little interest in white ball cricket”

      So why are you reading the article?

      • Because we are not living in North Korea and i’m allowed to read and comment on something i have been sent old chap!! Grow up!

  • It’s a flaw in preparation and training and it’s been obvious from the moment “fearless” was inserted into the vocabulary of England’s one day cricket. The fans have been instructed in their new approach by the ECB PR branding of Team England i.e. We don’t care if they lose as long as they play attacking positive cricket. Etc. It’s very encouraging for batsmen that no one will mind if you play an attacking stroke and you’re out!! It also takes away responsibility. They’ve not been trained to assess wickets or a winning total. Ensuring they play on flat pitches also robs them of experience on more difficult ones.
    So what’s to be done? If they don’t get flat pitches in the World Cup they may feel exposed. But the ICC will want the tournament to offer real matches not slogathons. To see wickets flying and stupendous catches is just as thrilling as sailing sixes. The ECB never grasped that. Cricket has to be the winner.

    • “the ICC will want the tournament to offer real matches not slogathons”.

      I’d like to think so too but the last WC was full of slogathons (mostly the team that batted first piled up a huge score and won easily). The only matches I remember in any detail are the NZ qualifying match win over Australia (about 300 runs in the match) and Afghanistan beating Scotland (about 450 runs in the match).

  • . As hosts we’ll be able to tailor make surfaces that suit us.

    It’s difficult to over emphasise the importance of that point !

    • As it’s an ICC trophy, the pitches are prepared to their specifications not the home team’s.

      • Hmmm. I still think the pitches will suit England big time. Plus the ICC and England’s needs are pretty much aligned.

  • I didn’t have you pegged as a member of the Church of Momentumology, James. But linguistics aside, I broadly agree with your premise; that the English desire for conformity to a “positive” game plan has not helped them improve at a rate which gives reason for anything more than cautious optimism for their chances of winning the World Cup. Every time that they collapse, and it has happened seven times batting first since the last World Cup, I always think that a little Jonathan Trott is needed.

    • We need another Root in the team. A proper batsman with a good technique who can play patiently and then accelerate when needed. Morgan, for example, is a fine white ball player but you wouldn’t fancy him to last long against a top class pace bowler on form. Ditto a lot of players in the side. Maybe it’s time to move Jos up the order?

  • The last thing Morgan did was brush this aside. On the contrary his post match comments were realistic and intelligent, acknowledging his team’s historic inadequacy on lively pitches with pace and bounce, as they play so rarely in these conditions. The reason he seems relatively unconcerned, with the World Cup round the corner, can be put down to the fact that matches will be played on slower less responsive home tracks.
    I see no reason to think that our chances on winning the trophy have been affected atall by this latest defeat.
    The worst dismissal to me, although the match was effectively lost by then was the brain-dead Curran, who with plenty of overs left chose to step away from his wickets and swat at the ball like it was a fly. He should be dropped from the squad after giving his wicket away like this, as a cardinal sin is not using your overs up.

    • And that is sadly a refection of so much that is wrong with our attitude and excuses. Numbers 1 to 10 largely threw their wickets away or were unable to cope with the conditions, yet number 11 gets bollocked. Ridiculous!

      • Currans dismissal had nothing to do with the conditions. It was sheer stupidity. When you have seen players committing suicide as last man in you’re supposed to learn.
        I never tried to make excuses for the others, many of whom, as Morgan pointed out, failed to adapt to the conditions and played poor shots.
        I have a theory that white ball cricket is physically and mentally more taxing than red ball. Having spent many years watching a Warwickshire side captained by Mr ‘every ball is an event’ Demott Reeve, I think you need more of a cricket brain to play white ball consistently well. Speed of thought is key, as batsman, bowler and fielder and our players tend to be instinctive so consistency is always a problem. When we are good we are magnificent and when we are bad we are diabolical. I think with this present group I would rather stick with that than try and water down our instinctive side, making us more consistent but less memorable, which is why I am not overly critical of our batsmen trying to dominate bowlers from the off, though it may occasionally result in disaster.

