After England's demoralising 133-run defeat to India, in the second ODI at Cardiff, there will be many onlookers who will start to agree with Graeme Swann and Michael Vaughan that England have very little chance of succeeding in the World Cup next year.
Aside from Chris Woakes, James Tredwell and debutant Alex Hales very few of the side who took to the field enhanced their ODI reputation as India showed that they are a different animal when it comes to ODI cricket, compared to Test matches.
Below I have identified five areas that I believe England need to address if they are to remotely stand a chance in Australia and New Zealand in February and March.
Do England possess a top order that will strike the fear into opposition bowling? At present I don't believe they have. Whilst Alastair Cook and Ian Bell are tremendous cricketers, and have been great servants, they are not the modern ODI batsmen that England so
desperately need. They are definitely not a Chris Gayle or an Aaron Finch who can give their sides wonderful starts that the rest of the side can build on. The game has moved on.
By selecting Alex Hales, England have made a step in the right direction in addressing this issue but they need to be braver and bolder. What about James Taylor, Michael Lumb or James Vince, players who are more than capable of clearing the ropes regularly and perhaps are the future of English cricket. Should our better ODI players be batting higher up
Players like Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler would surely benefit from having the opportunity to potentially bat more overs and therefore have time to show their skills and
impose themselves on the game. Hitting boundaries is becoming more and more important but do England have enough consistent strikers of a cricket ball?
Historically England have struggled against spin and opposition captains certainly take advantage of this. English batsmen tend to worry about getting out rather than taking the game to spin bowlers and backing their own ability by using their feet, and the crease, in order to dictate an innings. In Australia spin may not be the most potent threat on the faster, bouncier wickets but make no mistake when England play opposition captains will use spin regularly and may well open the bowling with a spin bowler on the tired end of season pitches in Australia and New Zealand.
Batsmen need a positive intent because so often England's innings falters during the middle overs when boundaries are hard to come by. Now, by only allowing four fielders outside the ring in all non-powerplay overs, it will be harder to rotate the scoring through singles so batsmen will need to look toscore more boundaries. ODI scores are increasing all the time so if England are to chasescores of 300+ they will need to change their tactics and lose the mental block they seemingly have about spin bowling.
Too many extras can prove damaging to any ODI team and can often be the difference
between winning and losing. In the second ODI against India England, and particularly Chris Jordan, were culpable of gifting India runs. There were sixteen wides bowled in total, twelve by Jordan himself. Jordan ended with figures of 0-73 from his ten overs, which included an eleven-ball over. It is not just the extra wides that are the problem it is the extra balls that also go for additional runs. These runs can hurt and demoralise a side.
England's bowlers also need to bowl one side of the wicket and bowl to specific plans. Bowling to both sides of the wicket will not help the captain set his field.
England need a varied attack if they are to succeed. A one-dimensional bowling line-up
is not something a captain needs when the going gets tough. On batsmen friendly
wickets in Australia and New Zealand England will need a lot of variation so batsmen do not become comfortable. A seam attack with just James Tedwell as a change of pace is not
an option. Bowlers who have variation are a must, such as Ravi Bopara or Luke Wright. An extra spin bowler must also be employed, whether that be Joe Root, Samit Patel or Moeen Ali. Root is currently in the driving seat but the others will also offer a good argument for inclusion.
One, if not more, of the bowlers need to be identified as a death bowler and used consistently throughout the ODIs leading up to the World Cup. It is a skill that is very important in any form of one-day cricket at the end of a game. Whilst seemingly a lost art the yorker is still the most effective delivery at the death.
Against India England conceded runs far too easily. India scored 133 runs from the last 13 overs. They cant afford to do that in any knock-out stage of the World Cup, if they are to reach that far.
With James Anderson more effective with the new ball and not feared in ODI cricket as he is in Test matches, are Harry Gurney and Stuart Broad the men to trust in these situations?
Whilst England are in the very early stages of preparation for the 2015 World Cup they will also know that there are a lot of issues that need addressing before they begin their assault on the World Cup. Whilst the English hierarchy will make the right noises about their prospects we all know that at present they are a long way behind some of the more re-established ODI sides in the World but if they can address the above problems they may well stand a chance.
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