Strauss’s Fruitless Revolution

I guess we should have known. Despite knowing through painful experience that we should never get our hopes up – let alone buy into the ‘bookies’ favourites’ tag – many of us really thought that England might win the Champions Trophy.

Yeah right.

The bottom line is, and always was if we’re being honest, that our white ball revolution was hollow. And this was cruelly exposed yesterday at Cardiff.

When the wicket’s good for batting, England are a good side that can out-hit the best of them. But when conditions are trickier, and intelligence is required, our white ball specialists just can’t hack it.

I guess that’s what excessive range-hitting, and a dereliction of  proper batting skills, will do to you.

England’s white ball revolution has been exposed as a brainless one. It has created a side that only has one gear; a side that cannot think on its feet; a side that can only succeed on belting wickets. And is it really a surprise? England are, after all, a team of belters rather than proper players (with one or two notable exceptions).

The uncomfortable truth for Andrew Strauss, whose has prioritised the creation of this supposedly modern white ball side, is that England might have won this game – or at least made it more competitive – if the old guard had been playing.

I doubt a team with proper batsmen like Ian Bell (still our record ODI run scorer), Jonathan Trott and, dare I say it, Alastair Cook, would have capitulated so meekly when confronted with a pitch that was tired but hardly a minefield.*

I was never Ashley Giles’s greatest fan, but his team probably would have posted 270 or 280 on this pitch, and given themselves a chance of putting Pakistan under pressure. It’s worth pointing out, of course, that Giles’s team reached the final of the Champions Trophy last time it was played on our shores.

Andrew Strauss, thus far, has therefore failed. Sacrifices have been made, more English players are playing in the IPL, yet we lost in humiliating fashion to a country that doesn’t have any players in the IPL at all.

And we still sit, rather modestly, in 4th place in the ICC rankings … having just lost at home to a side ranked 8th … a side derided before this tournament as an anachronism.

Pakistan are, after all, exactly the type of old fashioned team that Andrew Strauss didn’t want England to be: a side that rarely scores 300. Sure England are a flashier side these days, but are they actually any better? Good on Pakistan I say.

When I met Atherton, Hussain, Lloyd and Botham at Lord’s last month, I asked them whether Strauss would prefer to win the Champions Trophy or the test series against South Africa this summer. They all looked thoughtful and struggled to give a definitive answer. Make no mistake about it; Strauss was heavily invested in winning this tournament. And England have failed badly when it mattered most.

Of course, if England win the world cup in two year’s time, then nobody will care what happened yesterday in Cardiff, and Strauss will be completely vindicated. However, on yesterday’s evidence it looks like a long shot. Let’s hope that England manage to find a plan B over the course of the next two years.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the specifics of yesterday’s game as you all know the story: too many poor shots from a team that panicked when it realised a total of 300 was getting out of reach. The shots played by Alex Hales, Eoin Morgan and Moeen Ali were particularly lamentable.

When it came to Pakistan’s innings, they cruised to victory because they knew exactly what score they were aiming for. England’s big mistake was failing to figure out what a good score was.

I think it’s safe to say that England’s batsmen are all brilliant at using the muscles in their arms. But when it comes to using the muscle that matters most – the one between their ears – they’re about as useful as a punctured diaphragm.

James Morgan

* NB I’m not actually advocating recalls for these players, I just think it’s an interesting angle.


  • I am sorry but I cannot agree with much of your analysis here. For all the criticism of the specialist white ball players there are a large number of that side who have significant test match experience. Root, Bairstow, Stokes and Ali all have a fair number of caps in test cricket and we had just dropped one of the specialist white ball players.

    You mention Ian Bell as an opener, well Jonny Bairstow’s innings was a microcosm of Ian Bell’s one day international career. Look reasonably good while the fielding restrictions are on and there is little cover, then slow up with the field spread and critically so and get out after a mediocre strike rate. 4 centuries in 160 or so games from Bell should be regarded as a damning indictment of our ODI history and that Bell probably didn’t have quite the flair some folk think he should be credited with. I am not even going to go on to Trott/Cook as I will only get angry!

