ICC Cricket World Cup Preview – England
A battered and bruised England will have to draw deep from reserves to make a dent at this World Cup. Jarrod Potter reports.
Squad: Andrew Strauss (C), James Anderson, Matt Prior (WK), Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, James Tredwell, Tim Bresnan, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Michael Yardy, Kevin Pietersen. Chris Tremlett (Travelling Reserve)
Likely XI: Strauss, Prior, Bell, Trott, Pietersen, Bopara/Collingwood, Yardy, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Bresnan/Shahzad
England comes into this World Cup with mixed form in the 50 over format. Having lost 6-1 against Australia recently, this counterpoints their earlier victory over the Aussies in June/July to the tune of 3-2. Tours away and home against Bangladesh resulted in similarly non-definitive result of 2-1 at home, with a surprise victory for the Bangladeshis at Bristol, whilst the series in Bangladesh was 3-0 in a far more comfortable affair. South Africa’s series against the Poms was affected by the weather and two of the five matches were lost, leaving the final ledger 2-1 to England. These aren’t the results you would expect from a side that treated Australia like kiddy grade in the Ashes, but it seems their form in ODIs isn’t as concrete.
They face a constant flow of injuries. Just about all the players in the squad have had health breaks, or an injury recovery period. Tim Bresnan is improving in his bid for playing the Cup, but with Chris Tremlett on immediate standby with the team, it doesn’t seem as if there’s a whole lot of confidence in the assertion. Similar concerns exist for Ajmal Shahzad with his hamstring not improving as rapidly as the English physiotherapists are praying for. Eoin Morgan pulled out to the disappointment of Ireland (who I maintain would’ve bounced him off the face of the Earth), having fractured a finger in the Australian tour. Stuart Broad and his abdominal strain have improved, but now is copping a case of Delhi belly, so he could be rested for the opening game against the Netherlands. It leaves a fairly bareboned lineup once the injury stricken are taken out of contention.
What the spate of bowler and lower order batsmen injuries do is force the impetus onto the top order to make massive totals. Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior weren’t particularly effective in the ODIs against Australia this summer, but form from last season does fall with Strauss. He lead England’s runscoring in ODIs for 2010 with 806 runs at 57.57. His two centuries and 6 fifties from 14 innings is decent, but will need to make those runs against the big boys to keep England in the right half of the group. Matt Prior is a surprise call up, considering he only managed 3 ODIs last year and was seen as third in line behind Steven Davies and Craig Kieswetter. Form will need to find Prior soon or else he might be demoted down the order for someone with a better current track record.
The impenetrable anchor Jonathan Trott, easily the biggest cricket revelation in the last two years, has been dominating all formats and will need to continue on in the World Cup. 137 against Australia, after fighting through cramp, showed his ability to persevere is as strong as his classically elegant strokeplay. His two centuries during the Australian ODI summer showed there is still room for tempo cricket in an increasingly T20 inclined world. Rotating the strike, hitting the occasional bad ball for 4 whilst constantly getting 2s can just as easily maintain a 100.00 strikerate without the associated dangers of clobbering everything. Trott could benefit from dropping himself down to number four allowing an attacking player to fit into the attacking player’s home at three. That attacking man should be Ian Bell. His scores recently in ODIs haven’t been impressive, but his ability shouldn’t be doubted, highlighted by a dogged century at the SCG to grind Australia out of a series draw.
After Bell and Trott, Kevin Pietersen will need to provide the power game he is noted for. At 30 years old, this could be his last World Cup. ODIs haven’t been kind to Pietersen over the last three years, with his last century in the format coming in November 2008. Since the start of 2009, KP has an average of 21.36 with a single fifty coming against Australia in Melbourne this year. There is his dropping from the side to consider for limiting his time in the format, but those excuses will need to be left at Heathrow Airport if England want to build big totals in the way Pietersen used to specialise in.
The lower order looks like a patchwork of desperation call ups due to injury, hope for resurgence in form and blind faith the selections will eventually pay off. In order of those three characteristics: Ravi Bopara, called in for Eoin Morgan, will be there hoping to revive his stagnated international career with useful contributions of power batting and tight part time bowling; Paul Collingwood, the English ODI leading runscorer of all time, wondering whether his limited overs career should go the same direction as his Test variety; and Michael Yardy, the jack of all trades, king of none. These three players highlight baffling selection criteria for the ECB, with more talented players in Adil Rashid, James Hildreth and James Taylor (not the folk troubadour) all watching the matches from home instead of the field. Michael Yardy is particularly useless in this format, the supposed allrounder has a bat average of 23.61 and ball average of 48.21. Dare I say it, any English team with Yardy in it is playing with an X rather than an XI. Regardless of their hodgepodge status, this English lower order will need to fire all the talent neurons in their collective heads to forge something for the bowlers to defend.
James Anderson and Graeme Swann will shoulder all of the workload burden. Around them are average part-timers, semi-injured allrounders and a general lack of a cohesive attack. From his 4 matches this year, after returning from paternity leave, Anderson took 7 wickets at 34.00 with a larger issue being his economy rate of 5.95. Anything about 5 for a strike bowler is unacceptable. Swann succombed to International-Spinner-In-Australia Syndrome but don’t hold that against him; he will love the conditions on the subcontinent. If Yardy and Pietersen can deliver more than piecemeal overs from the other end, Swann will be in a position to bowl England to victory every time he grasps the ball.
Stuart Broad will need to recover from his stomach bug to impress upon the selectors his aptitude in this format. He was the leading wickettaker for England in 2010 with 30 scalps at 24.86. His batting over the same period has gone to shambles that said, with only 34 runs recorded from his 6 innings. He is primarily a bowler at this World Cup, but never discount the need for effective batting from a supposed allrounder in the making.
Tim Bresnan could make an impact if he plays, but at this stage you’re tossing a coin to decide whether he makes himself fit again. Luke Wright and Ajmal Shahzad round out the bowlers, but realistically I’m not sure either will play in the tournament itself. Chris Tremlett would be a better addition to the side than either of the aforementioned. Jonathan Trott will also bowl part time overs in a desperate attempt by the ECB to get through 50 overs with 3 ½ bowlers.
England have the Group of Death and could struggle to make much of an inroad to the Cup if results don’t come. West Indies and Netherlands need to be matches they lock into the book resoundingly, as they would hope is Ireland, but the Irish have a lot to prove against them. India and South Africa will prove to be too powerful and Bangladesh at home is no walk over either. Third or fourth is there’s to lose if they fail to play better than they did against Australia. Bangladesh and Ireland will be eying off victories against the weakened Brits and with good reason.
Thank you everyone for reading our World Cup Previews and let’s hope your team performs up to and above the standards we have indicated in this series of posts.
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Twitter: @JarrodPotter & @trueallrounder