Opinion: 300 the minimum for England, not the dream
The problem for England is in two parts. The first is that they are playing an outdated form of cricket. The second, and more telling issue, is that they are doing it badly, writes Peter Miller.
"If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got," as a famous person said. You can never be sure which one these days, because every single internet meme has a different name at the bottom of it.
England have played this kind of ODI cricket for as long as anyone can remember. Chances are they are going to be playing this kind of cricket when they turn up for their first game at the World Cup on Valentine's Day next year. With only 13 matches left to play between now and then perhaps they shouldn't change things. This is the method they believe in so perhaps they should stick with it.
The problem for England is in two parts. The first is that they are playing an outdated form of cricket. The second, and more telling issue, is that they are doing it badly. The old way was to get to 40 off 65 balls and finish with 100 off 120.
Instead England are getting to 40 and then getting out. While the proper execution of this plan would make England more competitive, it is not going to win them more games than they lose. They are aiming to set a total of 275 when they should be looking at 325. After each game of this series so far Alastair Cook has said "this wasn't a 300 pitch." The problem is that even when it isn't that should be the baseline.
England had a period of success with the well-executed version of this approach. They got to the Champions Trophy final and were briefly top of the tree in the ICC rankings. But cricket moves very fast these days. England were World T20 champions a few short years ago. Now they have one of the worst records in the last two years. Teams need to adapt.
Cook is a fine batsman, and he is capable of batting through an ODI to finish on 120 not out. The problem is that your modern one-day opening batsman needs to remain undefeated on 150-plus if he bats the full 50 overs.
The game has changed, and while other sides are happy to give explosive young players a game, England remain tied to Test match success. Virat Kohli is 25 and has played 136 ODIs after making his debut at 19. Quinton de Kock is 21 and is already a fixture in the South African side.
This is not to say that players should be picked before they are ready, but there are brilliant young talents that are stagnating in county cricket while England pick Test players in some ill-conceived notion that they can do a job for you. Some players are capable of playing every format, but not every player is.
Alastair Cook is a good man, but through his actions we have seen his also a stubborn one. Something that Graeme Swann confirmed when he said he was "the most stubborn man in the world." With that in mind he is unlikely to step down as skipper and opening batsman, even though it may be what is best for England.
At Cardiff, Suresh Raina got to 50 off 49 balls. He reached his ton 25 balls later. It is that ability to score risk free at a decent pace while getting set before launching that English players are missing. At least the English players that are being picked can't.
They seem incapable of scoring quickly against spin the middle overs. Every time they look to attack they get out. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are excellent limited-overs spinners, but they are not fizzing the ball past both edges. The way England were playing them it was like Shane Warne and Saqlain Mushtaq were tormenting them.
The only prize that England have to go for between now and April 2015 is the World Cup. Perhaps sticking with the core of the Test team throughout that period will make it easier to win the Ashes in July, it is to the detriment of their hopes of winning the biggest prize in cricket. England's players and its fans may see the Ashes as the pinnacle, winning the World Cup will be a much greater achievement.
The bowling is a work in progress, and England need to look again at the make up of their side. The changes in regulations have made bowling all the more vital, but the bowlers need something to defend. This approach of looking for 275 and hoping to bowl well will win you a few games when executed properly. It will not win you World Cups.
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