    • “The worst dismissal to me, although the match was effectively lost by then was the brain-dead Curran”.

      Why was Curran’s dismissal worse than Ali’s or Woakes’s? They are supposedly better players, certainly have more experience and both had Buttler at the other end to play for. However they seem two players who always get a free pass (they’re injured, or played out of position, or something else).

      • Curran is supposed to be able to bat a bit, so you would expect with the last 2 at the crease some responsibility in attempting to see out as many of the overs as possible. Moin and Woakes were in a totally different position, where we still had the opportunity to score enough runs to give ourselves something to bowl at. I agree their dismissals were disappointing, I am not defending them, they should have knuckled down and given Butler the strike whilst he was in, but Curran gave his wicket away with a horrific shot.
        Woakes has never had a free pass and despite doing very little wrong with bat or ball for England, he cannot retain a place in any format. Moin I agree has had plenty of chances, more than he deserves, with bat and ball. I am just pissed off with ‘the cult of the Currans’.

        • The Curran’s do seem to be massively over rated.. englsnd have a history of over rating players but the Curran’s seem to be the next in a long line of failure to produce consistently


          Spring to mind currently too, especially in red ball

    • The match was already over by the the time Curran came in, there is no use blaming your no.11 when nos 1-10 have failed to do their job.

      • I never blamed Curran for the defeat. I totally agree, the match was already over as a contest by the time he came in, but his dismissal was the worst, given he is supposed to be an aspiring all rounder with some batting pretentious and with so many overs left he had a responsibility he failed to realise. He might just as well have kicked his stumps over and walked. It was brain dead cricket. The rest may have been inadequate, but not horrific.

  • I recall that in the Champions trophy England were playing very well on flat pitches then lost to Pakistan as soon as they got a wicket in Cardiff that gave the bowling a chance. Why is that unlikely to happen again?

    • Morgan’s comments referred to bouncy pitches, which is what undid the team here. I am not suggesting it won’t happen again I’m just defending Morgan’s pretty damning comments about our inability to adapt our attacking style to changes in conditions, as opposed to his implied glossing over whenever we lose. He roundly blamed the batsmen for being mentally below par.

    • This is exactly what will happen.. englsnd will biff biff biff and win on roads but when it’s not s road.. screwed

      Their hope is that this wicket comes in the group stages rather than knock out .. aka luck

      • “englsnd will biff biff biff and win on roads but when it’s not s road.. screwed .. aka luck”


  • There are times when I just want to unfriend or unsubscribe. Then I remember my own sermons about maintaining perspective……..

    • You’ve got to expect a little negatively (I’d say caution) when the team has just lost by a record margin. To write ‘don’t worry losing big means nothing and we’re definitely still going to win the World Cup’ would be (a) stupid, and (b) create a rather boring article. I’ve provided plenty of evidence to back up what are rather cautious theories. If I’d said ‘England are crap and we’ve got no chance’ then exasperation might be warranted.

    • Umm, a genuinely top team doesn’t journalism brush off regularly losing.. especially when to win anything meaningful it’s ina knockout competition .. aka.. you can’t afford to choke and have that bad game and you really shouldn’t be relying on luck (aka, a road being produced)

  • It’s a bit rich blaming Curran for everybody else’s rubbish batting. What happened to numbers 1 to 8? And why on earth didn’t Morgan bowl him to at least make some sort of effort to stem the Gayle mayhem? Why just use two bowlers?

      • Well so is Moen, Rashid, Bairstow and Broad in my opinion.
        Sam Curran virtually won England two Tests so he ain’t that bad. Both in early twenties and treated pretty poorly by England. But at least they’ll be at Surrey.

        • I wouldn’t put Stokes or Bairstow in the same league as the Currans, even in the red ball game, where both are struggling for consistency. Bairstow was better when he had the gloves as well, so whether this means Foakes will go back to the county scene I don’t know. Stokes has enormous potential and is a genuine all rounder at his best, but has yet to find his role with the bat at test level. He will always make his 50’s and take useful wickets, which is good enough to keep him in the side, but he seems to have lost that dominance that he promised early on.

