Pacers Performances Should Ring Alarm Bells for England
February 26, 2019
There is no doubt that England are one of the favourites to lift the 2019 Cricket World Cup in July. Home teams have won the last two editions of World Cup and there is a good chance that England will continue that trend considering the form they have shown ever since their 2015 World Cup debacle. Moreover, they are also sitting pretty atop of the ICC rankings for ODI teams as well, a testimony to their exploits as a team in these last few years.
Their batting lineup has been the most feared in limited-overs formats in the last couple of years owing to their ability to notch up and chase down monumental totals week in, week out. However, with 7 more ODIs to go before the start of the mega event, England need to address a major issue that has stayed under the carpet for so long – the ineffectiveness of their pace bowling unit. As numbers show, England’s batting exploits have masked their bowling issue for a long time.
These figures are shocking considering that England are the No.1 ranked ODI side in the world. All teams ranked lower than them, except the Windies, have registered better averages during this period. Not only that, their overall economy rate of 5.89 is also the second worst during this period, which makes it evident that they are struggling with the basic requirement of modern day limited overs bowling—the ability to keep the run rate down.
Everyone hailed England as a world-class side when they chased down a target of 361 runs with ease in the first ODI against the Windies, but that’s what they’ve had to do on a consistent basis for the last two years, and as a result, it’s gone under the radar just how badly the English pacers have bowled. Throughout Wednesday’s ODI they kept feeding Chris Gayle with deliveries in his strong zones and couldn’t do much with the other inexperienced batters of the team either. Just like the previous couple of years, everyone chose to ignore their faults as the English batting lineup seems capable of chasing down or posting high totals nine out of 10 times.
However, if England go through that one odd match in which their batting unit doesn’t click, it could draw the curtains on their campaign. The second ODI against the Windies was that kind of a reality check for England. It seemed like the English bowlers did a good job in restricting the Windies to a gettable total of 289/6. But it was a tricky pitch and it also turned out to be that one odd day for England’s batting unit as they fell short of the target by 16 runs.
Yes, it’s true that England have lost the least number of matches (7) during this period, but if the performance of their pacers in these matches is considered once again, it reveals that they have been one of the worst in the business once again. Their average of 57.00 is the second worst and economy of 6.49 is the worst among the 10 aforementioned teams in losses.
The shortcomings of their pace bowling unit in terms of economy still could have been compensated if they would have been taking enough wickets. But their tally of 117 wickets is also one of the worst despite playing the fourth most number of ODIs during this period. They have been striking every 39 deliveries and that is again the third worst rate among the 10 teams.
If their individual bowling performances are considered, it’s only Chris Woakes who has been effective both as a wicket-taker and as an economical bowler. Although bowlers like Liam Plunkett and Tom Curran have shown good wicket-taking capabilities, they have no control over their economy rates. David Willey has been pretty average whereas Ben Stokes and Mark Wood have been very poor all-round.
All these facts and figure tell that England have some real head scratching to do in order to improve their pace bowling unit in the handful number of matches that remain before the World Cup. The inclusion of Jofra Archer might help them to sort some of their issues out but even that won’t help unless other pacers start putting up decent performances.
It is high time that England realise what they are dealing with. Otherwise, they will squander their best chance of claiming their maiden 50-Over World title.
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Author: Prasenjit Dey
Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket journalist based out of Kolkata, India. Cricket runs through his veins and writing has always been his passion. He is now a part of both worlds, trying to make a difference by writing on the nitty-gritties of the game.