“With meticulous planning and unforeseen hunger, England’s World Cup preparations are in full swing and this time they aren’t leaving any bases uncovered. All they need is for the rains to stay far, far away”
A year and a half ago in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy back home, England found themselves in murky waters against Pakistan at Cardiff. Surprisingly, the men leading the charge for Pakistan weren’t the spinners, instead, it was their quicker men, but the holding role that Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Hafeez did derail England, the favourites of the tournament.
It culminated in another disastrous multi-nation tournament for England but they weren’t prepared to mourn over their fate and peg themselves back. They didn’t have to. In the past three years, England have not just gotten better at batting, they have become better at ironing out their glaring flaws which include their woes against spin.
While India are the unqssuunas champions in playing spin with a batting average of 58.27 in the past three years in ODIs, England follow closely on their heels with 56.83. Take into account that this Root-led side played in India, Bangladesh, West Indies and UAE in this time frame and you see why England would rue the fact that they couldn’t ace the test at Cardiff on that fateful night.
Yet preparation for World Cups are almost always more diligently done, particularly if you are favourites. England have swamped themselves with matches in Sri Lanka followed by West Indies to ensure they are indeed well prepared to face another Cardiff kind of wicket.
“Our record against spin is right up there, if not the best in the world over the last couple of years,” Root said as revealed by ESPNcricinfo. “We’ve done a lot of hard work over the last three of four years, but we still have a lot of developing and improving to do to be No. 1 in the world for a long time, and to challenge in the World Cup.
The challenge they are likely to face in England from spin bowlers is greatly reduced by the kind of pitches but in a World Cup, all it takes is one match on such a wicket to undo all the hard work and England aren’t ready to succumb to another one.
The frustration that ensued from the washout at Dambulla emerged from the unquenchable thirst to taste success against spin on spin-friendly surfaces. The Sri Lankan tour is to iron out memories of an uncharacteristic collapse against Kuldeep Yadav a few months back. It is these one-off instances that England are looking to eliminate. They have bulldozed ODI cricket for the past three years and aren’t prepared to leave any stone unturned before the ultimate challenge comes up.
“This series just another opportunity to put some experience in the bank for the World Cup, if the wickets there are slow in the latter stages and are starting to turn. Hopefully, from tours like this we’ll have had success in different conditions,” Root said.
It is an experience England cannot miss out on – testing themselves against the Lankan spinners on sluggish surfaces. Lakshan Sandakan and Akila Dananjaya bring the kind of mystery factor that England don’t face too often. That they are still vulnerable against these kinds of bowlers came to the fore when Kuldeep scythed through them in the T20Is and one ODI.
When odds are stacked against them, England need to learn to bank on patience, survive and come out blazing in the death overs. This is one major takeaway they will look to carry from the two forthcoming series’. “To do that it’s important to understand the rhythm of batting here is very different to back home. The way we structure setting a target or chasing one down might be very different to how we go about it at home,” Root said.
Jason Roy at the top, for instance, is someone England rely on for quick starts. But the opener has a pretty gaping weakness against spin, in particular, left-arm spin, that Sri Lanka could look to exploit early on. Roy himself, is wary of his weakness and knows that teams try to suffocate him with spin early on but he is well prepared to counter the threat.
“It is something we have been working on in the nets. The first thing I face is spin, so I am ready for whatever they throw at me. It’s not anything new. Other teams have tried to do that in the past, it’s the way the game is,” Roy said as revealed by The Guardian.
With meticulous planning and unforeseen hunger, England’s World Cup preparations are in full swing and this time they aren’t leaving any bases uncovered. All they need is for the rains to stay far, far away.