          • Hey, I’m certainly not a fan of stokes or Bairstow and certainly think both are over rated compared to what they avg and deliver but….

            Stokes has potential to bat 6/7 and if he applies himself, could and should avg 40.. he isn’t a top 5 batsmen in any way shape or form and to think otherwise is clueless. His bowling is 3rd seamer when on song but 4th when not. He is a golden arm though, so best off using him as a 6 and 4th seamer and then he’s a bonus regardless of performance

            Bairstow…. since he was dropped from ODI he seemed to do well.. since going back to ODI his red ball has fallen away dramatically. Nothing to do with keeping, has to be simply his new technique and mentality is just too aggressive for top 5 test cricket. He’s a 6/7 with stokes.

            Foakes has now been harshly treated but did any of us really expect the ECB not to do this ???!!??

        • Curran wasn’t picked for his batting, so there was no pressure on him then. His bowling has always been sub-standard. It’s not even quality at county level. Since those mini innings, which got us out of holes, he hasn’t been able to live up to his new found reputation with the bat. To pick him ahead of Woakes, as happened this winter, seems without any logic to me. It’s not that I don’t want him to succeed, it’s that I don’t see his potential as an all rounder. You can’t pick him for his batting and play him at 8 or 9. To have bowled his medium pace against Gayle would have been a lamb to the slaughter. He needs to go back to Surrey and learn to hit the deck a bit as well as put another yard of pace on.

          • I think his left arm on England wickets will be good as an alternative to England’s medium pace right arm trundlers. I agree daft to open with him in WI. Trouble with Woakes is like Wood he is often not fully fit, hence Currans inclusion. But we need a couple of 90mph bowlers to combat Starc, Cummins and co for the Ashes first.

            • Until last season Woakes had a pretty good fitness record, he certainly has no long term issues like Wood. Whilst I am all in favour of a balanced side with left and right handlers in the batting and bowling line ups they have bring something of a threat to be selected. As yet I don’t see that from either Curran. They need to strive on the county circuit for some extra pace and bounce and prove they can be consistent there. Both are potential all rounders of the future, but they still have a way to go. You don’t learn the game at international level, where batsmen and bowlers exploit weaknesses quickly. Carry young Laras and Tendulkas maybe, but the Currans are not in that class.

              • This.

                Agree on the Curran’s. Simply not good enough currently. Sam especially needs to find consistency, accuracy and pace

                Yes his batting come off but he’s a stoke maker so just like the rest.. will have purple patches and there was no pressure vs India for him.

                Woakes has been fine and high 80’s until his latest injuries. He is down on pace which is a worry as he’s now just a trundler

    • All the batters and all-rounders have the same problem: they only have one gear.

  • Seems like too much positivity in the England approach, Virat Kohli also used to talk about playing positive cricket and scoring quickly, and it took series losses in SA and in England for him to understand than patience and grit can be a virtue, as exemplified by Pujara in Australia.

    This england team will win if the pitches are flat, but if the ball turns, seams or swings, then they get all out for 200 or less. Bairstow seems to forgotten how to move his feet, he simply stands there and swings at every ball like as though he”s playing golf.

    • I really like Jonny as a player but I can see what you mean. His test form has suffered since he started opening in the ODI side. He stays legside of the ball and hits through the offside very cleanly, but this has eroded his overall technique in my opinion. His defence has suffered a bit, and he just doesn’t look like a complete player anymore.

      Bairstow’s recent record in ODIs is good, so I doubt they’ll drop him, but part of me wonders whether it would be better to replace him with Hales (who is just as good in white ball cricket). This would allow Jonny to focus on test cricket. And boy, do we need some batsmen to focus on that. The test teams needs a fully functioning Bairstow. The ODI side can live without him.

      • Bairstow is clearly a white ball cricketer. He has never shown the temperament or technique to hold down a 4/5 test position. At that level we also need a top keeper and he is no more than competent, whereas in Foakes we have a top class performer who is no mug with the bat. Bairstow seems more comfortable as keeper and batsmen, where the pressure to score runs to justify his place is less. I agree about Hales though. I think he and Roy should open with Bairstow down around 6 or 7. He’s a hyper active player who thrives on being involved, he’s no specialist.

