Thursday, 17 March 2011

Have England Stumbled Across a Winning Formula?

To say England have made hard work of this group stage has been a rather large understatement. Through a combination of good luck, bad luck, competence and a heavy dose of incompetence, England have stumbled into a position where only unlikely wins for the West Indies against India, and Bangladesh against South Africa can see England denied from getting into the knock-outs. After naming teams which were mainly wrong, the selectors were thrust into making changes for the do-or-die West Indies clash, and it evidently payed off (just).

But is this the team to take England on to further glories in this World Cup?

England's hand was forced after the embarrassing loss to Bangladesh, and changes had to be made. Wright came in for Collingwood, Tremlett came in for Anderson, and Tredwell came in for the injured Shahzad.

Wright, who has been much maligned in the cricket blogosphere (mainly by me) hasn't performed very well in his many internationals over the past few years. And had there been another alternative, England certainly wouldn't have picked him. However, with Collingwood looking like he's terminally out of form, enough was enough, and it was worth putting Wright in. And today was the day that Luke Wright came of age. Coming in at a crucial position, Wright needed to play a responsible innings to get England to a respectable total. In the past, he would have gifted his wicket away slogging for not many, but here, he grafted a hard fought 40-odd (before gifting his wicket away slogging, but I'll forgive him that one). While there are certainly better batsmen who could play for England, Wright is the only other one in the squad, and when given his chance, seized it with both hands. He also does have the ability to get a few overs out - which are needed when England play a four-man attack.

The decision to remove Collingwood (an over-the-hill player who's best days are firmly behind him) is one thing, but the brave decision was to drop Anderson. Jimmy is, and will be, England's leader of the attack, and will go on to take many ODI wickets for England over the next few years. However, the current Jimmy Anderson is a shadow of his usual self, he looks dejected, out of form, and low on confidence. While it is a hard thing to do to get rid of a bowler of Jimmy's ability, it was the right thing to do, as a four man attack can't afford to carry anyone, regardless of reputation. Tremlett didn't perform particularly well, and the decision that needs to be made is whether a rest of a few days is enough for Jimmy to recover his mojo, or whether its worth sticking with Goobah.

And the final change was bringing in James Tredwell. I'm feeling rather smug this evening, as I've been calling for Tredder's inclusion since the Ireland game. Mick Yardy is a defensive bowler, who won't take wickets. While this may be handy in T20s, it's not a ploy that will work consistently in ODIs. Tredwell is an attacking spinner, and while he may leak a few boundaries, once he starts racking up some dots, he'll start taking wickets. Which was seen in his 4-fer. I'm so pleased for Tredwell, he's carried drinks around without getting games for the last few months, and for him to seize his chance so well is admirable.

So is the eleven that was put out for England the eleven that can win the World Cup? Well, Prior isn't an ODI opener. I'd much prefer to see Swann opening, but I'd also like to play up front for Chelsea. England's middle order is the strength with Trott, Bell and Morgan being supplimented by the hitting power of Bopara and my new favourite cricketer Luke Wright below. Having two attacking spinners in Swann and Tredwell is a big plus, but while Anderson was dropped in favour of Tremlett, I'd prefer to see Jimmy coming in instead of big Chris. However, that's only if it's a 100% fit and firing Jim, so if he isn't going to bowl well, he shouldn't be in the team. Shahzad has been ruled out, and will be replaced, and we've seen that getting someone new and fresh into the team has payed dividends. So, as such, (and given my penchant for random left-field selections) I'd like to see Chris Woakes come in, and go straight into the side.

England may not win this World Cup. In fact, England may still not get out of the groups. But as I write, they're still there, and as anyone who's ever watched a Dale Winton gameshow will know, you've got to be in it to win it. There are better teams out there, but there's something about this England team that's creating tight games. And when it really matters, England are just about doing enough to come out on top. Whether by luck or judgement, England are setting this World Cup alight, and whisper it quietly, but they still fancy their chances of winning it.

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