March 28, 2011

Mike Holmans

Six out of ten for England

Mike Holmans
Andrew Strauss rides into the World Cup opening ceremony
England may not be welcomed back with quite the pomp they entered the tournament with, but they have no reason to hang their heads in shame  © AFP
Enlarge

At least they weren't embarrassing. They arrive home as disappointed losers rather than hopeless chumps. There is no need to put bags over their heads and smuggle them out of the airport in an unmarked coach; cricket fans spotting them in the arrivals hall are more likely to smile sympathetically and mutter “bad luck” than to hurl abuse, as they might have at the national jokes which England's previous three World Cup parties became.

In their matches against India and South Africa, they showed that they belonged on the world stage; had the groups led on to a Super Eight stage, they would have carried forward more points than anyone else since they did not lose to a major team until the quarter-final.

However, the quarter-final was always the realistic limit of their ambitions. They may well have been weary after a long tour of Australia with no real break before the World Cup. They were certainly unlucky with the succession of injuries, which meant that they never had the same squad to choose from for consecutive matches.

But the bottom line is that England are poorly equipped for one-day cricket on subcontinent pitches.

They lack power hitters. They are generally nervous against spin, allowing themselves to be tied down by second-rank part-timers who should at least be milkable, even if they bowl tidily enough for whacking them out of the park to be too risky. And they don't really have those second-rank part-timers themselves. Apart from Graeme Swann, their full-timers are second-rank spinners at best, at least in one-day terms. Selecting Adil Rashid rather than Michael Yardy would have been an improvement, but I still don't think he's really up to international standard yet.

If we wave a magic wand and give them a fully-fit, adequately-rested squad, it's still hard to see England going any further. The first-choice XI for the game against Sri Lanka at the Premadasa would have been Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, and James Tredwell. Perhaps they would have made a more competitive 263 or so and Sri Lanka would have lost four or five wickets on the way to overhauling it, but the result would have been the same.

Which isn't to say that the selectors did a perfect job with the limited pool available.

Picking Paul Collingwood was entirely understandable. Most World Cups feature two or three seasoned campaigners who have, as it turns out, reached the end of the road: in the present tourney, Shoaib Akhtar is the other obvious example. Jimmy Anderson's selection was also understandable, given that he has been dubbed the leader of the attack, but it betrays a failure of analysis. He is a potent bowler when armed with two slips and a gully, but when all he has is backward point and third man there is nothing to stop enterprising batsmen looking to heave his length balls over long off.

However, without wishing to add to the man's troubles, the selection of Michael Yardy was a horrible mistake. His forte is restricting batsmen to singles, and while there is some value in a Twenty20 bowler whose four overs will usually go for 26 and rarely for over 30, ten overs for an almost guaranteed 0 for 68 is pretty much useless in the longer game.

Of course, there are lessons to be learned and taken into account when the planning starts for the next World Cup - and I agree with Andy Flower that now is the time to start – but there is no need for the slash-and-burn approach rightly taken after the humbling exits of the previous three England World Cup rabbles (“teams” being rather too kind a description of them).

This was certainly a team; it took a great deal of collective willpower to pull the fat out of the fire against South Africa and West Indies; the individuals also seemed to have roles they understood, usually looking as though they knew what they were trying to do – and it was usually the right thing even if they didn't do it as well as they might.

They did not show themselves off to their best advantage and there is no justification for congratulating them on a job well done - but they need not hang their heads in shame. They got as far as they should have, unlike South Africa. They are only guilty of not playing better than anyone expected, like New Zealand or Pakistan.

Six out of ten overall for me, with a gold star for the thrill-rides which lit up what was otherwise a pretty humdrum group stage.

RSS Feeds: Mike Holmans

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by soumil on (May 8, 2011, 16:56 GMT)

India will match Australia's era.

Posted by Steve on (April 16, 2011, 18:43 GMT)

I'm wondering whether Mike Holmans has a Labrador or Golden Retriever to help him get aroound? England have been FANTASTIC and have done all fans PROUD! The main event was to win the Ashes and the World cup was merely an annoying distraction. Played on the Indian Subcontinent and guess what three of the four semi-finalists were from where? Let's not take anything away from Strauss and the lads - they were fantastic!

Posted by Anonymous on (April 4, 2011, 16:40 GMT)

we just do not have a wow factor KP could have done it but did not last the course. we had a leggie sitting in the west indies and a fat boy sitting in nottingham, who i think would have been a better choice than some. even when we had the chance to pull in a replacement we still did not act as we should have done a young guy picked up 6 wickets in a 50 overs game and scored good runs in australia and not selected either. on our day we can beat the best but we are never consistent enough.

Posted by nutter whosane on (April 1, 2011, 20:14 GMT)

not so sure I would say 4 out of 6....England can can not be evaluated out of 10..mediocre team....sorry but its a harsh truth

Posted by Truemans Ghost on (March 29, 2011, 12:27 GMT)

Although I have no problem with the conclusion that a 1/4 final was about all England deserved, some of the analysis is a bit flawed. The suggestion that a full strength england team would have got 30 more runs and 5 more wickets thus would still have lost, thus assuming everything else would have panned out exactly the same apart from the variable changed doesn't stand up. That is not how sport works. I would agree that on balance a closer defeat would be a likely outcome for a full strength team, but it ain't neccessarily so.

Posted by Hari on (March 29, 2011, 10:08 GMT)

Rightly put..England had too many batsmen in the classical mode. Peterson was the only played who the opposing teams would have been scared of, he was awfully out of form and motivation. The bowling could never adjust to the sub-continent conditions. Greame Swann - tad overrated? He did pick wickets but batsmen didnt seem too bothered by him

Posted by Jazib Bin Jamal on (March 29, 2011, 8:20 GMT)

When England was playing, in all of their matches, the body language showed that they are going to lose. They did put up a couple of fights but in the end but it was just like the losing warriors trying to make a last ditch effort. Every match of theirs was like a last-ditch effort... POOR JOB England, losing isn't a crime but giving-up before the loss, certainly is... you owe Cricket more that that

Posted by ginu on (March 29, 2011, 4:34 GMT)

most entertaining team of the world cup:-)

Posted by Ants on (March 29, 2011, 4:15 GMT)

Great article and summary - I really hope Andrew Miller reads it, as he seemed to think that if England hadn't been in Australia before the World Cup they would've been contenders.....

Posted by Neil on (March 29, 2011, 2:39 GMT)

England are a spent force, and let's not hide behind unacceptable excuses such as long tours and tiredness, the team is just not good enough in the one day arena. As highlighted, a lack of big hitters (especially down the order), batsman who can play spin, spin bowlers and quality part time bolwers the general problems - not something that can be fixed by dropping one or two and recalling the same old faces, which is a far too familiar tactic. It's time for Prior, Collingwood and Yardy to go. KP's role needs serious thought - his overall performance for 2-3 years is mediocre at best. He's on the decline.. The other serious problem is behind the stumps - probably a scenario that reflects poor management more than anything. Prior is not good enough. Kieswetter inexperienced and Davies fundamemtally flawed through the off side. Injuries haven't helped, but lets face it there's serious work to do.

Comments have now been closed for this article