New Zealand v England, Group A, Wellington February 20, 2015

Wenger's message to faltering England

England were hammered before England had even woken up - but all is not yet lost
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"Well, lads, at least we'll not get slated like the footballers..." © Getty Images

Where were you when English cricket was being wellied around Wellington? In bed, probably, sleeping through the nightmare. You might have cautiously reached for the phone when the alarm went off, checked the score with one eye still closed, discovered it was already a result and put the pillow back over your head. Rude awakenings? We've had some.

England fans following the team on the other side of the world will be well acquainted with this procedure. Barring shocks - a competent performance, say - whatever England get up to won't intrude much on the day. For some of us, abject hammerings on a foreign field are novocaine for the soul, a reminder of how things used to be before people got daft ideas about winning Ashes series in Australia. Something to roll the eyes and mutter about in the corridor at work. Although it's fair to say the final day of the 2006 Adelaide Test might have put one or two off their breakfast sausage.

Nevertheless, plenty will be outraged that England have had their muffins toasted twice inside a week. Geoffrey Boycott, that most prim and proper of observers, described the eight-wicket defeat as a "bit of a shock", which suggested that he has not been watching either England or New Zealand much recently. Michael Vaughan claimed in his Telegraph column that time is running out for Peter Moores, less than a year after he was brought in to clean up the previous mess. On Sky, Andrew Strauss went beyond his usual diplomatic brief and mentioned "crisis talks".

If that all sounds rather like football speak, it was perhaps fitting the subject came up in a couple of Premier League managers' press conferences, with Arsene Wenger and Steve Bruce both consulted. News on whether Moores thinks Arsenal should have recruited a defensive midfielder in January and if Hull have enough goals in them to beat the drop is now confidently expected when the timezones allow.

Of course, even those who have never watched Clockwise, the oft-quoted John Cleese film, know that it's not despair that is the problem, but hope. And really you would have needed a pure distillation of 2008 Barack Obama running through your veins in order to sustain much in the way of optimism about England's chances in Australia and New Zealand.

England at the World Cup is really a sort of thought experiment. Like Schrödinger's cat, they are theoretically alive even though you know they are dead. It's only when you open the box - usually around the quarter-final stage - that you are presented with the rather messy proof.

This was supposed to be the best-prepared England World Cup campaign in a generation but that rather went down the chute when they changed the captaincy around what felt like tea time the day before it started. Promoting Eoin Morgan was a gamble that many thought worth taking but it was a gamble all the same. England then came over all Luke Rhinehart and started rolling whatever dice they could get their hands on, bringing in Gary Ballance, shifting James Taylor down the order and taking Chris Woakes off new-ball duty. And this really was around tea time the day before the tournament started.

And yet, in another sense, England are right on track. Losing their opening two games against the in-form host nations was entirely predictable, even quite likely. The format of this World Cup - you may have heard it mentioned - means England could still get away with winning half of their group games to progress (albeit they are about 50% off in that regard right now). And while it's hard to do when hyper-ventilating into a paper bag, there might also be some room to praise the opposition - particularly the magnificent displays of Tim Southee and Brendon McCullum on Friday.

No, the time to start having a White Russian with your cornflakes will be if England lose to Scotland in Christchurch on Monday. Given their commitment to undermining ICC statements about how future World Cups should only be for "competitive" teams, this must be considered a real prospect. England have been defeated by Associates before but Moores really would need to engage in some football manager-style filibustering if they end up handing Scotland a first-ever World Cup win. That would call for celebration as well as condemnation but, as things stand, there won't be much bile left to go around.

Even then, England wouldn't necessarily be out of the competition, which might leave some pining for the swift kill inflicted on Roy Hodgson's team at last summer's football World Cup. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from the, er, winter sport after all, which brings us back to Wenger and his response to how teams can recover after a heavy defeat.

