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England’s metamorphosis in ODI cricket

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Once inventors, England had been left behind. With the world around it embracing wider willows and scoring runs at breakneck speed, England was trapped in a time warp. The team was in need of a facelift.


After becoming the first team to qualify for the semifinals of the 2017 Champions Trophy, England has emerged as one of the favourites to win the eight-nation tournament. But it wasn’t always like this — its ODI side has suffered through several stages of ridicule and a slew of losses before giving a strong account of itself.

READ: Morgan lauds ‘outstanding’ attack as England seals last eight spot

It was the summer of 2011. At Colombo’s Premadasa Stadium, Sri Lanka made light work of England’s 229, terminating its World Cup campaign by 10 wickets. The defeat, coming as it did in the quarterfinal, was difficult to digest. Although a mixed run, Andrew Strauss and his men had stuttered their way to the business end of an ICC event, raising hopes of a summit clash, only to bungle, once again.

Four years later, Down Under, with the conditions being much more conducive to its strengths, England fancied a crack at that elusive champion tag again. After losing to arch-rival Australia and New Zealand, it bullied its way past minnows Scotland and Afghanistan before the familiar meltdown in a must-win match against Bangladesh saw England crash out.

READ: Williamson – ‘England bowlers deserve credit after crushing defeat’

The two slumps had one common thread — the lack of high scores that could figure in the top 10 list. In 2011, England’s 338/8 against India — the match ended in a tie — and 327/8 against a weak Ireland, made it to the list of highest totals in the tournament. In the 2014-15 edition, though, the Eoin Morgan-led outfit failed to make the cut.

In the seven matches at the 2011 World Cup, the overall average of the English batters was 30.71 with only one century and 12 half-centuries. Four years later, the average, from six games, had dropped to 27.77 with two centuries but only five half-centuries. If the batsmen made 1720 runs in the sub-continent, they could raise only 1250 runs in Australia and New Zealand during the marquee event.

Once inventors, England had been left behind. With the world around it embracing wider willows and scoring runs at breakneck speed, England was trapped in a time warp. The team was in need of a facelift.

Its sloppy record in limited-overs cricket could be put down to the conditions; the hanging clouds, and the pitch; live green grass on the wicket. Of the top 100 ODI totals until the 2015 ICC World Cup, only six had been made in England. In a spread of all-time highest run scorers in ODI cricket, only two English batsmen — Alex Hales and R. A. Smith — feature in the top 50. While Smith’s 167 came against Australia in 1993, Hales smashed 171 against Pakistan in 2016.

But in the list of all-time highest scorers in a Test innings, England’s first entry is L. Hutton (in sixth position), with as many as 16 batsmen making the cut. The difference between the ODI and Test statistics is stark.

For the longest time, England batsmen, especially in the ODIs, were in a dilemma — whether to hit through the line or shoulder arms. But being brought up on a healthy diet of swing and seam bowling meant they were found out when the team travelled overseas. Over the last three decades, England’s win/loss ratio (1.049) has been better than only Sri Lanka (0.968) and New Zealand (0.902). In the 2000s, the only Test playing nation with a worse win/loss record than England (0.900) was West Indies (0.764).

It is probably true that when the likes of Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook were still part of the ODI set-up, the sense of urgency — a key trait in limited-overs cricket — was amiss. The staple diet of glorious late-cuts and sumptuous cover drives lacked the flavour of expansive heaves and audacious switch hits. Their inability to score freely illustrated the team’s proclivity to succumb to slow passages of play instead of hitting out of the rut. A flashy century or a big win was an exception, not the rule.


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