How concerned should England be after their poor start in the CWC? 

By Tom Ewart-Smith

A little under four years ago, at the start of the English summer, England’s cricketers were celebrating a dominant opening victory over South Africa during their home World Cup. On 5th October Jos Buttler and his men were on the receiving end of a trouncing, as they lost by 9 wickets to New Zealand. 

For the Black Caps, condemning the Three Lions to such a chastening defeat would’ve felt like a significant step on the road to redemption, after their heartbreak at Lords in 2019. For England, on the other hand, it has left questions and doubts over their ability and how far they can go in the latest edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

While no one has entered panic stations – and no one should, considering it was only the first game of the competition – the fact that England comfortably defeated the Kiwis 3-1 in September’s ODI series at home, begs the question: ‘can England be successful in India?’ 

England’s bounce-back win against Bangladesh on the 10th has certainly helped calm the nerves and highlight that they are capable of such success. Although, one would expect them to defeat the weaker nation nine times out of ten. 

It looks as if this edition of the World Cup will offer disappointment for the holders

The defeat against New Zealand shed some worry over England’s batting prowess, but their latest victory in Dharamsala demonstrated that the team’s demonstrative nature is still well and truly alive. More importantly, it seems that if England are to have any issues it will be due to the bowling lineup. 

England’s bowlers were only able to take one wicket against the Black Caps and were sliced apart by Rachin Ravindra. The 23-year-old sliced apart England’s attack, ending on 123 not out, despite having a previous high score of only 61 not out in 33 internationals. 

In particular, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes have been scrutinized following the defeat. The scrutiny has continued after the Bangladesh game, despite a resounding victory. In both games, they have conceded economy rates of over 6 runs per over. 

Woakes has been erratic with his lengths and seems to be searching for some white-ball form, while Curran hasn’t been utilized to full effect. He is known as one of the best white-ball bowlers at the death and at the beginning of an innings. Yet so far, he has only been used in the middle overs, to which he has found little success. 

It really is time to panic as England face a monstruous battle to finish in the top four

Having listened to the delicate and delightful tones of commentators such as Jonathan Agnew, Simon Mann and Steven Finn, on Test Match Special over the past week, it seems as though the commonly held view among experts is that batting wins you matches, but bowling wins you tournaments. 

Therefore, it will be down to the bowlers to engage England’s extra gear. Hopefully all of them will find the expected level over the coming fixtures and quell the doubts that have arisen over the past two matches. 

At the end of the day, however, England and their fanbase, shouldn’t be too concerned following the defeat, or at least one may be concerned but certainly not panicking. To start with, we are still in the early stages of the tournament and it isn’t as though a loss to the Kiwis is a shock – they too are a competition juggernaut and have consistently challenged over the past decade at big tournaments. 

Furthermore, in the 2022 T20 World Cup and 2019 ODI World Cup, England faced setbacks. On both occasions they went on to win the tournaments. In 2022 they lost to Ireland in the group stages and yet bounced back straight away. While in 2019, under Eoin Morgan, England lost three times in the round robin stage and yet still found a path to glory. 

Having written the rest of this article before Sunday’s test against Afghanistan, my conclusion to the question in hand was ‘worry, but don’t panic’. But after the shock defeat, in which Afghanistan beat England comfortably by 69 runs, I have had to readjust my statement. It really is time to panic as England face a monstruous battle to finish in the top four.

The most concerning aspect of their second defeat was that both the batting and bowling attacks performed considerably under par, and it seems that this England side is finding it difficult to adapt to the varying conditions on the sub-continent.

And the remaining fixtures aren’t kind for the Three Lions – they still have to play the likes of India, South Africa, Pakistan and Australia. If I were a betting man, my money wouldn’t be on England to reach the knockout stage and it looks as if this edition of the World Cup will offer disappointment for the holders. 

Image: Rajiv Bhuttan via Wikimedia Commons

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