"It is always difficult to make a separation of the emotional aspect and objective judgement of what happened," Wenger said, having rather cruelly joked that cricket was always on TV in England (oh, the irony - Wenger is a Sky subscriber, obviously). "What is interesting in sport is that it's practised by human beings, they are not robots, they have good and bad days. After a very bad day you can only get better. You have to be severe when you win and sometimes be helpful when the team loses."

So, there you have it, from the man who invented broccoli. The time to be get really angry is if England start winning. Now that really would be a reason to splutter into your morning brew.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 21, 2015, 20:54 GMT

    Well realistically I think the sri lanka game is crucial. If we beat them, we will have beaten a full member and one that is a dangerous side traditionally in tournaments. This will be a big confidence boost. Just do the job vs Scotland, put them in and get them out for 200 and knock the runs off. If only it was that simple, this is England on terrible form...even for England!

    The majority of the side are very good players, inconsistent yes but they are good players. Stokes would have been a brilliant choice as he has been on stunning form, he definitely is the only guy who could be the next Flintoff....lets hope someone gets injured

  • Manthiswaran on February 21, 2015, 13:16 GMT

    The truth is Eng where never prepared for WC, their attractive towards ODI is something meaningless and they only likes to play Ashes and county cricket. The Eng team during 2007 WC was some what competable and remaining we all know what had happened. Playing WC with no specialized openers and new captain are mess created around Eng squad and no idea why they left Trott in-spite of his good form in county cricket. Anderson and Broad both are bowling one good game and giving away 4 games. This squad not seems beat the big teams other than minnows.

  • Dummy4 on February 21, 2015, 5:49 GMT

    Eng were both shoeless and clueless against Southee and McCallum...

  • Mark on February 21, 2015, 5:18 GMT

    The last time England had a very well prepared squad was 1992. It seems so long ago now a generation ago. They also probably would have won it if they didn't run into wasim akram on world cup final day. Also the semi final in 1992 was uncompleted. South Africa may well have won the semi final, as Eng were running out of steam and SA were on the up at that stage. The rest of the 1990s Eng were terrible in odi'. 2000s were no better.2010s. Eng no better in odi's.Eng haven't had a well prepared team since 1992. The 2015 team is a joke. Yet they could make the quarterfinals. Same story for England for the last 20 years.They haven't moved forward unlike Australia or NZ for example.

  • rob on February 20, 2015, 23:25 GMT

    Maybe these have been strategic defeats and all a part of a very cunning plan. Then again, maybe not.

  • Cam on February 20, 2015, 22:45 GMT

    @SINGH KHUSHWINDER, "England played Southee wrongly". Indeed, they kept letting him hit the stumps.

  • Dummy4 on February 20, 2015, 21:50 GMT

    The first two matches and the subsequent fixtures only tell that this English side has all the possibilities of qualifying to the knock outs and getting out from there.

  • Michael on February 20, 2015, 21:44 GMT

    I loved the sentence comparing England at the world cup with Schroedinger's cat. That is just about it. I can't help thinking it might be more fun if England were exorcised from the edition of WC before the quarters. Just really hit the skids so to speak.

  • Danish on February 20, 2015, 21:05 GMT

    I think the lineup is not that bad. Remember when the team was announced, most of us were quite content with it.

    One thing is true for sure. There is no x-factor player in the team. They call Buttler that, but I have never quite seen him that way. He is very inconsistent. That makes him no better than anyone else in the team.

    Bowling is the department where England do lack. I have always said this team does not have variety, and it doesn't help leaving out Tredwell in this regard. I would have suggested a fast bowler (Plunkett), but well that's not possible now.

    I think England are just too pressurized. With all the negative media, all the hostility, together with thrashings by Australia they have got tense. All they need to do is to come up with the fresh mind. They should stop being on social media for starters, and should just enjoy the gaps between the games. That is the only way the correct mindset is going to come back.

  • Vikram on February 20, 2015, 20:58 GMT

    The ECB invited this mess upon themselves by clinging on to Cook, and gleefully banishing KP. I hope Morgan isn't made the scapegoat now.

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