England at the Cricket World Cup


Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

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Image by Ben Sutherland

By George Roberts

ENGLAND’S DEFENCE of their ODI World Cup was at best lacklustre and at worst abysmal. This is the first men’s team to hold both the T20 and the ODI World Cups simultaneously and a team that contains 11 players who played in 2019 in the 2023 squad.

True, one Australian has replaced another with Matthew Mott taking over from Trevor Bayliss as coach; Eoin Morgan was the captain and now it’s Jos Butler; but aside from that England’s top three run scorers from 2019 were playing this time and two of the three top wicket-takers also playing. Jofra Archer was the third but he missed out through injury. In other words, this is a squad with proven champions.

So, what happened? How can a team of such vast experience be so dreadfully out of form? What preparation did the team have this time round? “England played 88 ODIs between the 2015 and 2019 World Cups com-pared with 43 between 2019 and 2023”, I hear you declaim. That is indeed true but the picture is more nuanced than that.

2015-2019* 2019-2023* % played in comparison to 2015-2019
England 88 43 48.86%
India 86 71 82.55%
Australia 76 50 65.79%
New Zealand 76 49 56.58%
South Africa 74 46 62.16%
Pakistan 80 42 52.50%
Bangladesh 62 59 95.16%
Sri Lanka 85 61 71.76%
Afghanistan 63 39 61.90%
Netherlands 2^ 40 -

Naturally, the Covid-19 pandemic severely impacted the ability of na-tions to play international cricket. England have had the largest percentage drop in matches but have still played more games, just, than Pakistan and Afghanistan, both of whom finished above them. The gap to Australia is only seven games, to New Zealand six, and South Africa three. This is hardly a significant number of games and is certainly not significant when the top three of Malan, Bairstow, and Root have played 304 ODI games between them. Woakes, Willey, and Rashid have been involved in 328 between them.

Although 11 out of the 17-strong squad were retained from 2019, significantly the leadership has changed. Matthew Mott took over as white ball coach in May 2022. Before, he successfully led Australia Women to two World Cups, held on to the Women’s Ashes four times, and won the Sheffield Shield (the Australian First Class Competition) with the New South Wales Blues at the first time of asking. So, he is a coach with a serious pedigree. However, his record at the helm with England leading up to the World Cup has been mixed, playing 29, winning 13, and losing 14.

Jos Butler was appointed as Eoin Morgan’s replacement as white-ball captain in June 2022 and has played 26 games, since then winning ten and losing 14. A record that is poor on paper however Morgan endured a similarly poor start to his captaincy. He lost 13 of his first 26 games in charge. At the 2015 World Cup, he won two out of six as opposed to three out of nine this time round. Butler had played 151 games before tak-ing charge scoring his runs at 39.68. His average as captain, however, is 33.64. Although it has increased in IT20s. By comparison, Morgan’s average increased from 39.29 over his career to 42.29 as captain. Albeit Morgan’s sample size is much larger having captained in 118 of his 248 ODIs.

The cricketing world was full of praise when Butler was appointed white-ball captain. Former Yorkshire all-rounder, Azeem Rafiq said “the minute I met him it was obvious Jos had everything about him that you look for in a leader”. Warren Hegg, formerly of England and now Cricket Operations man-ager at Lancashire CCC and the Manchester Originals, said “Listening to his team talks, when he speaks, people listen”. Notwithstanding that he won the T20 World Cup in 2022, it would be hard to argue that England have picked an inadequate captain.

It is hard, therefore, to lay the blame at Mott’s and Butler’s doorstep. As the adage tells us, cricket is a team sport made up of individuals. So, let us look at the XI that triumphed by 93 runs against Pakistan in the last game of the World Cup.

ODIs played between 2019-2023 % of total played
Dawid Malan 20 46.51%
Jonny Bairstow 24 55.81%
Joe Root 24 55.81%
Ben Stokes 13 30.23%
Jos Butler 27 62.79%
Harry Brook 6* 50.00%^
Moeen Ali 31 72.09%
Chris Woakes 15 34.88%
David Willey 21 47.83%
Gus Atkinson 50.00%^
Adil Rashid 27 62.72%

This is a team that simply hasn’t played enough cricket in the last four years. Whilst rotation is important, there have to be more opportunities to let the first choice players play and to work out the ideal team. It was only in the last two games against Netherlands and Pakistan did England use the same team consecutively. During the World Cup it was clear that England were short on cricket, short on runs, and short on wickets. They hit only the 11th highest score in the tournament whilst suffering the fourth greatest defeat by 229 runs at the hands of the South Africans. Dawid Malan was their highest run scorer, but only 11th overall, and Ben Stokes next in 28th. Adil Rashid took the 14th most wickets with David Willey next in at 23rd.

Perhaps even more importantly, England played only six games on the Indian sub-continent since 2019. Three against India in March 2021, losing 2-1, before journeying to Bangladesh in March 2023, winning 2-1. The England teams in both felt rel-atively familiar bar a few exceptions: Jason Roy played all six of these games; Ben Stokes only played the India games; James Vince and Phil Salt played all the Bangladesh games. Notably, Joe Root nor David Willey played in either of these series.

Hundred has had a seismic impact on English domestic cricket since its first edition in 2021. Owing to the schedule, it forces players to choose between county, List A fixtures against depleted county sides or the Hundred against international elite players. For the up and coming limited overs player it is an obvious choice. Previously, there had been a clear pathway to the England One-Day side. Now however, Gus Atkinson made his England debut after two List A games.

With only eight ODIs scheduled from now until the end of the 2024 summer and with the Hundred looking likely to clash with the domestic One-Day competition for the foreseeable future, and with many players approaching retirement, England’s chances at the Champions Trophy in 2025 look slim. The future looks uncertain for English ODI cricket and, indeed, for how long ODI cricket will be played.