ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Bangladesh v England, World Cup, Group B, Chittagong

The rollercoaster dives again

A lack of consistency has made Andrew Strauss's team the most watchable at the World Cup, but could now cost them a quarter-final place

Sidharth Monga in Chittagong

March 11, 2011

Comments: 21 | Text size: A | A

Ajmal Shahzad took three wickets but it wasn't enough for England, Bangladesh v England, Group B, World Cup, Chittagong, March 11, 2011
Ajmal Shahzad took three wickets to put England on the brink but they could not seal victory © Getty Images
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After England had produced yet another thriller, this time a two-wicket loss to Bangladesh, Andrew Strauss was asked how England could conceivably win the World Cup after having lost to the co-hosts and Ireland. The question makes sense, for England have lost two of the nailbiters that they were in a very good position to win; they have tied a game they should have at various points lost, won and lost; and they have won two games where they had played themselves into losing situations.

Strauss paused before answering. He looked for the right words. Then he said: "We still believe we can. We have put in some very inconsistent performances. We still haven't had a game where our batting and bowling fire at the same time, but we need to do it pretty quickly now. We have got to have to do it in the last game against the West Indies." Not quite Steve Waugh's simple-we-have-to-win-every-match from the 1999 World Cup, but the closest a non-dramatic captain such as Strauss can get to it.

Critics will lay into England, and not unfairly either. They gave away 23 runs in wides in a defence of 225, James Anderson and Ajmal Shahzad bowled rubbish at the start, Anderson bowled rubbish at the end, too, and their batsmen didn't capitalise on the 109-run fourth-wicket stand between Eoin Morgan and Jonathan Trott that helped them recover from a poor start.

Still there has been a lot to recommend England in this tournament. And it's not just the knack of producing close games, something if you told Strauss now, he wouldn't find amusing. They have been the most perplexing side in the event so far, losing as they have to Ireland and Bangladesh, but beating as they did South Africa from a hopeless position.

Yet, except for the Ireland match, there hasn't been a game where they haven't made a comeback, ranging from notable to the remarkable. That is a trait you wouldn't associate with the English teams of the past, to make comebacks on such a regular basis, and not always from expected quarters. In the game against India - a chase of 338 - England not only put themselves into a winning position, but also tied the game from a losing position they had contrived to subsequently find themselves in. They haven't won as often as to inspire confidence, but at least they have the knowledge they have the people to put them back into the contests.

In Chittagong, after a slightly under-par score and a horrible start with the new ball - Bangladesh were 50 for 0 in the eighth over - they did a lot right. Shahzad produced three near unplayable deliveries to get his wickets, Tim Bresnan found a way through Tamim Iqbal with some extra pace and skid, Anderson produced a smart run-out, and Graeme Swann took out two despite the dew.

That they didn't seal the deal was "desperately disappointing", as Strauss put it, but he is not talking from wonderland when he says their performance hasn't "dropped off". "I don't think we are necessarily dropping off," he said. "We beat South Africa in the last game, and we did some good things in this game, but not enough to win it. Our performance hasn't dropped off. It has just been inconsistent, which is not something we want to be making a habit of, and clearly we need consistency from now on if we want to progress in the tournament."

They have also been fun to watch because going by formbook and traditional wisdom, they have no business competing at a World Cup. They have too many old-fashioned nudgers to survive in the hard-hitting, high-scoring subcontinent, they have had too many injuries, they have had too long a tour leading into the tournament, and have therefore not been at their freshest. In other words, they have ticked off almost all the boxes Pakistan usually tick when they decide to confound everybody and win a big tournament. "World Cups are funny things," Strauss said, now knowing that the next loss will be his side's last in this World Cup. "You can gain confidence just at the right moment, and get a real run of form just when you need it."

Yes, England have been fun to watch and all that, but right now they need access to that Pakistan-like space. With Pakistan winning their first three games to move towards the quarter-finals, before their slip-up against New Zealamd, we could do with a team that just about scrapes through in the early rounds, and then finds a "run of form just when you need it". Knowing how England did just that in the World Twenty20 last year, it's still not quite impossible.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 21 
Posted by brighton82 on (March 14, 2011, 23:15 GMT)

Eng dont deserve to progress from group stages as they have such a messy approach to ODIs. Looking at team selection it appears as if they dont know what they want to achieve or who they are. They seem to be trying to hard to create a 'balanced' team at the expense of playing the best players. I dont understand why their team is full of bit part allrounders who offer nothing with bat or ball (Bopara, Wright, Yardy.) They are playing Collingwood (a fine batsman who is out of form) but he doesnt seem to have a role in the team. Their attack is spearheaded by Anderson, one of the best in the world when the ball is swinging but a disaster when in conditions that dont suit, like Indian conditions. They're opening with Prior, who is useful but not a batsman, almost like they think it is neccessary to have a keeper opening because the great Aussie teams did.

Posted by shadeen on (March 13, 2011, 10:45 GMT)

@ meety......actually it was shakib who first said that" we play for the country and not the crowd" in the post match presentation of the bd vs eng match and that was before dhoni who co incidentally said the same thing a day later against SA

Posted by QTS_ on (March 13, 2011, 5:30 GMT)

Looks like several teams are in conundrums about their first or second down batsmen - Bangladesh (Ashraful, Roqibul, Nafees), England (Bell, Bopara, Colly), India (Raina), New Zealand (How, Williamson).

Posted by Meety on (March 12, 2011, 19:54 GMT)

@cooljack_143 - I 100% agree with you - but it was Dhoni that said "NOT PLAYING FOR THE FANS but THEY PLAY FOR THE COUNTRY". @RJHB - no, no, no! Its actually according to Strauss - the Dew's fault!!!! This goes with other excuses such as 1. players are sore, 2. tired, 3. schedules too long, 4. schedule too short, 5. 32d string side, 6. Meaningless match! LOL! @JB77 - I agree, just remember though, we only LOANED them the Ashes, they'll be coming "home" soon, (at least the replica will!!!!!!

Funny thing is I backed the Poms to beat the Saffas but lose to the Bangas AND the WNDIES! 2 down 1 to go!!!!!!!!!! C'mon Gayle & Roach & co!!!

Posted by   on (March 12, 2011, 15:05 GMT)

Certainly the ever boring ENGLAND is the most entertaining team!!! They are the neo- 'Pakistan'.

Posted by   on (March 12, 2011, 13:28 GMT)

probably anderson deserves a thanks from the people of Banglaldesh cricket team...... it would have been more tight to create chances of wining for Shafiul and Riad hadn't he gave 7 wides in the second last of his overs!

Posted by   on (March 12, 2011, 8:07 GMT)

bangladesh played well........

Posted by Faisal119 on (March 12, 2011, 7:43 GMT)

East and west Bangladesh is the best.

Posted by JB77 on (March 12, 2011, 7:22 GMT)

@ stationmaster - Haven't you heard? Bell is just about to really kick on in his career! He's just about to start making meaningful runs and to stand up when his team really needs him! He just about to stop throwing his wicket away! Yes people have been saying this for the past 5 years but it has to happen soon right? RIGHT?! Only cricinfo could take England's woeful form and somehow turn it into a story about how great England are....I also see that the 'long tour of Australia' excuse got a mention too. How long can England trade off that one I wonder? Until the next Ashes perhaps (seeing as that's the only contest that really matters apparently).

Posted by   on (March 12, 2011, 7:21 GMT)

well done TIGERS, keep up da gud job!

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