Following a disappointing result in the Test series, England’s limited-overs tour also delivered a mixed bag of emotions.
A couple of shaky performances led to a 2-2 scoreline in the ODI series, before the Windies were blown away in the T20s, their batting coming up short against England’s quicks (and Adil Rashid). While the ODI series may concern some, this result could prove to benefit England more than it hampers them. Any shreds of overconfidence within the camp will surely have been kept in check by the two defeats, both of which highlighted the would-be World Champions’ flaws.
Let’s be clear, England’s flaws aren’t exactly plentiful, and you would think that they’d be even fewer on home turf. That said, there were elements across all disciplines that will have irritated Eoin Morgan and the back-room staff, providing some useful focus for training sessions in the months ahead.
England’s batting line up is probably the best in ODI cricket right now, but only when the pitches are fast and flat. One would expect that most of the pitches during the World Cup will be of that nature, too, but if we cast our minds back to the 2017 Champions Trophy, it seems that there will be no guarantees. England’s semi-final defeat to Pakistan in that tournament came on a used pitch in Cardiff that was slower, and a bit more unpredictable than the ones used earlier in the tournament.
With the ICC’s regulations on re-using pitches during the latter stages of tournaments still in place, England will have to be ready to adapt should they reach the business end of this summer’s World Cup. They will know that, too, and that’s exactly why their defeat in the 5th ODI could prove to be extremely beneficial. Morgan admitted after the game that they didn’t adapt well enough, and so that will have to be put right in a few months’ time. If England are to win the World Cup for the first time, they will have to earn it by not just blazing 400-plus at Trent Bridge, but also by grinding out 260 on a worn pitch.
To pick or not to pick? That is the question that seems to have been on the lips of every pundit for the past few months when it comes to Jofra Archer. The Sussex seamer is undoubtedly a huge talent, and would provide England with a great option for the flat pitches we’re all expecting to see. His pace, athleticism in the field, and ability down the order with the bat would surely improve any limited-overs side. Whether it’s worth bringing him in from the cold at this late stage, however, is a divisive matter.
Firstly, there’s the argument that England shouldn’t rock the boat. Seamers Liam Plunkett and David Willey, who would likely be omitted were Archer to be called up, have been a part of our ODI transformation over the past 3 or 4 years. It would certainly be harsh to strip either of their World Cup spot, given their consistent performances over a lengthy period. Doing so would be out of character for Eoin Morgan, too, who has stuck by anyone he’s given an opportunity to with admirable loyalty.
Secondly, Archer hasn’t played any international cricket yet, so throwing him into a World Cup would be a risky ploy to say the least. His performances in franchise cricket have got everyone talking, but there’s a big difference between T20 domestic cricket and the World Cup. Plunkett, Willey, Wood, and Jordan all have more ODI experience than Archer, and that will likely prove the deciding factor when it comes to selecting the youngster or not.
It seems likely, at this stage, that Archer will be given plenty of opportunities after the tournament, and that the first XI to represent England this summer will be filled with familiar names.
Considering his struggles in the Test series, Adil Rashid had an outstanding limited-overs tour. In both the ODIs and, in particular, the T20s, he showed everyone exactly what a quality leg-spinner can do in white-ball cricket.
Although he may not play much cricket from here on in, he could prove to be one of England’s most important, influential players this summer. There are few doubts surrounding his ability and consistency on this stage; the main differential could be how teams approach his overs. If they’re smart, they’ll probably try to take him for four or five an over, rather than look to launch him into the stands every other ball. England will be hoping that teams do opt for the latter, because that approach will play right into their, and Adil Rashid’s, hands.
Aside from a one-off ODI in Ireland, which you can enjoy as a part of our Barmy Army Dublin tour, England’s last full series before the serious business gets underway is against Pakistan. They host the holders of the Champions Trophy in a five-match series from the 8th May. Twenty-two days later, they face South Africa in a tantalising tournament opener.
Expect to see some degree of experimentation in Ireland, but the main focus during the early months of the season should be on consistency. England need to use these next six ODIs to dust off any cobwebs, tinker with batting positions, and ensure that everything is perfected before May 30th. They will also be looking to beat Pakistan convincingly, so that everyone is confident and fully-prepared heading into the World Cup.