West Indies v England, 2nd T20, Barbados March 12, 2014

England pay for Powerplay flops

Such are England's problems in utilising the first six overs of their batting innings that matches are often decided in that period and the biggest hole they have is at No. 3

Dobell: England top order continues to fail

It remains the subject of some debate just what Ashley Giles scribbles into his notebook as his watches his England side in action.

You might think, at first glance, that Giles is jotting down ideas and concerns to share with the team at a later date. But so prolific is Giles, that some suggest he is transcribing the works of Tolkien. Others that he is writing a novel. For all the improvement - or lack of it - in England's T20 performances in recent times, he might simply have been drawing pictures of cows.

But if Giles has been focussing on the Powerplay in the England innings of late, he may have pages filled with the words 'the horror, the horror.'

England's Powerplay batting continues to let them down. It is not so much that they fail to take advantage of the run-scoring opportunities offered in the first six overs, it is that they repeatedly lose wickets, thereby undermining the remainder of the innings. Rather often, the result is decided within the first 20 minutes of the match.

Certainly that was the case here. By limping to 30 for 3 from the first six overs - West Indies, by contrast, were 58 for 1 - they put themselves at a disadvantage from which they never recovered. Not the excellent batting of Jos Buttler, the clever bowling of Ravi Bopara - who equalled the most economical performance for England in T20Is - or the fact that some of West Indies' fielding was wretched could help them.

This defeat means England have lost not just this series, but their last five T20I matches. It means they go into the World T20 with their confidence low and their plans seemingly in tatters. After all, with just one game to go before they depart for Bangladesh, they called in two players for debuts, tried a new No. 3, utilised a stand-in captain and used a bowler who had delivered one over in his last five T20Is. To end a two-year cycle blooding new players and attempting new tactics suggests all plans to that point have come to nothing. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that England are in chaos.

It is no coincidence that, in those last five defeats, England have lost three wickets in the first six overs on four occasions and two on the other one. Nor is it any coincidence that they last time they won a T20 match, against Australia at Chester-le-Street, they made it through the first six overs without losing a wicket. Taking advantage of those six overs and retaining wickets is not an easy task, but the consistency with which England are getting it wrong suggests there is something fundamentally wrong with the way they are doing things.

England neither score fast or retain wickets. They managed only two boundaries - both fours - in those first six overs while losing three wickets, while West Indies hit six sixes and three fours.

It is, then, worth reflecting on the make-up of the top three. Alex Hales, who was recently rated the No. 1 T20 batsman in the world, is surely worth perseverance, while Michael Lumb, who has only passed 22 once in seven innings, might be living on borrowed time. Certainly that ODI century in Antigua is starting to feel like a long time ago.

But the obvious difference comes at No. 3. When England won the World T20, they had Kevin Pietersen at No. 3. Which begs the question, are England happier losing without Pietersen than they would be winning with him? To deny that his absence here is hurting England would be absurd. The management of the ECB have, by failing to find a solution to the problems that Pietersen presents, put their side at a disadvantage.

There were other puzzling decisions in this match. Having called Ian Bell into the squad, it was to be expected that he might be given a chance to find some form in this format before Bangladesh; it is three years since his last T20 game at any level, after all.

But Bell was left out with Eoin Morgan, the captain, explaining that they felt he "needed to get some balls under his belt." If that was so, though, it made the decision of England to rest rather than train on Monday somewhat surprising.

Morgan was more culpable than most in this game. With two wickets down after 21 balls, he should have been aware of the need to accumulate at low-risk for several overs. Instead he attempted a slog-sweep against the wind and with the man back on the fence. It was not a clever piece of cricket.

There will be those who blame England's death bowling for this defeat, but that would be unfair. Jade Dernbach, for the second game in succession, bowled pretty well and without fortune, while Tim Bresnan, who saw his last three legitimate deliveries slammed for 16 runs, was the victim more of fine batting than he was poor bowling. The margins for bowlers are so small and England's required more support from their batsmen if they were to win this.

"We lost the game with the bat," Morgan admitted afterwards. "From the moment we went to 30 for 3 we were on the back foot. We've enough power in our side, we're just failing at the start of the innings. It's a question of finding a balance between being positive and not losing wickets."

There were glimmers of light in this game. Buttler, in recording his highest T20I score to date, underlined his power, his skill and his ingenuity, while Bopara continues to develop into England's most reliable limited-overs bowler. James Tredwell, too, enjoyed just about the best of a fascinating battle with Chris Gayle. At one stage, Bopara and Tredwell conceded just eight in three overs to drag their side back into the game.

But if they are honest, England might consider themselves somewhat flattered by the margin of defeat. Hales, for example, was reprieved when he should have been given out lbw on 10 and missed in the field on both 15 and 29, while Buttler was missed on 45. West Indies were also without their best bowler, Sunil Narine.

