England batsmen have questions to answer in India
Three-match series offers top four a chance to prove themselves ahead of this
O year’s Champions Trophy f the eight main Testplaying countries, England have by far the worst record in one-day global tournaments. South Africa are renowned for choking but at least they reach semi-finals before doing so, while Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies have all won the World Cup at least once, and New Zealand the Champions Trophy. But there will be no excuse if England, with home advantage, plummet out of the Champions Trophy this coming summer as swiftly as they capitulated in the last World Cup.
England’s astonishing distinction is that they have not won a single knockout match in the World Cup since they reached the 1992 final, so short of skill and mental strength have they been.
They were blasted out of the quarter-finals in 1996 by Sri Lanka; failed to qualify for the second stage in 1999, and 2003, and 2007; were blasted out of the quarter-finals again by Sri Lanka in 2011; and did not turn up in 2015, or only long enough to defeat Afghanistan and Scotland. It is a deplorable record for any Test-playing country, let alone the one that invented limited-overs cricket. At least England have won the World T20 competition, in the West Indies under Paul Collingwood’s captaincy in 2010, and they reached the final against West Indies in Calcutta last year under Eoin Morgan.
But then the same phenomenon occurred: the lack of skill and mental strength. For it would be wrong to blame that defeat on Ben Stokes for conceding four consecutive sixes to Carlos Brathwaite in the final over; England lost that match because of their top-order batting.
Although this was a different format – 20 overs as opposed to 50 – the same top four who underperformed in that World T20 final in Calcutta fronted up in one-day internationals until last October, when Alex Hales declined to tour Bangladesh for security reasons. He returns to the squad for England’s three one-day internationals in India: after practice games in Mumbai on Tuesday and Thursday, the first will be in Pune next Sunday, followed by Cuttack then back to Calcutta.
And the question persists: are England’s top four of Jason Roy, Hales, Joe Root (who will join the squad after the birth of his first baby) and Morgan consistently reliable enough to win a one-day trophy?
Roy was bowled for nought by a spinner in the first over of that World T20 final: he has expanded his game considerably against spin but canny opponents in the Champions Trophy might still open with it. Hales picked out a fielder to be caught for one: in 50-over cricket he has become very inconsistent, scoring two big centuries in his past eight innings, and four single-figure scores, with nothing else higher than 23. Once Morgan had been
Late arrival: Joe Root will join the one-day squad after the birth of his first child