The English bowling attack is too one-dimensional to pose a threat…
Seven back to back bilateral ODI series triumphs, presently ranked No. 1 in the world in the 50-over format — yet the sombre mood in Eoin Morgan’s English camp can be evident from a distance. Their batsmen, who took the Australian bowlers to the cleaners last week, have been completely outfoxed by Kuldeep Yadav’s wrist-spin (a member of the English team will read it as mystery-spin). And their one-dimensional bowling attack has no idea, how to keep the power packed Indian batting quiet.
With the epic struggle of English power hitters against Kuldeep grabbing all the limelight, the mess in their bowling department hasn’t been highlighted much. So far, in the limited-overs leg of the tour (three IT20s and one ODI), English bowlers have taken only 11 Indian wickets, giving away 781 runs in 96.5 overs. It means their bowling attack averages 71 and has an economy rate of 8.09. Nether they have produced enough breakthroughs nor they have managed to stop the run-flow.
For many ‘Three Lions’ fans, these statistics may come as a surprise. When the bowlers, representing the top ODI team in the ICC ODI rankings, are in action, that too at their home conditions, a much better performance was expected.
However, it is not that this English attack has only struggled against the quality Indian batting unit. Last month, in an ODI, Scotland, ranked 13th according to ICC’s list of ODI teams, powered their way to a mammoth 371 for 5, with Calum MacLeod scoring a 94-ball 140.
So, what ails the English bowling attack?
Well, clearly there is not enough variety in their ranks.
Let’s dig deep.
The current England ODI squad has five right-arm seamers — Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett, Tom Curran, Jake Ball and Ben Stokes. Amongst them, apart from Curran (who is yet to play in this series), the rest four pacers bowl predictable lengths and lack variations like slower bouncers or wide yorkers, which are required in modern-day cricket to keep the opposition in check on flat batting tracks.
Furthermore, someone like Plunkett, who is England’s designated death bowler, has struggled with his line and length of late, offering too many freebies to the batters. He has tried to be innovative by bowling those slower balls and cutters, but there is a serious problem in his execution.
Wood, England’s other first-choice seamer had a decent outing against the Aussies, but at Old Trafford against the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, he leaked 55 runs in 6 overs. Earlier, in the Scotland fixture, Wood gave away 71 in his 10 overs. The English think-tank certainly expects more from its new prime seamer.
Only David Willey, the left-arm pacer in the squad, seems like a wicket-taking option for the host. He is a hit the deck kind of a bowler and can generate an awkward bounce from a length. In the T20I in Cardiff, which England won, Willey bowled superbly, dried up the run-scoring, which forced Indian batsmen to make mistakes.
Stokes is the other bowler who is capable of doing a similar sort of job. But, he is making a comeback in the scheme of things and yet to fully get into his grooves.
To make up for the toothless seam attack, ideally, England would have wanted wicket-taking options in the middle-overs. But unfortunately for them, their spin duo — Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid — are not attacking bowlers. They can not run-through a batting line-up like the Kudeelp-Chahal pair dose. Hence, in this England unit, both Ali and Rashid are used in such a way that Morgan can have some sanity in the proceedings.
And for obvious reasons, in this series against India, the pair hasn’t had much impact, as expected.
This ongoing limited-overs series between India and England is considered as a dress-rehearsal for next year’s World Cup. And the home fans should thank Kohli’s boys for exposing the loopholes in the English line-up. They have one year to sort this out otherwise, with such a shallow bowling attack, their fortunes will heavily depend upon the toss factor.