NZ v Eng, Group A, Wellington February 20, 2015

England challenge loses all credibility

Those who feared that uncompetitive games might undermine the credibility of the World Cup might reflect that it is England, for all their wealth and hubris, who are the biggest embarrassment
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Holding to Bell: Don't try and be Warner

When the cynics mentioned, ahead of this World Cup, that they were concerned that there would be too many uncompetitive games, it was generally understood that they meant those between Associate and Full Member nations.

But it is England, for all their wealth and hubris, who are in danger of undermining the credibility of this competition.

It is England, who have been at the forefront of the attempt to carve up cricket for the benefit of the "Big Three", who have played like part-timers.

It is England, who have argued for the cut in teams at future World Cups, who are devaluing the value of TV rights and short-changing ticket-holders with their failure to compete with the best teams.

It is England, with an annual revenue around £120m a year more than Ireland and Scotland, who have been brushed aside with almost embarrassing ease.

It is England who have looked as if they do not belong.

There have been many bleak days in the history of England cricket. There have been losses to Holland and Ireland, there have been whitewashes and blackwashes and decades at a time without an Ashes victory. England supporters are no strangers to pain and disappointment.

But this performance was up there - or down there, if you prefer - with the most humiliating in England's ODI history. This day-night game ended before they needed to turn the lights on.

The entire contest - and the word is used loosely - lasted less than 50 overs. It was, in terms of deliveries left unused, the biggest defeat in England's history (equalling the 226 balls not required by Australia at Sydney in 2003).

And while it was extreme, let us not pretend this result was an aberration. England's top-order was blown away in similar fashion in Melbourne. It is almost a year since they won an ODI series. They have now been bowled out in 13 of their last 19 ODIs and won only five of their last 19. It is becoming hard to avoid the conclusion that they simply aren't very good.

There can be few excuses. England have enjoyed the longest preparation period in their history before this World Cup. They have been playing ODI cricket (with just one T20I to break it up) since last August. They rescheduled the Ashes in order to concentrate on their ODI skills.

Let's be clear: New Zealand are a fine team. Tim Southee bowled beautifully, providing a masterclass in use of the crease, swing and control. He was well supported by a brilliantly dynamic captain who then played one of the most devastating innings you could hope to see. Brendon McCullum might well be a great cricketer. In normal circumstances, it would be no disgrace to have lost to them and Australia.

But to lose like this?

Good batsmen tend to face fewer great balls. Batsmen who use their feet, batsmen who stay in line, batsmen who play straight find themselves much better equipped to deal with late movement. These are basic skills, once drilled into batsmen developed in the county game.

Consider, for example, Ian Bell's dismissal. It was, for sure, a fine delivery: it was delivered from wider on the crease by Southee, pitched about middle and off and hit the top of off. Excellent bowling.

But did Bell give himself the best chance of playing it? In looking to play the ball through the covers, Bell's front foot was nowhere near the line of the ball and his bat slightly angled. Against fine quality bowling, such errors will be punished.

Equally, Moeen Ali was recipient of a truly wonderful delivery. But he, and Gary Ballance, paid for a lack of foot movement, while the captain, Eoin Morgan, simply hit one to long-on. There is nothing unlucky about that. England are deluding themselves if they use such words.

England have allowed themselves to be seduced by the idea that 320 is a par score in modern ODI cricket. They have allowed themselves to be pulled away from their strengths - percentage cricket - and dragged into a slugging match with opposition that can out-punch them.

The last time they flourished in ODI cricket - at the Champions Trophy in 2013 - they fielded a team that might have started cautiously, but at least utilised their full 50 overs. Until they learn to do that again, they will continue to lose more games than they win.

The possibility that England will not qualify for the quarter-finals is now real. With a dreadful net run-rate - the worst of any team in either group - and Bangladesh likely to gain a point from a rained off game against Australia in Brisbane, England now have no margin for error in their four remaining games. They may well have to win them all. If rain intervenes, they may be reliant on results elsewhere.

Maybe, in time, questions will have to be asked about the management, the county system, the academy, the players and the coaches that have overseen this debacle.

And maybe, in time, the ECB will reflect on their arrogant attitude to Associate Members and whether the failure of the national side is the main reason for a drop in participation numbers, an apparent disinterest from free-to-air broadcast partners and difficulty in inspiring the domestic T20 audience.