    Where I do agree with you on Strauss. I had grave misgivings about the way he handled the tours last autumn with so little regard being given to red ball cricket in Asia with the Lions tour to the UAE being so white ball focussed it didn’t allow for potential test recruits to perhaps be drafted in to a squad that had to play 7 tests in little more than 2 months. It came back to bite them on the backside and now England’s white ball revolution has suffered a set-back. I know that there has been a lot of investment in trying to win either this or the world cup and a mediocre 2 years in test cricket and an unsuccessful world cup should see the top brass once again being shoved aside.

    • Hi PK. I’m not advocating recalls for Bell, Trott and Cook. I was simply making a point. I thought it was an interesting angle.

      In terms of the test players in the team, there’s only really Root and Stokes. Jonny hasn’t played in the team as first choice, although I said that he should be playing precisely because he’s a proper batsman who can adapt. Moeen, I’m afraid, is generally Moeen, and always likely to be either brilliant or rash.

      Hales, Roy, Morgan and Buttler are all white ball specialists. That’s the heart of the batting line up.

  • I also don’t think we need to be quite that harsh. They had an awful day at the office, to coin a well used phrase, but I believe there is genuine talent in this line-up. If they could just learn to be more adaptable and play “smarter” cricket, they will be formidable.

    I was gobsmacked they lost to Pakistan (depriving me of a £375 payout from my chosen turf accountant in the process, I hasten to add) but I don’t think many would’ve expected Pakistan to bowl so well. We knew they were good but they completely stifled some of the best batsmen in the world. Fair play to them, their lines and lengths were excellent and they thoroughly deserved to win.

    We were trounced, if we can learn from it, it’ll be much more valuable than cantering to an 8 wicket win.

    • I think what irks many (including me) is that the manner of the defeat was so predictable. You could almost see our batsmen think “we’re going to score 320 or die trying”. This isn’t the first time we’ve been wound wanting on a slower pitch. We do play a lot better on belters.

      • I don’t seek to excuse a woeful performance, but it ought to be noted that Pakistan did have something of an advantage in adapting to the conditions, as they had played their previous match on exactly the same strip.

          • But shouldn’t international cricketers be able to adapt (ie change their game) to different pitches?

            In the last Switch Hit, George Dobel made reference to Bairstow not fitting in with the England team (he even went as far as to say it was not that different to the situation with KP). Does anyone know what he is referring to?

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again..
    You win nowt wi’ sloggers.

  • Glad you are not running England cricket. To advocate bringing back Alistair Cook, Bell and Trott has lost you all credibility. They didn’t “fail badly”, they had a bad day. The talent is there and we should stick with the plan. Small minded and knee-jerk nonsense!

    • As I’ve said above, I’m not advocating their recalls at all. I was simply making a point. If we played the old fashioned players we might not have made it through the group stages. I still think it’s legitimate to criticise England after a poor performance at the worst possible time though. You don’t get a press pass for screwing up completely in the most important ODI for two years.

      • You are quite right. We have a team of one pitch ponies.
        PS. I’d bring back Cook, Bell and Trott.

  • James,
    Not sure I’d be sheeting home the blame to Strauss here. His real input was to pick the coach, and I’m not sure many would have second-guessed his choice. Nor that of Morgan as captain. At some point I think those that like to pot Strauss have forgotten that he doesn’t actually play or coach.
    This one sits squarely on the players. We were 120 for 2, so the pitch wasn’t that tricky. Totally agree about the brainlessness of the approach. With a sticky pitch making cross bat shots tricky, and tiny straight boundaries, I would have thought getting to the pitch and playing in the V would have been the plan.
    As for the bowlers, Pakistan showed how to bowl. Changes of pace, running fingers along the seam, cutters, ball gripping in the pitch. England did none of that, despite having had 50 overs to learn some lessons.
    And sadly it was Ben Stokes who epitomised the thoughtlessness, both with bat and ball. He is a magnificent talent, but he doesn’t always seem the smartest under pressure. Hopefully he’ll locate his brain somewhere soon.
    I think this side has bags of talent. But as you rightly say, a Plan B and C are required, pronto.

