How much is it that England’s batsmen can’t play spin very well and how much is it that they can’t chase big totals? It’s probably a bit of both. It’s probably that one is compounded by the other.
It’s fairly self-evident that bigger totals are harder to chase, but they should be PROPORTIONALLY more difficult. However, it just doesn’t seem to work like that with England. Instead, it’s as if every additional 10 runs adds another 20 runs of difficulty.
A total of 170 isn’t huge in Twenty20, but it’s big enough if you’re playing England. As soon as the run-rate climbs, they open The Cupboard Of Totally Inappropriate Shots and start cooking. No need for singles when you can simply glide a delivery straight to the slip fielder or cut the air just outside the ball shortly before it hits your stumps.
They do this against fast bowlers, but against spin bowlers they do it more regularly and once they’ve started, the phenomenon feeds itself. As the run rate climbs, the strokeplay becomes ever more unpredictable. It’s actually quite fascinating.
Batting first, shortcomings are hidden. Most England players only have three gears against spin, but with no official target they can stay within their limitations before taking on the quicks or the guy spearing in the part-time “off-spin”. Batting second, when there’s a required run-rate, they tend to feel that there’s a need to engage fourth or fifth gear.
Here’s some advice for England batsmen: If there’s a spinner bowling, never engage fourth or fifth gear. It will not work. If you try and change into fourth gear, the engine will explode and it’ll probably kill a child and a panda.
We said this batting line-up would need a hell of a lot of momentum. It already appears to have run out.