England v West Indies, World T20 2012, Super Eights, Pallekele September 27, 2012

England's top-order mindset needs a rethink

Eoin Morgan produced a wonderful innings against West Indies, but it made the end result look closer than it really was in another troubled England display

Eoin Morgan awoke to headlines that it was time for him to deliver. At least he did if it is his habit of scouring the English papers online when he is on tour. He did deliver, too, with 71 from 36 balls, which would win most games, but England still fell 15 runs short. It felt like a lot more. Something was amiss.

England needed 180 to win, but as their captain, Stuart Broad observed, the pitch was a belter and the ground was "postage stamp." On the postage stamp ground, Morgan failed honourably with an attempted special delivery. The rest of England's batsmen barely got out of the sorting office, other than Alex Hales and even he was stamped second class, tiring as his innings progressed.

England were up against it from the outset, 0 for 2 after three balls, Craig Kieswetter and Luke Wright both falling to Ravi Rampaul for ducks, Kieswetter to a badly-executed pull against the second ball he faced, Wright steering a catch to slip as he tried to leave a delivery.

Kieswetter persistently looks fretful in the first few balls, as if uncertain how to go about building a first over, which is not a great career move for an opening batsman. As for Wright, not too many batsmen in Twenty20 are caught at slip trying to leave one.

England talk constantly about the need not to lose wickets in the early overs, which might be statistically proven to be an advantage, but it seems to be confusing Kieswetter and Wright, who only seemed suited to a role in the top three if they are allowed licence to attack. Neither would claim to be technically watertight, both need to be encouraged to go big.

England, with this emphasis on not losing early wickets, would have been better picking Alastair Cook, who disproved the notion that he could not play ODIs and would probably make a decent fist of T20 too. If that meant omitting Kieswetter, England could have always entrusted the gloves to Jonny Bairstow.

On this occasion, though, Bairstow's innings was also misconceived. He had been promoted to No 4 to try to allow Morgan to wreak havoc in the closing overs when the field would be more defensive. It was a plan that had a logic to it.

Samuel Badree, a legspinner who opens the bowling for Trinidad and Tobago, but whose international experience was limited to two T20s against New Zealand in Florida, was the vulnerable player who England had to target. But Badree had more confidence than England and, after opening the bowling, he got away with four overs for 20.

With advice about not losing early wickets also ringing in his ears, Bairstow limped to 18 from 29 balls, his ebullience for once lacking. In 20 balls against West Indies' spinners, he made nine runs and a leg bye. His sweeps malfunctioned, his attempted cuts died and when he raced down the pitch to Badree he ended up kicking it away.

The first time he went for broke, he got out. He fell at long-off, trying to lift Chris Gayle down the ground and succumbing to an excellent catch running around the boundary by Kieron Pollard, England were 55 for 3 at halfway, still 125 short. That was not as much a platform as a siding.

West Indies bowled 15 overs of spin, pricking England's frailties, aware that their collapse to 80 all out against India would be bound to have left scars. But how much of it was truly high-class spin? Sunil Narine's talent is unquestionable, but since May he now has one wicket against England for 232. Badree got away with it because England were more worried than he was, Gayle and Marlon Samuels are part-time spinners and on a small ground they were risky options.

This felt like an innings overly ruled by endless advice about keeping wickets in hand, and it felt like that particularly when Bairstow was at the crease. Nobody doubts that the advice is generally sound, but England batted themselves into a position where they could not win the match, not even with Morgan's heroics.

If Hales was seeking to bat through - and, as he tired as his innings progressed and became less effective as a result, even that approach was questionable - then better than run-a-ball innings were essential at the other end.

Hales was dismissed for 68 from 51 balls, stumped by Dinesh Ramdin as he failed in what had become an onerous task to hit the last three balls for six. He spoke about what a good influence Morgan was at the crease, encouraging him to have fun in trying to win a match for England from a virtually impossible position.

Jos Buttler, presented as a potentially destructive No. 6, got one ball. Samit Patel, an experienced finisher, never got in. Graeme Swann is as dangerous a tail-ender as there is in the tournament and perhaps this was a night when from 0 for 2 England were naturally going to have to bat deep.

