The hidden reason why England won’t win the World Cup

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The main criticism of England’s one-day batting approach recently has been that they lack the dynamic hitting which is supposed to characterise the modern game. While that’s true up to a point, we actually don’t think that it’s the worst of their problems. There’s something else going on during the non-Powerplay overs – that sizeable chunk of a 50-over game when no-one’s really paying much attention.

Alex Hales is a hefty biffer once he gets up and running, while Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler are more than capable of clearing the ropes later on. What the team often lacks is the subtly different ability to find anything other than singles in the middle overs. This is especially true when steady spinners are bowling. Even Xavier Doherty managed to get away with 10 overs for 28 against them back in January.

Good middle over batting might mean fours or it might just mean twos – it could even involve the odd six. Yesterday England found themselves having apparently negotiated some sort of singles-only pact with India. The tourists were happy with this because at worst they conceded four or five an over and any wickets were a bonus on top of this.

And wickets did ensue – generally when the batsman made some sort of effort to escape from binary purgatory.

What’s happening?

English batsmen really seem to struggle with the boring overs. A few singles an over are always available because they’re basically being handed to them by the fielding side. However, as soon as an English batsman becomes more ambitious than that, he seems to get out. It’s like it’s an aspect of cricket with which they’re wholly unfamiliar.

Perhaps it’s something spawned by all those years of 40-over domestic cricket. This low key consolidatory period of a one-day game is the one that’s curtailed in a 40-over match so arguably English batsmen have less experience of this part of the game. There also aren’t as many relentlessly accurate bowlers in county teams. When there is one, a batsman can simply settle for the freebie singles and then score off the more frequent bad balls at the other end.

Boring for whom?

What’s supposed to happen between overs 15 and 35 is for the batting side to make over five an over and lose one or maybe two wickets. What actually happened against India is that England lost all five of their specialist batsmen during this period.

Never mind hitting more sixes in the powerplays. How about some canny twos and fours during the boring overs?


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  1. Good point KC – England worry too much abt the end and opening overs and lose impetus in between. Do think England’s problem in ODI cricket is they try to copy other team’s styles – when they should develop their own style of playing cricket. For instance- Pakistani bowling is always aggressive, looking to take wickets: and has for the last 20 years gone for a slow first 35 and a manic last 15. Australia- go for a manic jack in the box in the middle overs. Only in England can Cooky be castigated for a ‘slow’ 81 run stand that he committed hara-kiri in the 20th over to up the rate

  2. It’s ok though – they’ve picked Roy, Taylor and Bopara for the T20s. This is what everyone wanted, wasn’t it? So it’s bound to work. I look forward to Michael Vaughan’s latest “I was wrong”.

  3. I agree. England seem to lack the match winners who can play thru 50 overs.

    If Cook/Bell can play thru 50 overs then the other stroke makers can play around them.

    Looks like England have dropped the ball and picked team for imagined Aus conditions instead of the current match situation.

  4. This headline reads a little like it’s from Buzzfeed or another “clickbait” site. Is this KC’s new direction?

    If so, I look forward to “Alistair Cook was dropped on 15. You won’t believe what happened next”, “Batsmen hate this one weird trick for taking wickets”, and “27 Amazing Facts about Rob Key”.

    1. Obviously “27 Amazing Facts about Rob Key” would be followed up by “84 more Amazing Facts about Rob Key”, and so on.

      Balladeer – see, you’re curious enough to click on the article… which would say something like “bowl at the stumps”, and have 18 gifs of cartwheeling stumps after rubbish forward defensive shots. And 3 of cats, obviously.

  5. Why not have a TDI format, where each team gets 100 overs?

    Or just a single innings format, unlimited overs but only day for both sides to bat. You could bat out a draw or try to time a declaration.

    1. I watched most of that Australia innings. Here is why they lost: there are two batsmen in all of Australia who can play spin on a pitch offering genuine turn, and one of them is injured. The injured one played and the healthy one did not.

  6. You could have comforted yourself by watching the Aussies hilariously fail to deal with a turning track against Zimbabwe.

  7. In the now-infamous TMS podcast (, still available for download as of the 1st, but be quick!) Swanny mentions that England are briefed with target scores and per-period scoring rates. They’re typically happy with 4.5 in the middle period, apparently irrespective of conditions, pitch, weather, opposition or otherwise. Which is really rather sad. He and Vaughany (he writes, emphasising his – actually entirely non-existent – familiarity with these luminaries) make some points that are hard to contradict, particularly in light of subsequent ghastly results: picking ODI teams on Test form was the major accusation, with which it’s (mostly) pretty hard to disagree.
    As a sometime opening bat for a club side just about good enough to play in whites, part of my job was to assess conditions and form an opinion as to what would constitute a par score. The idea that our coach (if we had one) would tell us beforehand via the medium of Powerpoint is frankly laughable. Sadly, that’s how England’s winter is likely to develop: a joke, with the added irritation that some of our best Test players risk being thoroughly oriented to the wrong style of play just in time for the Ashes.
    Bah. I’m off to play golf.

  8. England’s general approach to cricket over the years has had all the style and panache of a beige Morris Marina, and I should know, because my dad used to have one. The first message is “don’t lose”, which in ODIs they assume is a synonym for “win”. It isn’t. Winning requires positivity. By trying to avoid losing, they lose by default.

    Target scores are bullshit. Batting second, your target is one more than your opponents. What England doesn’t seem to have realised is that this is also the target when batting first. The only difference is that you don’t know what number that is. Swann’s comment about the Sri Lanka match sum this up perfectly. International batsmen ought to be able to take as many runs off each ball as are inherently available, defending good balls, scoring from bad ones. If a bowler serves up six wide long hops, the “target” for that over is 24. Any fewer is a lost opportunity. And if the next over is a maiden because it was well bowled, so be it. You get the sense with English batsmen that after two bad balls have gone to the boundary, the rest of the over can be blocked out because 8 is already enough for the plan. Then they get out trying to get the required 5 from the next over of brilliant deliveries.

    I’ve seen junior cricket coaches call every run from the boundary for their batsmen. They rarely get run out, but those kids will never be able to do the job for themselves. Prepare the players, juniors or internationals, then let them get on with it.

    Batting second in an ODI, there is obviously no need for the coach to set a target. Batting first, a target does nothing other than get in the way of batsmen batting.

    1. Batting to a target without being dependent on the quality or otherwise of the bowler’s deliveries is better practice for test matches, however, in that it improves the discipline and control exercised over bowlers actually bowling appreciable amounts of overs, rather than relying on the bowler to know what shots to play and where and hitting out at run-scoring deliveries, and reduces the flexibility and reactivity which aid T20 teams, which hence aid in formation of test cricketing unit.

  9. Remember this?

    Apparently, it is this very device that did for Ian Bell in the nets this morning, as wielded by Mark Ramprakash. WE SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY. We have blood on our hands, just as Ian Bell has blood on his trainers. We thought it was all just a bit of fun, a laugh, a bit of a giggle. But now SOMEONE HAS GOT HURT. Who’s laughing now?

    We could have stopped it. Who among us did a proper risk assessment before making our asinine remarks? Why did nobody comment on the damage potential of such a device being controlled by a useless batsman? I know we didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt, but that’s what Hitler said. If Bell had been playing we wouldn’t be 202 for 9, we’d be 436 for 3 declared.

    1. Poor old Ronald, cut down in his prime by the Wangotron 9000.

      I loved you, Ronald. If I could marry a dude.

    2. Apparently, Cook and Moores were walking past the nets this morning just before the incident, discussing who might be the long-term back-up wicket-keeper for England. Cook said he would like all the coaching staff to aim for Bairstow. The rest is history.

  10. Where does this rate in end of season pitiful ODI series performances then? Have we reached Australia 2009 yet?

  11. I have always been a great believer in consistency of performance and we must surely salute the England ODI squad for delivering in that regard this summer.

    1. Apologies Balladeer, I must have nodded off and missed that series.

      So if we were to insist that the World Cup be held in England while conditions are still a bit spring-like, England might be in with a really good chance…

      …didn’t we try that in 1999?

      Which reminds me, where is Ian Austin when you really need him?

  12. How amusing. I’d forgotten there was a game today and just checked the score. Well done, chaps. You’ve outdone yourselves today.

    At least they’ve found a way to consistently stop India scoring 300.

    I like how they’ve made full use of the 4 year World Cup cycle to build a team and aren’t completely clueless about their team 5 months before the start.

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