So, England have just ended their first bout of ODI games since the World Cup fiasco – and what a difference! With Peter Moores given the boot, and Paul Farbrace given the reigns until Aussie coach Trevor Bayliss comes in – England defeated one of the best sides in the World in both 50 over and 20 over formats. But just how did they do that, given a month or so ago it was the lowest the nation had ever been?
As a keen cricketer for 15 years, in both playing and watching capacities – I can tell you that I and many others had become disillusioned watching our national team. For too long the ECB and selectors had picked the safe options, the ‘Tried and Tested” in hope they would deliver the same form that led the country to number 1 in the test rankings a few years back. What they didn’t realise is the rest of the world had moved on, and unleashed a new brand of cricket upon which the ECB clearly took no notice of. Pick young, in-form players who can play aggressive cricket.
You look at the starting 11 at the World Cup – Moeen Ali, Ian Bell, Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, James Taylor, Jos Butler, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and James Anderson. Bar one or two, most of the test team. Bell, Ballance and Ali at the top of the order was awful – all three could not score quickly enough and because they were so engrained in playing test cricket, did not have the variety of shots the new kids do. Butler was too far down the order to have an impact, and the likes of Broad and Anderson just looked tired and in fear of being smacked out of the attack, which they were in all honesty. They were soundly beaten many times at the World Cup, scoring 300+ once in 6 games against Sri Lanka, and if in any trouble simply collapsed.
Peter Moores and the ECB had the stats at heart – apparently around 230 ish would win 70% of games – maybe against Zimbabwe, Scotland and the UAE…as we found in the NZ series, 230 was a par score for about 30-35 overs! So, Moores went, and in came Bayliss, who would take over after the NZ series. Paul Farbrace and new director Andrew Strauss let the side play attacking cricket, and gave in-form talent a chance to prove themselves. Out went Ali, Ballance, Bell, Taylor, Broad, Anderson, Woakes and in came Hales, Billings, Roy, Stokes, Rashid, Finn, Wood and Willey – although to be fair Jordan and Plunkett were picked but got injured in the first few games, with Jordan very poor in particular. The lineup was as follows – Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Butler, Sam Billings, Adil Rashid, David Willey, Mark Wood and Steven Finn. Powerful, aggressive batting from the start and a mix of quick and swing bowling, with Rashid to bowl leg-spin, something we have not seen in the England team for a long time.
England of old always scored 40-60 off the first 10, sometimes less. Bell and Ali would often get themselves in and set, but no kick on. With Hales and Roy, England now have two of the most powerful openers in domestic Cricket. Hales was batted at 3 in his few chances in the World Cup, but as an opener he set the tone in the 3-2 win this series. 165 runs in 5 innings, scoring 2 fifties – one of which was in the successful chase of 349, the other in the chase of 400 that would probably have been chased down had the rain not intervened. Roy was slightly less successful, with 98 runs in 5 games, but was unlucky with a lot of starts but always got himself out.
Middle Order Tinkering
Root was moved to 3, Morgan to 4, Stokes inserted at 5 and Butler up to 6. This meant Root, who can bat for long periods, would get more overs. As you will have seen he hit two centuries in the 5 games and top scored with 274 runs at an average of 68. Morgan also profited, scoring 4 consecutive scores of 50+, and one of 113 and ended up with 222 runs at at average of 44. Stokes was at 5, and averaged nearly 30 in his ‘Freddie Flintoff’ role of simply whacking it. In Buttlers’ 3 games, he scored 183 runs including 129 in the opening win where England scored 408!
Lower Order Fight
With those promotions it gave chance for a youngster to come in and Sam Billings, a Wicketkeeper-Batsman at Kent, took his chances. Although limited, he scored just under 100 runs, including a nice 41 in the final win, helping recover from 45-5 to 125-6 when he was out. In the Twenty20 last night, his innovative batting was great to see. Certainly one for the future who has been given a chance to shine now! Previous England teams’ have never had good batting in their bowling ranks with Broad, Anderson and Tredwell all pretty awful. Adil Rashid came in at 8, and with his all-round nature, runs came for him. 115 at an average of 38 in his 4 innings – including 69 in the opener and 34 in latter games, as well as 12 not out in the last. England had liked to pick players all the way down who could do a bit of both, but in Rashid, and then Plunkett and Willey, you had three who could really hit!
David Willey opens the batting for Northamptonshire in the shorter formats as he is a huge hitter – it did not happen in this series, but he did hit a few beautiful 6’s. Liam Plunkett, batting in the chase of 400, hit 44 – including some hammer-blows, before rain ruined the game, and then injury curtailed his series.