    • Hi Kev. I stand by my analysis of Strauss as this attack, attack, attack mentality is very much what he’s encouraged. Let’s not forget what CEO Harrison said about strategy too: “They’ve got to play positively and risk losing to win”. Well yesterday they played uber-aggressively and fell on their faces … just like Harrison asked.

      England should have assessed what a good score is and then batted appropriately. I think excusing them (I know that’s not what you’re doing by the way) is a bit like a batsman who gets out playing a silly shot and then says “well that’s the way I play”. Sometimes that approach just doesn’t cut it.

  • Very good analysis, James – I’d agree with all you’ve said but add a couple of points. I wouldn’t put all the blame on the batting, the bowling yesterday was a horror show. Pakistan’s batting is fragile and if a used pitch was to blame as we keep being told then they should have found the going more difficult. However they walked 211 and with 8 wickets and 12.5 overs to spare were heading for 270 and maybe 300 if they’d needed them. Pakistan’s seamers took most of the wickets (their spinners took 1/89) and completely outbowled England’s seamers. Pakistan bowled fuller and got more movement, England bowled back-of-a-length and way too many bouncers (Pakistan bowled few bouncers but got them high when they did and took three wickets that way).

    There’s also the issue of this side capitulating under knockout pressure. The T20 FInal can be seen as a bizarre one-off and all credit given to Carlos Brathwaite – but many of this team were in 2015 CT Final XI and they have lost series’ deciders against Australia and SA (and lost them very badly). I’m not going to claim I know exactly why that is – but I would suggest that being relentlessly puffed-up by your own media (especially that line about how much “talent” they have) isn’t going to breed a culture of Steve Waugh-like mental toughness (Waugh learnt his chops in the late 80s when Australia were a laughing-stock to everyone, including their own media).

  • The one thing that continues to amaze me the most about selection for white ball cricket is the total intransigence when it comes to modifying a batting line-up based on the conditions. No-one bats an eyelid if different bowlers are selected; it’s accepted that a different set of skills might be required for different conditions, yet somehow the same concession is never made to batsmen, or indeed even the batting order.

    We’ve probably got two and a half players with proper gears in this side – Root, YJB and Morgan (he’s the half) – and on a pitch like that, it was lunacy to bat them at 1,3 and 4. Buttler should open with Hales, YJB should be at 5 or 6 to shepherd us through any potential problems. And if the batting conditions are going to be really difficult even think about an appropriate substitution.

    There are advantages to being singled minded and clear-headed in an approach, but it’s not without its pitfalls: for one it provides fertile soil for cognitive dissonance, which in turn makes it very hard to identify faults. This was in evidence after the mauling we got from South Africa at Lord’s, with Morgan blaming the pitch, rather than admit and acknowledge the failings of the side and the approach under these particular conditions.

    As you point out, it’s not unreasonable to expect our elite players, and in particular, the management team, to be able to be a little more nuanced and flexible.

  • James, agree with you completely. Strauss & the rest of the England Clueless Board are an embarrassment.
    Well done Pakistan they totally deserved their win.

  • I’m now expecting England’s WC2019 matches to be scheduled exclusively at Lord’s and Ageas Bowl. Or just to play on the M3 between the two. After all, it seems the ECB way to eliminate the variables rather than learn from mistakes

  • Batting skills are wonderful but unless they’re accompanied by brain power they generally will fail against decent opposition. I got the impression that our lot had been out on the razz on Tuesday night.

  • James , karma is a wonderful thing. After your stinging attack on the Aussies, I woke around 2.00am to see Pakistan batting well and ahead of the English game.

    like Michael Vaughan who wrote how England would :squeeze; Pakistan, the egg on face was very appropriate for him and for you too.
    English press and Nasser need a huge dose of reality.

    • I didn’t launch a stinging attack on the Aussies, I was having a bit of playful fun. We have lots of Aussies readers :-)

      And yes, we do have a rather large omelette on our faces today. We’re quite used to this though.

      • yes, he was just having a bit of fun as I realised after it was pointed out to me !!

      • We know you were – but still think that you are unequivocably to blame for putting the mockers on England.

