ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

WI v England, World Cup 2011, Group B, Chennai

Topsy-turvy England aim to finish the right way up

England have been wildly inconsistent, and are now on the verge of exiting in the first stage of a tournament that was designed to coddle the big boys

Siddarth Ravindran in Chennai

March 16, 2011

Comments: 15 | Text size: A | A

Andrew Strauss watched another close match slip away, Bangladesh v England, Group B, World Cup, Chittagong, March 11, 2011
On their knees: England can feel the World Cup slipping away from them after an extraordinary campaign © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: James Anderson | Andrew Strauss
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup

Over the past ten months, England have achieved their loftiest ambitions in two formats of the game: they were crowned Twenty20 champions after a convincing run in the Caribbean, and retained the Ashes in Australia with a commanding victory over Ricky Ponting's men. In pursuing the highest honour in the third format, however, they have been wildly inconsistent, and are now on the verge of exiting in the first stage of a tournament that was designed to coddle the big boys.

The league phase was supposed to be a month-long snoozefest, in which the smaller teams in world cricket enjoyed some time in the limelight before ceding the stage to the established powers for a high-stakes final fortnight.

The memo clearly didn't reach England, who have put together the most topsy-turvy league campaign in World Cup history, both in terms of the results - defeats to lower-ranked Ireland and Bangladesh, while taking points off the group favourites, India and South Africa - and in terms of the heart-stopping highs and lows of each match itself. Their most humdrum game was their opening victory in Nagpur, and even that came after the no-hopers from Netherlands had set a stiff target of 293.

In every match in which England have dropped points, they were in a dominant position before frittering their advantage away: Zaheer Khan's reverse-swing turned the game against India after England had muscled their way to 281 to 2 at the Chinnaswamy; a pink-haired Kevin O'Brien scripted Ireland's greatest day in cricket after they were headed for a thrashing at 111 for 5 chasing 328, and a nerveless Shafiul Islam carved 24 quick runs to stop Bangladesh fans from pouring out of the Chittagong stadium, and start partying in it.

"I just think we haven't played a good 100-over match," Jonathan Trott said. "We haven't played consistently both sides - we've been good with the ball and poor with the bat, great with the bat and poor with the ball. The bowlers bailed us out against South Africa. As a batting unit we've got to put our heads down and get a big score, or chase down whatever West Indies set."

One of the reasons for England's troubles is the batting Powerplay, a concept that has injected unpredictability into the tournament as most teams have struggled to use it properly. The best that England have managed against the Test teams in the group is a poor 33 for 2 against Bangladesh, while against India they lost the plot and nearly the match with a collapse of 4 for 25. In a low-scoring tussle against South Africa, they used it too late to cause any damage.

"It changes a batsman's mindset, the opposition team brings their best bowlers on," Strauss said. "I don't think we have done it as well as we would have liked, but hopefully that will change, it's certainly an important period of play in the match, but it's only five overs out of 50."

Related to the Powerplay botch-up is the lack of runs from the lower order. Duncan Fletcher's near-obsession with making the bowlers handy with the bat has meant England's tail has been productive over the past decade, but in this World Cup the fall of their fourth wicket has generally been the precursor to a collapse. Some mighty hits from the bowlers rescued a point in Bangalore, but there have been few runs from the lower-middle order onwards in the past three matches.

The absence of Stuart Broad for the remainder of the tournament with a side strain exacerbates the problem, but it is his fast bowling that will be missed more, as the other experienced quick bowler in the squad, James Anderson, is badly out of form. His mastery of swing with the red ball was one of the main reasons for England's Ashes victory, but he has been lacking that control with the white ball. The nadir was perhaps the 91 runs he leaked against India, but he was also wasteful at the death when Bangladesh were on the ropes at Chittagong, serving up a nine-ball over when line and length was essential.

Strauss had to deflect plenty of questions over Anderson's form in Tuesday's press conference, and whether the fast bowler plays in a campaign-defining match against West Indies could now depend on the unwell Ajmal Shahzad's availability. "Jimmy has had a tough time in some of the matches in the World Cup," Strauss said, "but we all know what a quality performer he is, he's done it for us over and over again in course of the winter and previously, so his name is very much in the mix for selection."

