“While they are not short of talent, they need their batsmen to step up and put up something more substantial. What they have done so far on this tour with the bat is not what we expect from a top-ranked team”
Since their debacle in the ICC World Cup 2015, England have turned a corner. They have played fearless cricket and have also produced positive results in most of the series they have participated in. Under Eoin Morgan, England have tasted a ,ot of success in limited-overs cricket and the team looks to be in good shape, considering that the next World Cup is just 11 months or so away. England decimated Australia recently at home and before that won a series in New Zealand as well. Their recent form, however, cannot be questioned. But when playing different oppositions, one calls for some tweak in the plans.
India captain Virat Kohli has often reiterated that he does not plan for the opponents, but plans according to the conditions and the pitch. How much of it is put into play, is not sure! But all the teams necessarily do not need to follow that. England certainly need not. No doubt that their batting strategies worked incredibly well against New Zealand and Australia, but that need not work against India. Regardless of the situation, the England batsmen are often seen attacking the bowlers, not letting their foot off the gas. But that strategy has worked in India’s favour – in the T20Is and now in the first ODI.
Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow have been in fine form of late. They have scored big at the top, which has relieved the pressure on the middle-order to a certain extent, giving them a chance to play their natural game. Roy and Bairstow have rarely failed in getting England off to a flyer, but what after that? You can be 75-0 after 10 overs and still collapse to a moderate score if the middle-order does not fire. That is exactly the case with England.
The first powerplay gives the batsmen the license to go for their shots. With only two players allowed outsider the 30-yard circle, the opening batsmen look to make the best use of it. However, in phases after that, when the field is spread, it requires the batsmen to cash in on the good start and steady the innings. You may not score at the rate at which batsmen scored in the first powerplay, but you need to keep the scoreboard ticking and pick up the occasional boundary so that the platform is set beautifully for the batsmen to go big in the final 10 overs.
However, the pattern that we have seen on this tour so far is that the openers get the team off to a good start, but the middle-order get out in a hurry and the task of taking England to a decent score lies with the lower middle-order and the tail. England boast of a strong batting line-up – batsmen who can bat till No.11, but all of them will not fire in all the matches. It is important that the set batsmen make it count and get a big score. Ideally, someone in the top 3 or 4 should take up the responsibility of batting throughout the innings. With Jos Buttler coming in later, someone at the top will have to play a sheet anchor’s role – scoring at a brisk pace and also ensuring Buttler is given the strike as much as possible.
Occupying the crucial No. 3 and 4 spots are Joe Root and Morgan respectively. It is safe to say that Root has not been in the best of forms of late. In his last 10 limited-overs innings he has 3, 9, 0, 35, 1, 27, 4*, 22, 50, 29. He has jusy one fifty in 10 innings at an average of 20. Morgan’s batting form too has not been hunky dory. In his last 10 innings, Morgan has scored 20 or more just thrice. For someone coming into bat at the top 4, England need them to do much more. India have Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli in their top 4 and all of them have already scored big, whereas not all of England’s top 4 have fired on this tour.
It was an uncharacteristically slow innings from Ben Stokes at Trent Bridge, but it was the need of the hour. Had he not played that knock England would have been bowled out well before their quota of 50 overs and would have probably had lesser runs on the board to defend. With Kuldeep Yadav wrecking havoc at one end, it was important for someone to show some application and the determination to weather the storm. Stokes did that and the other batsmen can learn a thing or two from his knock.
It is evident that England need to rework their batting strategies against a settled and strong line-up like India. They are already 0-1 down and a loss at Lord’s will mean that they would have lost the T20I and the ODI series on this tour. While they are not short of talent, they need their batsmen to step up and put up something more substantial. What they have done so far on this tour with the bat is not what we expect from a top-ranked team.