England hit 1617 runs at a rate of 7.7 per over, an amazing feat! They also struck the most boundary’s in a one-day series. and chased down 350 runs in just 44 overs!
England still have an issue in the keeping department. Although Buttler and Bairstow both scored runs, both also dropped several easy catches. Sam Billings in an option, and like Bredan McCullam, just fielding in an option for Jos Buttler. He split the webbing on his hand in the 4th ODI and missed the 5th and then only T20 game. His powerful batting is not to be missed, with him being possibly the most destructive player England posses!
Luckily – Chris Jordan, who was awful – got injured and allowed Mark Wood into the team. With Plunkett’s unfortunate injury, David Willey came in and that turned out to be a winning lineup. Wood reminds me of a Simon Jones’ type bowler – short run-up, fantastic pace and hits the deck, getting plenty of bounce and seam – rushing batsmen into shots. He only go 2 wickets in 30 overs, but went for an economy rate of 5.2 per over, the best of any bowler this series in both sides. He picked up three in the T20 game, so he got some reward.
Steve Finn went for 6 an over, taking 8 wickets at an average of 35, while Ben Stokes led the way with 9 wickets at an average of 28 and an econ of 6.5, so definately in the Flintoff mould! Big hitter, quick bowler – all-round hero! In David Willey’s 3 games, he was also impressive – a little expensive but 7 wickets (plus 3 in the T20 game) at an average of 29 and economy rate of 6.9, he was worthy of a place and should retain it. Not since the days of Alan Mullaley have we had a good left armer in the ODI team!
For Years and years, I have been wanting Adil Rashid in the side. His bamboozling variations had the NZ side in all kinds of trouble in the first game, taking 4 wickets. The next three he was played very well, going for 70 odd on all three occasions, including for about 28 when bowled in the 48th over in the 4th ODI. His confidence in memory can be badly affected, but Morgan stuck with him and he went for just 4 off the last, taking a wicket. In the final game, he bowled a spell of 10 overs, 2-45, and to go at a rate of 4.5 RPO as a leg spinner is special. With his batting skill and add in his leg spin, England have one to hold onto here! He took 8 wickets at an average of 39, and econ of 6.6, but Leggies tend to get smacked around a bit, as do most spinners in the shorter form of the game.
For a long time, there has been nothing but mediocraty in the spin department. As one myself, there were very few to look upto in the England setup – Ashley Giles, Robert Croft, Shaun Udal just a few of the average/decent ones, and then there is Ian Salisbury and Chris Schofield that are best forgotten if you look at leg spinners. It’s a very difficult thing to bowl – the best are often Asian with the exclusion of Warne – you see Kumble, Mushtaq, Ahmed as lead-examples, while Muralitharan leads the way in terms of really confusing batsman, as does Sunil Narine nowadays!
All in all, England took 38 of the 50 New Zealand wickets available, as did New Zealand with England…
From 1-8 England averaged at least 20 with the bat, and when you have 8 batsman/all-rounders, at least a couple will do the job which we found in this series. If the openers failed, the middle order did well. Openers did well, middle failed, lower order wagged. The old England either did well or flopped, there was never an in-between really. When under the cosh, the bowlers delivered. Even when wickets were hard to come by, when you had Williamson and Taylor dominating – they slowed the run rate and forced errors which led to wickets. There was no giving up – even the loss in the 3rd ODI, when about 20 runs from victory with 7-8 wickets in hand, they took 4-5 wickets late on and made a game of it.
One area of improvement to be made is in the field – there were many drop catches and missed chances from an array of players – but that will be obvious. With Trevor Bayliss yet to come in, England could well get even better, as the man is renowned world-wide as an ODI specialist!
Overall – 13 scores of 50+ and three centuries, Four scores of 300+ in a row and over 1600 runs scored in the series. England seem to have finally cottoned on to what the rest of the world is doing, and have found a lineup that does well. Looking at other sides, England are now one of the youngest and can build on it. Even the backup players coming in did a hell of a job, and if the test team can continue the form, we could be looking at a fantastic summer, and have optimism going forward. New Zealand were very good opponents, and one of the most dangerous in world cricket. The acid test will be Australia later this summer, but for now England look a force to be reckoned with – and if they defeat Australia they will be inserted as a favourite for the Twenty20 World Cup next year!
In just 6 games, the philosophy has changed, as has personnel – and it’s worked wonders. If only the ECB did something about this 5 years ago you have to wonder how things would have played out. I for one am now excited to watch the team in action, as there is a new, exciting brand of cricket – and we seem good at it!
Bring on Bayliss, and the Aussies! We could be set to witness something spectacular!