Anderson had scrambled a crucial leg-bye the last time these two teams met in the World Cup, in Barbados four years ago, in a match would have fitted perfectly with England's nerve-shredding run in 2011 - they prevailed with one wicket and a ball to spare. That victory meant that the Test opponent against whom England have their best win-loss record in World Cups is West Indies. It's hard to say whether that's good news or bad for England fans, given their side's extraordinary showing over the past month.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 15 
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Posted by rmehta69 on (March 17, 2011, 9:56 GMT)

It is do or die for England today.

England against all the WI, Bangladesh and Indian fans who would be praying England to lose paving the way for these three to qualify for quarter finals.

If that happens all the matches in group B will be dead rubbers other than deciding the opponents in quarterfinals.

Posted by rmehta69 on (March 17, 2011, 9:40 GMT)

Group B is still wide open

Only certainty is that SAf is through to QF & both Ireland & Netherlands are out. Of the rest 4 teams which 3 will qualify is not clear.

Some commentators were quick to qualify India with 7 points but look at this scenario. Eng beats WI, WI beats Ind and Ban beats SAf. Both WI and Ban would qualify with 8 points and if England's NRR is better than Ind, Ind will be out. Unlikely but plausible.

England's fate will most probably be decided today. It is a do or die situation for Eng, lose & they are out. They need to win against WI and hope other results go their way. SAf need to win against Ban or if India loses to WI Eng would hope margin is big enough that Indian NRR is below England's.

For Bangladesh, it is already knock out stage - win against SAf and knock out either Eng or Ind. Or hope WI loses by big margin so that Ban NRR is

WI qualifies by winning one of the two matches or if Ban loses & NRR is in WI favour.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 17, 2011, 8:31 GMT)

In this world cup 2011, England is most Happening team! The only team who has been giving "value for money" to everybody watching :)

They lost some..they won some..they tied too!

So, just keep this up for this game too..all the best

Posted by Abhimanyu on (March 17, 2011, 6:32 GMT)

WI is in strong ascendency - it's orchestra is in total harmony. England's comportment is all over the map.

Posted by Abhimanyu on (March 17, 2011, 6:27 GMT)

England has all the weapons at its disposal - all it needs to do is close out a close game.

Posted by James on (March 17, 2011, 6:05 GMT)

The best results in the group in my opinion would be- England beating WI to reach 7 points, SA beating Bdesh to top the group, and WI beating India to reach 8 points. Thereby the strongest of group B- SA, WI, India and England go through, and pose a tough challenge to the teams from group A. If BDesh somehow makes it through to the next stage, one of the teams in group A will have it easy in the Q finals.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 17, 2011, 5:58 GMT)

This (WI v ENG) will be once again a clasucal thriller on an offer

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 17, 2011, 4:10 GMT)

England is NO mavericks ! they had good luck for few days and now the "mo Jo" has gone its the same weak England again !

Posted by Steve on (March 17, 2011, 2:27 GMT)

England have been a big disappointment so far this World Cup. They have underperformed and although it has added interest to the tournament - the time has come for them to perform. Nothing substandard will do from now on. There can be no excuses and if they are a good team - now is the time to show it. Personally I dont think they are collectively 'up for it' but we will know soon.... It will be a shame for them to make an early exit and be such a huge disappointment to all England fans. Especially after the wonderful Ashes victiry of which we England supporters are so proud and so greatful. As the say in Yorkshire .... COMETH THE HOUR - COMETH THE Man (men). We'll see soon. COME ON ENGLAND!!! You can do it - but it aint going to be easy.....

Posted by Shabbir on (March 17, 2011, 1:05 GMT)

If England win they will deserve a QF place but here are the reasons why I think they will fail: 1) Shazad is out 2) Anderson will have to come in (whereas before he was being dropped) and he was very expensive against BD, 3) Strauss was ill and not training and also has been questioned about his age and captaincy 4) Swann was also ill and off training and also under pressure for his ungentle-manly conduct. 5) Broad is out 6) KP will Obviously not be playing. 7) As a team they look very ragged and tired despite their protestations to the contrary. 8) WI are now in form and they could end up group leaders 9) Cynically SA may let BD though to prevent Eng qualifying 10)Even if Eng win tomorrow BD have a very strong chance of beating SA on their home turf. SA willl be playing in Bangladesh for the first time this WC.

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