The danger for England is that Morgan's brilliant knock will persuade them they got close. It never felt like that. When Morgan plays with such wonderful abandon, England should win more often than not. This England run chase was not the story of Morgan's brilliance, it was the story of a very English type of failure.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on September 28, 2012, 18:50 GMT

    @Si Baker on (September 28 2012, 15:14 PM GMT) Mate , I don't have a problem with any of what you suggested. Some of the Irish players could maybe play for the Lions but retain their ODI/T20 Status with Ireland. My point was that the guy is saying that we're poaching all the Irish talent when at this stage the only Irish player who has played for England is Morgan. Joyce - who he also mentions - is playing for Ireland again anyway. Also , do you get my point about those 100% Irish footballers of the 90s such as their captain Andy Townsend.

  • Dummy4 on September 28, 2012, 16:22 GMT

    They have put a chastity belt on Morgan,let the man have fun, rmove him from behind the walls of doubt, to attack sometimes is the best defence give him the chance to succede.

  • John on September 28, 2012, 14:49 GMT

    @Patchmaster on (September 28 2012, 02:54 AM GMT) Funnily enough , I agree with most of your post. We have Briggs out there who I think can do a good job - as good as our pacers anyway - but re "Any bowler who cannot think how to not get hit for six sixes in an over, cannot be trusted to think how his side can go about playing with 40 overs" - what a load of rubbish. Although I think some of Broad's onfield decisions aren't the best and the team selections - which are part Flower too don't forget - aren't the best Broad himself was our most economical bowler yesterday and why must he always be judged on one bad performance 4 years or so ago?

  • John on September 28, 2012, 14:48 GMT

    @SurlyCynic on (September 27 2012, 22:57 PM GMT) Broad bowled well yesterday. And his buddies - presuming you mean Swann - had one bad over yesterday but has been as good as any bowler in the tournament if you take that out. Also , I'm pretty sure you were one of the main critics of us playing SA born players. So in that case why are you calling for us to recall the main SA born player?

  • Dummy4 on September 28, 2012, 13:58 GMT

    BROADly speaking, poor captaincy compounded the confused minds of a very young and very talented group of batsmen, who will deliver in the future, if nurtured and guided properly. Don't give up on these young ones. But you have to dern back on Dernbachs, and discard ineffective swetters -- whether alpha, beta, gamma or Kei!

  • Stefan on September 28, 2012, 13:47 GMT

    Kiesewetter and Dernbasch should go out. Lumb and Bopara should come in. Wright is also disappointment

  • John on September 28, 2012, 12:46 GMT

    @Nutculet - I agree with your comms here.I have said before about England's lack of adaptability in the test arena and it seems similar in recent T20s too.It seems they have "It worked for us in the past/It's what got us here" attitude. For me Briggs is a must , and if they want to go for 3 quicks I'd possibly have Bres coming in for Patel. Briggs - successful or not - is used to opening the bowling too so adds another dimension and gives us another option in the opening overs.EG if the pace of Finn looks ineffective in the 1st over we can go with Briggs.If Finn threatening , go with Broad.Re Dernbach despite Swann having that 1 horror over I'd prefer him to have bowled his 4 out than Dernbach. My way of thinking is that if you have a bowler who bowls 2 very decent overs in a row , keep him on for a 3rd or 4th as there's no guarantee that he'll get straight back into his rhythm later in the inns and if a bowler is going for runs and looking unthreatening take him off whoever he is.

  • Dummy4 on September 28, 2012, 12:44 GMT

    England don't have enough leaders to take the pressure off the talented young bats. That's where they are missing KP as well as his runs. Andy Flower is a good analyst but his man management is really getting shown to be poor since Strauss started to burn out. However good your plans are, technique falls apart under pressure without the right leadership to step up (not captaincy). Their batting plans seem more suited to 50 overs rather than 20 and Morgan needs to get in earlier.

  • Dummy4 on September 28, 2012, 12:17 GMT

    Something missing at no3 !!

  • John on September 28, 2012, 12:14 GMT

    @mikey76 on (September 27 2012, 21:48 PM GMT) Do you really think the bowling looks good? We were set 180 on a used pitch. For once I think the bowling let us daown as much , if not more than our batting

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