Eng­land bats­men have ques­tions to an­swer in In­dia

Three-match se­ries of­fers top four a chance to prove them­selves ahead of this

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - SPORT - CRICKET COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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

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