England slammed for lack of yorkers
England's bowling performance at The Oval has been branded one-dimensional and "inept" by a leading bowling coach.
Ian Pont, who has coached Dhaka Gladiators to back-to-back titles in the BPL and, as a specialist fast bowling coach, has worked with Dale Steyn, Shoaib Akhtar and Darren Gough among others, has criticised England for "a lack of a plan" and "a complete failure to bowl yorkers."
England scored 293 at The Oval on Thursday, but saw Sri Lanka chase it down with 23 balls to spare. The bowlers, unable to find any conventional or reverse swing, looked bereft of ideas as they attempted to stem the flow of runs.
Now Pont, who recently published a book about fast bowling called Ultimate Pace Secrets, has urged England find alternative options and learn from the experience.
"England's tactics need to be reviewed," Pont told ESPNcricinfo. "Because the decision not to bowl in the block-hole was clearly a mistake.
"On a pitch so good for batting you have to get the ball in the block-hole. The yorker is the clear and obvious delivery to bowl in that situation and for England not to use it is simply wrong. It is a one of a bowler's key tools.
"It wasn't so much that England didn't have a Plan B, it was that they didn't have a plan. They want the ball to do something in the middle overs of the innings, but you can't rely on that. There will be times when it doesn't happen and you have to be able to cope with that. You can't just rely on a ball swinging.
"Even if you just bowl line and length you are sticking to a plan. It's not a great plan, but it is a plan. And yes, they were confronted by some brilliant batting, but that happens. You can't serve up pies or bowl wide.
Pont compared England's tactics with those of Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga, who has developed into one of the great limited-overs bowlers with a reputation for delivering penetrating yorkers.
"Malinga is unique due to his action," Pont said, "but he practises in the nets bowling at a pair of boots to ensure he is bowling right in the block-hole. Maybe the fact that some of England's seamers don't get the opportunity to play much T20 cricket is counting against them. But their slower balls are too easy to pick and they seem either unwilling or unable to bowl yorkers. They aren't poor bowlers, but it was an inept performance.
"There are basic skills, really, and if I was coaching I wouldn't come out of the nets until I sure that every one of the bowlers could deliver a yorker to order."
England's bowling was under scrutiny for different reasons elsewhere. Bob Willis, speaking on Sky Sports, appeared to suggest that the umpires had not changed the ball midway through the Sri Lanka innings because it had gone out of shape, but because someone in the England team had tampered with it.
An England team spokesman, while acknowledging that Willis had made the remarks, declined to comment but did reiterate the official ICC line: that the ball had been changed because it had gone out of shape and there had been no suggestion of tampering.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Trott has emerged as an injury doubt ahead of Sunday's game against New Zealand in Cardiff. Trott did not field for much of Sri Lanka's chase and will be accessed at training on Saturday before any decision is made over his involvement.
"He had a tight right quad and we thought the best thing to do was to get him off before things got significantly worse," England's assistant coach and fielding coach, Richard Halsall, said. "We have to have a look at him at training. We don't know yet if he'll be fit."
There are those, of course, who would suggest that Trott's absence would be of little loss to England. They claim that Trott's contributions are too slow to win games for England in modern ODI cricket.
The evidence suggests otherwise. Trott's ODI batting average of 52.56 is more than 10 runs higher than anyone with a minimum of 20 ODI innings for England while his strike-rate (of 76.42 runs per 100 balls) means that only seven specialist batsmen have scored quicker than him in ODI cricket for England. Perhaps more importantly, England have lost only five of the 22 ODIs in which Trott has played since the start of 2012. In the six games without him, England have been beaten four times.
Certainly Halsall dismissed any suggestion that England were better off without Trott and said that it was the bowlers, not the batsmen, who were more culpable for Thursday's defeat.
"Trott is rated in the top 10 one-day batsmen in the world and he builds a magnificent platform for us," Halsall said. "It's always reassuring to have him there.
"People who continue to talk about him haven't really looked at the black and white facts. He continues to put us in a position to score big scores which we should defend, as was the case at The Oval.
"We were expecting to win the game having scored 293. We didn't bowl in the disciplined manner we did against Australia and we couldn't hammer out the consistent lengths we did against Australia. Against world-class batsmen you have to be world class when you're bowling and we weren't. Our bowlers would say we should defend that total and we didn't."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo