England’s disastrous World Cup could get even worse if they are to suffer the ignominy of defeat to Afghanistan in their final group game, and final game of the tournament, on Friday.
Whilst England are probably apprehensive about taking to the field, given their defeat to Bangladesh recently, Afghanistan will be relishing the opportunity to inflict yet more misery on their so-called illustrious opponents. Defeat for England would be unthinkable given their performances in previous games.
England’s ‘star’ players need to perform, of that there is no doubt, but even if they are to prove victorious on Friday, they are still on a hiding to nothing. They are expected to win and anything less than a comprehensive defeat of the associate minnows will not be good enough for the critics who are eagerly waiting to pounce on any negativities. Even a large victory margin will still probably not be good enough.
Captain Morgan has failed to deliver
Whilst I am not one to pinpoint players as scapegoats for England’s woeful tournament there are some who will be targeted by the media.
Captain Eoin Morgan has had a terrible time since taking the reins from Alastair Cook. His string of low scores has left him with little confidence and has not allowed him to ultimately flourish as captain. His credentials as captain are being seriously questioned with a clamour to begin a new era with a totally new captain and team. Morgan has been a fine player but this tournament, and captaincy, have proved a step too far.
Bowling a constant issue
He is not alone in being criticised as none of the England players can say they have performed to their potential. Their bowling has been a constant problem, with seemingly no plans in place against any opposition. Their main bowlers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, have been woefully out of form.
Their batting has fared little better. Both Moeen Ali and Joe Root have World Cup centuries to their name and Ian Bell has made useful starts in the competition but nobody has been consistent enough throughout the tournament. At times they have been too one-dimensional in their approach to an innings. Ali has often perished bravely trying to give England a good start but he has often been forced to do this because nobody else has stuck their head above the parapet.
Butler a very rare silver lining
The only players to escape criticism will be the likes of Jos Buttler who likes to be inventive and different. England need more players like him if they are to be successful. He should be the norm not the exception.
England must be looking at other sides with serious envy. The likes of South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, India and Australia are setting the pace with high-scoring victories and hugely entertaining cricket. In these terms England are falling behind the times.
Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali will be absent from Friday’s game against Afghanistan due to injury which could be a blessing for the pair of them as those who are selected to take the field will be under close scrutiny from the media, supporters and the ECB hierarchy.
Instead of viewing the Afghanistan game as the end of a poor World Cup the England players must look at the game tomorrow as an opportunity to prove their worth to the national team and stake their place in what will probably be a new look England side moving forwards. A new era will begin after this match and the current England players will want to prove that they are worthy of a place in it.