England’s cup of woes

Eoin Morgan... tough times ahead.-AP

One innings above 40 in the midst of a succession of noughts is hardly a return to form, although one feels Eoin Morgan’s batting is the least of his problems. He ought to bat at No. 6 and look on himself as a finisher, writes Ted Corbett.

Before the World Cup began Peter Moores, the England coach, said his men would understand their place in the rankings after the first two matches against Australia, the clear favourites, and New Zealand, who are only a pace or two behind the Aussies.

So what has happened? Two profound defeats at the time of writing, their morale shattered and their confidence at zero, followed by a less than perfect win over Scotland, whose only threat was that they love to embarrass their bigger brother. There are 53m citizens in England, just over 5m north of the border.

I worked there for two years and I am fond of the Scottish race. They used to produce a brand of footballers noted for their bravery, their self-confidence and their skills. These artists were typified by Jim Baxter, a midfield general, who in one match at Wembley, the home of English football, counted out loud the number of times he “nutmegged“ defenders — that is to say humiliatingly passed the ball between their legs — and won more praise for that than the victory.

Their cricketers are less dominant although with Paul Collingwood, one of the few England one-day winners in their coaching staff, I can see the day dawning when the cricket equivalent of the Baxter trick is brought out, freshened up and used to make England feel small.

In this World Cup however, all the Scots offered — despite a crowd of bagpipers, signs of haggis, a sort of sausage and their traditional food around this time of the year when they celebrate the life of Robbie Burns, their greatest poet, and plenty of kilts — were signs of what might be when England run up against tougher opposition.

England batted first and scored 303 which might have been a great total when the tournament began in 1975 but which is, to borrow a phrase from the more Scottish sport of golf, simply a standard scratch score requiring a bit of concentration to bypass it, a jog in the park to renowned hitters.

In fact at the 30-over mark, England were 172 and in the eyes of several ex-players that should have brought a score of around 340. Some even talked of 390. A step too far for conventional England I think.

By the time the fifth Scottish wicket fell — their batting was led by Coetzer, a lad with South African parents but born in Aberdeen, the cosmopolitan, vibrant terminal for North Sea oil — I correctly guessed England’s more deadly quick bowlers would account for the men with blue plaid worked into their short-sleeved shirts. Frankly, I went back to bed.

General verdict from the pundits — England not good enough. Funnily enough, Geoff Boycott was more sympathetic. Perhaps he sees life in a rose-tinted way as he heads for 75. Who knows, but I am always glad to hear his views, delivered without sentiment or bias.

So, what comes next for an England side that is still far from fulfilling itself?

My feeling since the World Cup began has been that England need a new captain. One innings above 40 in the midst of a succession of noughts is hardly a return to form, although I feel Morgan’s batting is the least of his problems. He ought to bat at No. 6 and look on himself as a finisher. They also need to drop Ballance, push Taylor to No. 3 where he has done well and allow that batting line-up time to develop.

They also need a new, ultimately more powerful coach. Moores, a talented man when he was in charge of development players, was given the job too quickly, was sacked too soon at the same time as Kevin Pietersen, made a success of his stint with Lancashire and has returned to fail again. Perhaps he could come back for a third go at this difficult job but at the moment he is out of his depth because, I suspect, he is not able to deal with elite players or is overshadowed by them. He was a work-a-day wicketkeeper at Sussex in his playing days.

In addition we need selectors who are able to mark down talent and stick with it. Ballance is an example of the opposite need. He was suddenly jetted into the World Cup side on the basis of no form and no match time. Another example of too much too soon. It was a poor decision and whether it was Moore’s or Morgan’s it was a sign of the panic that seemed to envelope the side at the start of this campaign.

All players go through a phase in which they have to change their ways when they are promoted but those who are finding their feet should be allowed time to grow into their new role.

England could not wait for Ben Stokes to power up his bowling and steady his batting so that instead of hitting sixes and yorking the hesitant in Australia and New Zealand, he is doing the same in South Africa with the reserve team. Is that a waste or what?

At this moment it seems I have a better chance of being Prime Minister than England have of winning the World Cup but it is more serious than that. Moores was right, we now know where England stand and frankly their future, even in the topsy turvy world of one-day cricket is not a happy one.