But not now. Not yet. England have to prepare for a must-win match against Scotland in little more than 48 hours. They need to rebuild shattered confidence and face a much improved side which scored 19 more runs against this same attack a few days ago.

They have to tell themselves, however improbable it sounds, that they can still win this World Cup. They might even evoke memories of Pakistan's experience in 1992; bowled out for 74 in a group game against England, they would have been eliminated had rain not intervened. The rest - the cornered tigers speech et al - is history.

England are more lost kittens than cornered tigers at present. It will not so much be a giant killing if Scotland defeat them, more the mercy killing of a sick pigmy.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 22, 2015, 10:45 GMT

    Same 'Ol story ! Very well written.

  • Dummy4 on February 22, 2015, 7:40 GMT

    I love the way you say they lose all credibility. It at least implies that had some before this match started.

    I would almost like to see England go out in the group stages if only to watch the massive round of navel gazing that the ECB would undertake. The ODI team needs a top down overhaul in order to be competitive in any way and this is probably the only way that's going to happen. Plus their performance so far doesn't deserve to be rewarded with any progression to the knock out stages.

    I'd like to see them advance, but not at the expense of papering over the massive cracks in the team

  • John on February 21, 2015, 18:48 GMT

    England discard one under performing Captain and replace him with another, unfortunately this new captain has little concept of the game.Surely when only 124 runs are required,after Finn's first over why did he give him a second, I'm sure a 10 year old schoolboy could have worked that one out.The only good thing to come out of this shambles is that nobody can say that England have peaked to early,and yes I'm an Englishman and being nearly 68 years of age I have over the years become immune to the under performing of various England Sporting Teams.

  • Dummy4 on February 21, 2015, 16:24 GMT

    Honestly I would like to see england out of the tournament soon. hopefully afghanistan or scotland make it through and from group B im really hoping Ireland go through in place of WI or Pakistan. In fact it would be better is ZIM could make it through with ireland tht would be a good world cup. Currently Pak and England have disappointed the most with both teams losing by big margins in both games. WI have done marginally better by winning a game.

  • Dummy4 on February 21, 2015, 12:42 GMT

    Finalists of 1992 WC are on bottom in both the groups. Whata shame...

  • ian on February 21, 2015, 9:32 GMT

    You are right, George. There is something karmic about the humiliating tribulations besetting the England WC team and set up. Last year there was that grubby, mean-minded and excluding deal with the BCCI and CA. The Big Three to call all the shots, pocket the profits and self-serve in spades. It is England's hubris coming round to bite them - as is always the way with these things. England is never esp. popular with other nations and if it often unjustified by reference to fast receding history, the so-called minnow nations - some not far away from England, may well have found a new stick to use-- England's showing in this marquee tournament!

  • John on February 21, 2015, 9:27 GMT

    Re Sky pundits. They are talking about a franchise system improving the game. Personally I think it would alienate fans and the comms from English fans on here suggest as much. I still say ECB could give a yearly grant to counties to try and lure bigger players to our T20 circuit although the problem is that it is such a long comp it may be hard to get top players to commit for such a long time. We could maybe lure some players on a game by game basis. Regardless I feel this is a better investment as the attraction of top players may get some extra bodies through the gates. Anyway , franchise system would not eliminate baffling selections

  • Hemaal Dangar on February 21, 2015, 9:17 GMT

    Win or loose up or down no matter what still an England fan and i will be forever!!! Every nation seen these black days and may be today its England who is going thro the pain but will be back!! Hopefully sooner!!

  • Dummy4 on February 21, 2015, 8:55 GMT

    The England squad still possesses promising youngsters & good cricketers who have produced in the past - they're just let down by appalling tactics, management & leadership. The attitude & atmosphere around the team seems terrible as well. The new setup post most recent Ashes debacle has been an unmitigated disaster, and the current team management is not fit for purpose. Do I really need to emigrate in order to be able to support at team that doesn't just sadden me?!

  • percy on February 21, 2015, 8:33 GMT

    All other things aside I think that there needs to be an inquiry into the draw, the chances of England drawing both home nations, both who just happen to be in great form in the first 2 games is, I think a coincidence too far, couple this with the washout today which can easily put England out and the odds are thousands to 1.

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