January 29, 2014

Just how bad was England's ODI series loss?

England abroad are almost always outgunned. This defeat was more or less inevitable, and that makes it hard to take

Bell and Cook: comparable with other ODI opening pairs, but instinct screams against acknowledging it © Getty Images

Which was England's worst defeat of the winter, the Ashes or the ODI series? Oh for the ego, for the soul, for the statisticians and for the careers of some of the participants, the Ashes of course. Yet the urn ultimately depends on exchange for the great and rolling drama of its storylines, and England's problems are essentially cyclical too.

The ODI series gave rise to the usual low-level despair at a format that for England has been forever star-crossed - a repository for wasted hope and lost opportunity. It has never chimed well with the national cricketing psyche. Here are the real ruins.

I first watched England play the one-day game in 1979 at Lord's, the World Cup final against West Indies (it was the second edition of the tournament, a big deal but not yet that big a deal). A 60-over match, both sides in whites (the authorities still too stung by Packer to have yet yielded to his innovations). West Indies were reigning champions and naturals at the format. They had no need to change their Test side and yet they had: Collis King played a key innings alongside Viv Richards, out-blasting the master blaster. England opened with Brearley and Boycott. Given West Indies' attack it was not an illogical move, but it was essentially a defensive one, a response designed to mitigate the opposition rather than accentuate internal strength.

England lost, as they have lost every major ODI final that they have played, and indeed every world tournament they have entered. Throughout, it's hard to remember a time that they have not overthought and over-planned, over-examined and underperformed.

They have played less one-day cricket than their major rivals and that has been an ongoing disadvantage. But they have missed the tidal turns in the game, especially since Sri Lanka transformed its mentality with their win in 1996.

As the ICC position paper reinforces, they remain lavishly resourced. They agreed, along with Australia, to move an Ashes series forwards to give themselves the best chance in the next World Cup (ultimately to their detriment in Test cricket - it cost them the urn). They reached the final of the Champions Trophy and were, by a quirk of the numbers, briefly ranked No. 1 in the world (there are of course lies, damned lies and ICC statistics…).

And yet, and yet… Here comes a 4-1 defeat that was not overwhelming but inevitable, and that was the hardest part to take. The next year is inevitable too: a piecemeal series in the West Indies staffed by the T20 side, some home games that will offer false hope, and then madcap, on-the-hoof changes of plan on the eve of the tournament. 'Twas ever thus.

It is a Cook and Bell story. At home in early summer against two new balls it was a successful strategy, but that's history now. As the Test series showed, things shift quickly. England abroad are always outgunned. They are a side designed to win games with scores of around 270. They regard 300 as a triumph even when they lose (and does any side have their 300s chased down as often as England?).

As Australia have made clear, and as the general trend in the game is showing, teams will go hard upfront with batters built like brick outhouses. Cook and Bell each got their place during golden runs of form. England's stats men will bend over backwards to show that their averages and scoring rates are comparable with other opening pairs, and yet every instinct of the cricket watcher screams against it.

England's sole tournament success, at the World Twenty20 in 2010, was built on bravura selection. Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter opened, and while they never had huge partnerships, they had rapid and uncompromising ones. They sent belief running down through the team. Suddenly England were a proactive side not a reactive one. It was a shift not just in personnel but in philosophy, and it's still there. Stuart Broad is biased but his description of England's T20 batting as "scary" isn't entirely inaccurate. It's impossible to think of the same adjective being applied to the current 50-over team.

Tournament cricket demands aggression. You must be prepared to lose in order to win. Andy Flower got that in 2010. In that spirit, here's my XI for the World Cup: Hales, Wright, Pietersen, Bell, Morgan (c), Buttler, Stokes, Patel, Broad, Jordan, Briggs.

Jon Hotten blogs here and tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 2, 2014, 10:37 GMT

    Looking at the world rankings for T20 cricket I see England are now 4th which amazes me I reckon they should be ranked 13th. they are easily the worst team I have ever seen.they have absolutely NOTHING TO OFFER,

  • nalin on January 31, 2014, 15:06 GMT

    There are 4 eras of ODI cricket for ENGLAND 1.Pre BOTHAM era when no one had an idea and England did OK. 2.Botham era- without innovation this was slightly faster but predictable era when England did well and made 3world cup finals and lost. 3.Jayasuriya years. As innovation was a foreign concept England fell by the wayside and accepted years of incompetence. 4.Post Jayasuriya years- England won the T20 WC but Jayasuriya wobbled with his retirement and England are still wobbling with progress.

  • Harsh on January 31, 2014, 9:03 GMT

    There could never be a better illustration of the fact that in cricket there are times when the tide is simply against you .England were cruising home before a flurry of wickets but still fought back tenaciously only to lose the plot at the end.Bopara's dismissal was freak and arguably cost England the game. The result of the series could well have been 3-2 in favour of England if they had that crucial element of luck.They came within a whisker of winning 2 of the 4 games they lost.The final game proved how much temperament,drive and presence of mind are the vital ingredients of a winning team.Inspite of playing the marginally better cricket the pommies faltered at the brink.

  • Dummy4 on January 31, 2014, 0:54 GMT

    For far too long England have allowed themselves to be beholden to the obsession of the 'one-day specialist'. Over the years too many players to mention of fairly average ability have been given a run in the England ODI team, even though they would never, ever make it anywhere near the test side. Yet at the same time, the vast majority of other sides around the world, India, Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka, all of whom have won World Cups and ICC Champions Trophy's, have had very similar ODI sides to their test sides. The current Indian ODI side, ranked number one in the world, is virtually indistinguishable from the test team. By constantly picking these so called 'one day specialists' England are selecting inferior cricketers, who are of course going to fail against more superior opponents. As the author of ther above piece states...'it is inevitable'.

  • Pankaj on January 31, 2014, 0:26 GMT

    Apologies guys when I said 4-0 in Pakistan I meant UAE, seem to have got carried away there. I think I want Bopara in there because of his bowling and he seems to be developing into a bit of a "hitter". However, with Stokes in there England also have the option of dropping him.

    on Kieswetter he has had too many chances, Compton, he got dropped because he scored too slowly in tests not sure he would cut it in ODI. I would like Compton to be playing tests though. I would like to see Buttler bat high up the order or be used as a Pinch hitter because he is a serious talent.

    Its easy to be negative about England because of the ashes loss but I fully expect England to put in an improved performance next year

  • Allan on January 30, 2014, 10:39 GMT

    @ Ramanujam sridhar - spot on. Need KP and a bit more experience in their. @ sifter132 - you're right, I did laugh at you, Trott? Nice guy, great cricketer, but he is in a wolrd of trouble, unfortunately I doubt we'll see him get back to international cricket. If he did, his record shows he doesn't score at 150 strike rate, which is what you need for T20

  • Abdul on January 30, 2014, 8:17 GMT

    @ MySchizoBuddy. What????????? England never played Pakistan in Pakistan??? Mate could you please do some research before saying that???

  • Dummy4 on January 30, 2014, 5:18 GMT

    Actually England have a very good set of bowlers, especially at the death unlike India. I think their big problem is their team is geared to playing in England where the ball moves about and they dont want to lose wickets at the top. On better wickets like the ones in australlia and New Zealand where the next world cup will be held, this strategy seems doomed for failure. Althought the article seems to smack of the negativism of a true English fan who expects the worst from his team, there is an element of truth in the statistics they they simply have not won anything of consequence and if they drop KP I think they will be in the doldrums of the shortened game for longer, much longer Ramanujam sridhar

  • David on January 30, 2014, 3:10 GMT

    "Does any side have their 300s chased down as often as England?" What a pessimistic rant this was...ODI team is not built my way, therefore I'll have a whinge. Since last World Cup England has had 300 chased down TWICE - one of those only last month and down to one man (Faulkner). Last one before that was Oct 2011. NZ, SA and Aus have also scored 300 and lost twice in that time. If you extend it to 275, the 'winner' is India with 4 times conceding defeat. England has 3.

    As for the Cook/Bell diatribe...they weren't the problem. They had 3 50+ partnerships in the 5 games. Bell was in 5 50+ stands in the series, Cook 4 - only Morgan had more with 6. Both Cook & Bell struck at 82 for the series, higher than Ballance, Stokes, Bopara, Root - THERE'S your problem. No one in the middle order who can play until Morgan gets to the wicket.

    And just so you can laugh at my England XI for the World Cup: Cook Wright Bell KP/Trott Morgan Root Buttler Stokes Broad Dernbach Anderson

  • suresh kumar on January 30, 2014, 1:36 GMT

    india thrashed england to earth by 5-0, 4-0, 3-2. They never, ever good in odi's

  • No featured comments at the moment.