        • I hold my hands up! I did cross my mind at the time. Still at least we got further than the canary yellows ;-)

  • Too much t20 slogging doesn’t help to nurture proper cricket skills. England basically have the same approach in every game, and once they hit a pitch that requires a different approach they don’t seem to have much of an idea. The ECB needs to reavaluate what they are doing to this great game, basically destroying it. Shocking.

  • Agree with your analysis James. England’s plan B when plan A isn’t working is to simply keep trying plan A. You could see the panic when they realised that they wouldn’t get to 300. The bowling was rather crap as well, all they did was bowl too short all the time, it was rather predictable. They’re a talented bunch, but apparently not enough brain cells working yesterday.

  • I watched a good chunk of England’s batting, and I’m confused by the comments. The bit I watched, the English batsmen were uncharacteristically timid, put very little pressure on the Pakistani bowlers, and allowed them to settle into a rhythm and subsequently got themselves stuck in a bit of a rut.

    Far from being a problem with not being able to adapt their game, the opposite happened, they seemed spooked by the pitch, over-reacted, lost faith in their game-plan at the worst possible moment and stopped playing shots, and dug themselves into a hole from which there was no escape.

    I didn’t watch England’s bowling and apparently they bowled a bit short, but even so, Pakistan rattling along at the rate they did surely put paid to the idea that this was some kind of mine-field, no?

  • England were very reluctant to change a winning team, hence Bairstow opening, but it would have been better for Moeen to open and Bairstow come in down the order, given how he is now much more adaptable and able to move through the gears.

    Even more disappointing than the batting and the subsequent blaming of the pitch (however good/bad it may have been) was the way England bowled so badly, bar a decent over or two from Wood. Yes, a win was very unlikely, but they never even gave themselves a chance. What happened to the ‘positive brand’ of cricket?! Or does it only apply to batting? Morgan waited too long to bring on Rashid too.

    England’s greatest error was not contriving to lose in the group stage. Very rarely does a team win a tournament unbeaten, so best to get a defeat out of the way early on.

  • Two observations.

    1) What seems largely characteristic of England sporting teams is a wild overreaction both to good and bad performance with an inevitably disproportionate swing between the two as results largely (and inevitably) fluctuate. England have come in off the back of a string of good performances; it was clear that things weren’t perfect despite these results and likewise they haven’t turned into a brainless / pointless / useless team overnight after a bad one. I doubt we’re the only country to do this but I wonder if it’s slightly worse here.

    If there were a global league with 20/40 matches where the law of large numbers takes over and the “best” country inevitably rises to the top, I reckon England would be pushing for it (probably behind India in first and similar to Aus / SA for second for my money). But in a tournament with one bad game and you’re out… that’s exactly what can happen. Fortunately for Pakistan their bad game didn’t see them eliminated. Worth pointing out as well that England were the last team to suffer a defeat yesterday.

    2) I didn’t watch the match but followed the action on the web. As as a result very possible I’ve missed something but looks to me like the main factors were all the batsmen getting starts but no one going on to a big score to anchor the innings, and a poor bowling performances.

    When looking a bit deeper the batsmen’s dismissals may have been poor but based on the lack of boundaries, in isolation I would be far likely to come to the conclusion that they weren’t positive enough / didn’t adhere to their de facto “strategy of aggression” enough. The Eng Aus match swung on a fine margin (in the context of the match at that point) of counter-attacking from Stokes and Morgan; if either of them had gone early it could have been curtains and a heavy defeat. Perhaps they were more willing to take the risk then as the outcome of the group wasn’t in doubt, but I wonder if they didn’t take enough of a risk against Pakistan.

    • Hi Jamie. I agree that there’s a danger of overreacting (the USP of this blog is to try and express the emotions and frustrations of supporters) but I think it’s warranted in this case. It wasn’t just one bad game; it was a terrible one (a really terrible and embarrassing one) in a vital game.

