In the first one-day international against South Africa at Bloemfontein, England, batting first, again failed to pass 400. In so doing they extended a barren run which now stretches all the way back to June. On a flat pitch, they would have expected to have done better.
South Africa, Australia and Sri Lanka have been making 400-plus totals since 2006. India since 2007. For all the financial investment and positive words, England remain a decade behind the times.
Fortunately, they can once again thank their bowlers (and the weather) for bailing them out. If Chris Jordan was a tad expensive in his first spell, that can be forgiven for he was obliged to bowl in search of wickets with a low total on the board. The rest of the attack, however, was near faultless.
David Willey and Reece Topley were both in the wickets, while Moeen Ali picked up three on a pitch offering limited assistance. Ben Stokes is as reliable as they come these days, while Adil Rashid was typically economical, conceding just seven an over.
The fielding was adequate – Stokes was the only player who could legitimately claim to have taken a screamer – and they would do well to improve. Stronger sides than South Africa will be quick to punish their shortcomings.
Despite being one up in the series, England head to Port Elizabeth knowing that they are exhibiting the same inadequacies as always. Is it their conservative attitude to the shorter formats which is holding them back or failings within the system. The answer is probably both.
The World T20 awaits and the rest of the world once again will once again be licking its lips in anticipation of another humiliating exit. On this evidence, it would be unwise to bet against it.