    • I think that’s a bit unkind to this team. They showed in Sri Lanka they can play spin, and if the ball swings or seams a bit we have made big scores before. It’s pace and bounce that seems our Achilles heel, acknowledged by Morgan in his post match comments in the Caribbean. If the conditions favour the bowlers no one is going to make 400. I think as ‘the team to beat’ in white ball cricket with so many talented hitters we have come to assume that we can get away with playing the same way and making enough runs, with someone always scoring plenty to bale failures out. Personally I like their approach to get under the bowlers skin straight away and would rather we were inconsistent, but intermittently brilliant, than more muted in approach but with less disasters. Because we don’t have world class bowling we need to make big runs. This makes for great entertainment. For those who don’t like white ball slog fests, don’t watch. There’s no obligation.
      Ask most punters what they would rather see in an ODI; 700 runs or 500. The former is only possible on flat tracks. Bowlers have to be more clever, varying pace and line. What has happened to the Yorker these days? Where is the slower ball? Where is the new Malinga? Even Gayle can’t hit a Yorker out of the ground. Why is it so difficult for professional cricketers to bowl them pretty much at will. You can’t hit half volleys or low full tosses for 6 either, so why bowl a succession of short and good length deliveries you can?

  • When England have won and won-big in recent times it’s been on the back of one big-hitter failing, even 2 or 3 but with enough big-hitters behind them getting the job done. In St Lucia, this simply didn’t happen and possibly as much to the players surprise as the watchers. “Where was the next guy?”

    What this probably emphasises is that there has to be a Root (or more like two) to make sure a score gets posted. The trouble is Root is being batted too high so by the time it’s apparent he’s needed, he’s already gone. The double-trouble is he’s not as effective a saviour as he’s so often spoken of as being and as others have said above, the Stokes-innings or Ali-innings of earlier times are now fewer and farther between.

    So, for me, I think the game-plan should remain entirely as is but with Root dropping down a spot or two and a Root 2.0 fitted in in place of one of the All Rounders. My suggestion: Ben Foakes.

    (Stands well back).

    • Agree about Root. We need acccumulators down the order when the field is more spread. For the early overs, where you have fielding restrictions, you need players who’s game is to hit over the top.

  • Well Tom Curran was the best bowler by far in yesterday’s hit and giggle. Most Surrey supporters will tell you he is probably one of the best, if not the best, one day/T20 finisher on the county circuit. And it showed yesterday. Should always be in the one day side in my view, but agree that he is not quick enough for Tests yet.

    • Yes indeed. Curran T. and Bairstow J. were the matchwinners for England yesterday. Fortunately the selectors are not posters of here.

  • This isn’t intended as a criticism – I’m just curious. What is the thinking behind dispensing with Buttler, Roy and Stokes – Engalnd’s best T20 batsmen, and amongst the top in the world – before the T20 series?
    Is it because they are involved in the IPL?

      • For those critical of the IPL, be brutally honest. Bearing in mind a sporting career is a short one, especially at the top level, if you were offered the kind of money the IPL are paying would you turn up your nose? The England management are just being realistic in accommodating IPL recruits, for what is a relatively minor T20 event. In this sporting era of stupid money it can set a player up for life and provide the financial security to tide them and their families over retirement as a player, which becomes compulsory for most less than half way through their working lives. In the history of sport look how many top players end up on the skids, having to sell memorabilia to get by, having not had the skill sets to make a success of anything else in middle age. The traditional thing having been to invest money in a friend’s business using your name as selling point. This rarely seems to last the test of time. If it wasn’t for punditry I wonder how many of the present bunch would be struggling.

      • Butler and Stokes definitely in the IPL. Not sure about Roy, he may be concentrating more on the World Cup.

        • I’ve checked, and the IPL doesn’t seem to be the full answer, as the following squad players are also in the IPL:
          Billings, Willey, Sam Curran, Denly, Ali, and Bairstow,
          As Doug M says, Roy isn’t involved.


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