      Had England played a bit below par and lost a relatively tight encounter then the reaction would’ve have been ‘well, you can’t win ’em all’. Instead we had a complete horror show with both bat and ball. And let’s not forget that everything – from releasing players to play IPL, to prioritising white ball cricket at the expense of the championship – was supposed to be leading up to this point. It was supposed to be our moment of glory. Instead it was a moment of ignominy.

      It’s also worth pointing out that it’s not really one bad game because England seem to have quite a few of them. Which is why, I guess, we’re still only 4th in the world rankings. I guess what I’m saying is this: yes this team has improved since the World Cup (a real low point so perhaps not a fair benchmark) but has it really improved over a 4-5 year period? Are results really that much better?

      If we look back at the history books this decade, England score a lot faster now but we’re not winning that many more matches. The last two times the champions trophy was played in England (2004 and 2012 was it?) we reached the final. This time we’ve lost badly in the semis.

      I think there’s actually a danger that our ODI team has gone from one extreme to the other: uber cautious to overly aggressive. Yes we’re more marketable and watchable, but are we much better? We’re normally competitive at home. Recent wins are nothing out of the ordinary, and neither are the defeats. I guess what’s different this time is the hype and the sacrifices the ECB are making to try to improve our white ball form.

      • I certainly love reading the blog and it’s nice that’s it’s got a “heart on sleeve” feel.

        It’s all subjective I guess; in my view results would probably bear it out (if I could be bothered to analyse) so I would be surprised if they haven’t been winning more. Also I think it’s telling that England seem to get a lot more respect from opposition as a formidable team these days.

        The manner of the defeat is quite disappointing but once the dust settles I think it’ll be pretty clear that England have been going on the right direction.

  • I reckon if we had Johnathan Trott yesterday we would have won. He’d have seen us to 280 and we would have defended it.

    This way we play rubbish is very tiring. You can’t score 350 every game, you have to adapt to the pitch, the situation and the size of the game. On a tiring pitch post a score and challenge the opposition to get it. Don’t hand them victory.

    It’s the last time we get to learn a lesson, it’s the real thing in two years time and if we go out like that it’ll be remembered alongside every other world cup since 96.
    Go out playing your best in a semi final and you can hold your head up.

    • Trott averages an astonishing 51 in 68 ODIs with 4 tons and 22 fifties. It’s a brilliant record.

      Ok, so his strike rate is just 77, but that’s not such a problem if the others can bat around him.

      I don’t think it would be a good idea to recall players like him now, but England could definitely use someone like this on occasion.

      • Trott’s not coming back (I know you weren’t seriously suggesting he should, James) but doesn’t Joe Root arguably perform a similar role in the current ODI team? Average of 49 after 92 games (so currently very slightly worse than Trott, but still fantastic) but with a strike rate of 86.

        • Yeah, I didn’t mean it as a bring him back plea, more you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
          He was always criticised yet personally I feel we still miss him in Tests and ODIs more than anyone else in of the recent departees.

  • Unsurprisingly I agree with you. This nonsense about ‘the way we play’ and ‘we’ve scored 300+ x times’ is rubbish. Sure, they can slog their way on a road but the true test of batting is when it’s hard.. when the ball moves, when it’s on a hard wicket etc etc

    England continue to fail every single time when it’s not a road. People will blame the wicket and sure as eggs are eggs they will just prepare more roads to paper over the cracks…

    White ball cricket.. predictable and boring until you get these wickets and the moving all to make it an actual contest

  • While I’m happy to see that you have placed the blame squarely on shoulders that deserve it and haven’t indulged any conspiracy theories, this does seem like an overreaction. Much like the media/ECB hype that surrounded the team before tournament started. England is still a very good team and it just requires some re-calibration is all. What would you tweak?

    Don’t buy the old guard argument at all. Although I can see how they could have done better in this particular match its also possible they could have failed to qualify for the semis even. Would they have chased down Bangladesh’s 300 plus total so effortlessly? That is an England you don’t want to go back to. Even at the very top of their game they still couldn’t win a tournament while this team is still very much a work in progress with the potential to be scary good. The pace at which this team has risen from the ashes of the 2015 World Cup has been astonishing. It takes a lot longer to build champion sides usually. Keep the faith.