And all the while Giles was scribbling away in that notebook. If the run of defeats continues, it might turn out that he was updating his CV.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tony on March 13, 2014, 2:03 GMT

    I think it's time to drop the references to Pietersen now, George. He is not coming back.

    As for Mr Giles, he continues to underwhelm me. I fancy a more dynamic man at the helm is needed.

  • Martin on March 12, 2014, 17:20 GMT

    Giles also needs 'some balls under his belt' and tell the ECB in no uncertain terms that he needs KP.

    However I doubt that will happen as they are much much happier losing.

  • Jon on March 12, 2014, 17:14 GMT

    @RallyWindies, honestly we really are that weak. Any pace or spin just help yourself to a few cheap wickets.

    @dunger.bob, as an English fan there is very little bright side for us to look at. I would far rather have a few washed out games with the side you guys can put out than watch us get pasted lol.

    If you have some money to spare it would be a good bet to back England out at the first stage. The only bright side is that Giles seems to be putting himself well out of contention for the coaching job. A player so unispiring and with such a dull demeanour is exactly what we don't need when we are looking into the future. We need some energy and new ideas from across the globe. Personally I think Tom Moody would be the ideal candidate for the job in all 3 formats. He has experience in various competitions from across the globe and seems like a decent bloke who can manage his players and command a good deal of respect back. He did a great job with SL.

  • Jon on March 12, 2014, 17:08 GMT

    @Rahul_78, the worry is it is not even just spin but any half decent bowling in general. To put it simply this is probably the worst side we have put into any global competition and I would expect any of the traditional cricketing nation, including BD, to rub our noses right in it. It is not even just our lack of ability against spinners but our lack of ability full stop. The batting line up would barely scare even a county attack. I am afraid with the lack of ability in the set up at the moment there are no answers to the problems in the short term. I would honestly recommend sending out our u19 side and see how they go. Can't be any worse than this rabble.

  • Dummy4 on March 12, 2014, 15:26 GMT

    Dear all - my same old song, but GD's line about England preferring losing without KP to winning with him chimes with my theory that is mine (Python fans): the England team in all formats, tho instigated by the Test performance in Oz, is in that strange phase of degeneration where it really is more painful to win than to lose because winning generates expectation and that's related to responsibility and this squad, almost to a man, is in a phase where it can stand anything but responsibility. When a sporting spirit gets that warped and twisted (by pressure applied in a weak moment, by happenstance rather than plan or conspiracy so far as I can tell) losing is the only outcome that's bearable (yup, so the one-day win over WI was unbearable, see T20 reaction). I don't know what KP has to do with that, but he's gone and England need a coach/manager and aides who can lift them back up into the tough mental zone top sportspeople need, where winning is actually quite an appealing prospect.

  • Dummy4 on March 12, 2014, 12:02 GMT

    any bowler of pace is going to go for massive runs against Smith & Gayle

  • Steve on March 12, 2014, 11:39 GMT

    George, I have been trying to avoid mentioning KP in recent posts, but you have just forced my hand! Truth is, with him in our top 3, the whole look of the batting unit changes. What would you pay to watch him firing alongside Morgan or Buttler. The opposition must be laughing themselves stupid at us. A top 3 at this level needs the confidence a gun player brings, even if he sometimes inevitably fails. How much more secure would Hales or Lumb or Wright feel, walking out to bat alongside a guy proven to have taken some of the worlds best bowlers apart? Man of the last cup we allowed him to play in? The people running our team prefer retaining and enhancing their authority to England winning. To the fans who don't hate KP for being a show off born in another country, it is a disgrace.

  • Dummy4 on March 12, 2014, 10:04 GMT

    Yes, the batting is dreadfully impotent early on, but add to this we haven't got a single bowler with fire in their belly, including the spinners. I like Tredwell, and Bopara is bowling very intelligently, but you must have someone with either real pace or genuine mystery spin. We have neither. The one man who fitted the bill (Finn) appears to be a wreck. So many English fans poo-poo T20 and ODI cricket, saying Test cricket is what it's about. Well, if we want to endure more and more misery, let's keep up with that view and not bother at all with the shorter forms of the game. If, however, we want to get some pleasure out of these tournaments, we have to alter our focus. Extreme pace, extreme power and extreme spin have to be the focus of the next generation of coaches and players. This is simply getting too painful to watch.

  • Ben on March 12, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    So Ali was was picked to bolster the spin options and.....errr.....didn't bowl an over. It seems like there is some really muddled thinking in the England camp right now. Thank goodness that we're not considering the current coach for the role in all 3 formats. Oh, hang on a minute.......

  • David on March 12, 2014, 8:58 GMT

    Seems a bit unfair on Mike Lumb, George. Sawn off by a lousy umpiring decision, and his ODI contribution last week wasn't just one 100 (which in itself was more than most).

    Besides, who are you going to replace him with at the top of the order? Bopara? Ian Bell? Luke Wright? LOL

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