Are the England bowlers their weak-link?
England registered their second ODI whitewash after beating Australia 5-0 in the series. England left no stones unturned and punched above their weight against one of the top sides in the world and gave a testament to their supremacy in shorter formats. This side is brimming with superstars and have evolved into a dominant unit in shorter formats under the watchful captaincy of Eoin Morgan. England have been unstoppable and now the favourites going into the 2019 ICC World Cup. They did well in the ICC Champions Trophy last year, but one bad outing against Pakistan in the knock-out stages cost them dearly.
However, there is one weak link in England’s artillery, which lies in their bowling. They have a dominant batting line-up with the likes of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Sam Billings. These batsmen render batting a joy to behold and have mastered the art of ODI batting with perfection. In fact, one wouldn’t be wrong in saying that England have the best ODI batting line-up in the world. But the same confidence cannot be seen when their bowlers put in the hard yards.
Against Australia, their bowlers did well occasionally, but nothing on a consistent basis and one shouldn’t forget, the visiting side were without David Warner and Steve Smith. This Australian batting was relatively weak, but they did manage to surpass the 300-run mark on a couple of occasions in the series.
In the series, English bowlers did fare well, in fact, the top four wicket-takers in the series were English bowlers. Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali, Liam Plunkett and David Willey were the top-four wicket-takers in the series. The fact that England did well in the absence of Ben stokes and Chris Woakes is motivating. And one can only expect their bowling department to toughen once these two return to the side. But the real test awaits, which will be against India next month.
India are one of the red-hot favourites alongside England for the upcoming World Cup, and the battle between next month will provide a clear picture. England bowlers do have a long way to go. Their pace battery is built around Liam Plunkett, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Mark Wood and Jake Ball and Stokes. This unit has the potential and a couple of them have proved themselves, but consistency is what they seek most dearly as of now. Not many of the above mentioned have established themselves and lack experience.
Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have done well as a pair and chipped wickets on a consistent basis in the recent times. But the duo tends to go for runs if there is not enough help in the surface. Although Moeen Ali’s rise as a bowler has been phenomenal, but India will be the best opponent to test his abilities against. England does have an awe-inspiring batting, to begin with, but one just can’t afford to bank solely on it in a tournament.
In a high-voltage tournament like World Cup, it is bowling that win you games in knock-out stages on most of the occasion. Batting might fail to fire under the pump, but bowlers can win you games. Pakistan made a shocking comeback in the Champions Trophy and went on to win the title while banking mostly on their inspiring bowling.
England have come a long way and have invested a lot, their dream of winning a World Cup is not very far away. They have the side, they have the ingredients, but bowling is the only unit that needs some work and firepower. At this level, and in a tournament like World Cup, small weaknesses are exploited brutally, and by looking at the way things have fared for England in the series against Australia, their only weakness lies in bowling. One shouldn’t forget the encounter against Scotland, which England lost. Scotland scored runs heavily against English bowlers and left everyone bewildered by their staggering performance. English batsmen did well to cross the 300-run mark, but it was their ineffective bowling that made the difference.
India have a well-balanced attack; their batting looks confident and bowlers have done extremely well. England’s bowling will be tested against Indian batsmen. English bowlers are high on confidence and have the momentum, but can they replicate this against India as well? It’s a difficult question to answer, but an intriguing one.