    • Hi Shrapsy. Not sure whether you’ve had time to read my comments above but I think comparing this team to the one that played so dismally under Moores in the World Cup is something of a red herring imho. This was undoubtedly the low point of the last ten years or so, therefore it’s not a completely fair benchmark. If you look at the last ten years or so, England have often been pretty competitive in ODIs (whilst maintaining a good test side). We were even briefly World No.1 in ODIs not long ago if you recall. Is this side therefore any better, despite the sacrifices made?

      Consequently I do feel the current side is somewhat overrated. The last two times the CT was played in England we reached the final. We also haven’t climbed the world rankings, which suggests results haven’t been that good.

      The one area we’ve definitely improved is scoring rates. These grab the headlines of course. But our record still isn’t anything special.

      Meanwhile the bowling has probably gone backwards from where we were 5 years ago. Let’s not forget that England used to field a team with the likes of Pietersen, Flintoff, Swann etc. Is the current side really much better? I’m not so sure. We keep hearing about a revolution in England’s one day cricket, but I still think we’re a better T20 side than a 50 over (or even test) team.

      • Well, if its not fair to compare this team to the team that lost the world cup then surely its also not fair to compare it to the team that was briefly World No 1? But like I said even at its pinnacle that team and the philosophy that drove it failed to get England a trophy. And how many years did it take for that team to come together? This team is just coming together. I still still stand by everything I’ve said. Not saying this team will become an all time great or anything of that sort, just that they are one or two mutations away from being a great batting side at the very least. I don’t really take the rankings all that seriously. ODIs have always been about the world cups. As for the bowling, fair point. This bowling attack is not the most inspiring.

  • You folks love the phrase “damning indictment” or what? Whenever I open an article on TFT, I Ctrl + F and type damning and lo and behold…its there…:)

    • Other words we love …

      Lamentable. Laughable. Horror show. Deplorable. Canary Yellow.

  • “When the wicket’s good for batting, England are a good side that can out-hit the best of them. But when conditions are trickier, and intelligence is required, our white ball specialists just can’t hack it.”

    Absolutely spot on, ever since WC 2015 debacle, England have been playing pretty much one dimensional cricket!

  • England, Pakistan, and India have each played 4 matches in the tournament, won 3, and lost 1. Obviously in England’s case that means they’re out whereas the other two teams are in the final, but that’s more down to the tournament structure and the way the matches fell.

    If England’s embarrassing defeat had been in a group-stage match and they’d made it to the final, most people wouldn’t be judging them anywhere near as harshly.

    • Wrong, anyone sensible has been saying this team can’t play on anything but a road for a long while. Things like this just keep proving it

  • we have been years behind the leading countries in one day cricket for years. we now have a team, that we have been developing for a good two years, that is full of really exciting talent and we need to stick with them. Their may be the odd game where things don’t go to plan but let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water…..

  • Hollow revolution? Really? It is often difficult to appreciate circumstances in this country given the press’ tendency to overhype to teams but just for one minute lets remember where we were after WC 2015. We failed to make the QFs of a tournament which is more or less designed to allow us and the other nations at cricket’s top table through. We could have qualified by beating Bangladesh, Scotland and Afghanistan but even that was beyond the side. If you look at the revolution from the point of view of trophies yes England have failed, however to view it like that would be short sighted. There have been series losses, but England were competitive and unlike 2015 can actually challenge for these trophies. As for chastising the team for self destruction, yes it is frustrating to see a collapse but in limited overs you will see some seriously ridiculous dismissals by virtue of calculated risk, though I appreciate the dismissals make you question the amount of calculation going on. It’s the nature of the beast. England’s issue of lacking the brains is an issue in most sides now such is the prevalence of one day specialists. The ones who get the runs and play intelligent innings are typically the all format players, Root, Kohli, Williamson and co. Whilst I think calling back Trott and Bell would be daft, Cook might just be a good shout. He batted magnificently for Essex yesterday. The best thing being he looked like he wasn’t dancing on a volcano à la Roy, Hales and co.
    This is my one day team for England:
    1. Cook
    8. Woakes
    9. Rashid


copywriter copywriting