So I’ve not posted since the 23rd May, since then England got blown away by Pakistan at Lords. Then they managed to paper over the cracks with a swift come back victory at Headingly. Worst of all for me – they then managed to lose to Scotland in an ODI in Edinburgh.
For those that don’t know me, my girlfriend is Scottish and hates cricket but all of a sudden she now loves cricket following the weekend’s antics. Just last week I suggested doing some cricket activities when we next go to visit her family which were brushed of at the time. Now it’s apparently a really good idea to go and see what Scottish cricket is all about…
Enough about that though, what I want to talk about is this fantastic England one day side. I think the reason they entertain so many cricket lovers around the world is you really do not know who is going to turn up for England when the coloured clothing is on. Take last year’s Champions Trophy as an example, they coasted past Bangladesh, New Zealand and Australia – only to be rolled over for 211 by a Pakistan team who no one gave a prayer too.
I think the more experienced and hardened cricket fans can understand that it can happen. Christ, it happened at the weekend against Scotland – one result doesn’t determine the quality of this England team but of course, there are points to improve.
For me, I believe the strength in depth is not as great as we are told. With no Ben Stokes or Jos Buttler at the weekend, IPL champion and Kent captain – Sam Billings was handed his 14th cap. Billings is seen as the next option in the middle order yet in 11 innings he averages 23.63 striking at 92.85. Compare it to his career numbers where he strikes at 106.98 and averages 40.42 and this is where the question marks occur about why certain players cannot bring their domestic form into the international arena.
Billings is the only tried example because such is the lack of middle order talent within the county game at the moment, it does not seem that their is much in the bank for England should Buttler or Stokes go down again. Liam Dawson is potentially next in line due to his presence around the England squad in the last few years especially when taking his bowling into consideration but it is doubtful that he would be trusted to fill in at 5/6 with the likeliness being that Moeen Ali is moved up and Dawson slots in behind.
One man who probably deserves a chance in one format is Ben Foakes of Surrey. In the last three years within the domestic One Day cup, Foakes has averaged 55.80 (2018), 96.40 (2017) and 47.14 (2016). He has been vital to a Surrey side that reached 3 finals in a row before this year and with Billings being used as Buttler’s understudy with the gloves as well – it is perfect for Foakes to come in and take up the role that Billings’ has failed to make his own.
This is not the only issue within the England side. The similarity within their attack is now a worry. Against Scotland, England fielded three seamers in David Willey, Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett. Again, there is not much variation left in the county game with every ‘expert’ crying out for more pace. The Scotland game showed how vital Ben Stokes is because with four seamers and two spinners, England look a totally different beast compared to when the option of the fourth seamer is taken away.
Why can’t we just replace Stokes with Sam Curran like we did in the Test side some may say. Probably because S. Curran only averages 21.48 in List A cricket compared to Stokes who averages 35.16. More is needed from the younger Curran with the bat before he can be considered a like for like replacement for Stokes. I don’t really like to discuss the problem with Stokes missing because I don’t believe there is a solution, without Stokes you are forced to play an extra batsman which means if one of your five bowlers gets smashed around – you cannot take him off and he has to bowl his allotted amount of overs.
The talk of Sussex’s Jofra Archer being in England’s World Cup squad for next summer has been quashed by Eoin Morgan and rightly so. Archer would only replace one of the seamers in the line up and as I’ve said through out this blog, what England need is options out there. Of course, they beat Australia in Australia without Stokes and all is not lost without him. I just believe he is the most vital cog in this England team going into the final year before the World Cup.
In conclusion, what England need to do is to gain more depth for position within their middle order and ensure they can fit six bowling options into their one-day side (or wrap Ben Stokes in cotton wool until the World Cup).