How Does England Get Back to their Glory Days in ODI Cricket?
On July 14, 2019 - England won its first-ever ICC World Cup with two men holding the silverware up high. The first being captain Eoin Morgan and the other being Ben Stokes, who was the man of the match in what was an epic final.
Fast forward to just about three years to 2022, both Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes have called it a day in the ODI format with the next World Cup edition only a year away. While this leaves a glaring hole in the middle-order (more to come later on), it also signals a transitional phase for England in white-ball cricket.
With a new coach in Matt Mott in place as well, England have a few key areas to work on if they are to get back to their glory days and successfully defend their crown come next year. So without further ado, here's some much-needed insight or rather, the key areas of concern for the English side under new captain and coach, Jos Buttler and Matthew Mott respectively!
#1 Middle Order Vacancies
As mentioned earlier, Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes, who occupied the number four and five spots in the batting unit in the last few years, have left a glaring gap in the batting unit. But it isn't as easy to fill as it seems. For starters, both Morgan and Stokes were the only left-handers in the top-six and were excelled players of spin who loved to counter-attack regardless of the situation.
While England has exceptional top-order batters to fall back on, a left-hander in the middle-order seems to be the biggest concern at the time of writing. A stop-gap option would be to promote Moeen Ali to the number five spot. Although he has floated around in the batting unit, Moeen is a good player of spin, adds balance to the side and is a clean striker of the cricket ball too.
England might actually go this way with not much time left to single out one from the domestic crop. But if they were to shortlist a few middle-order candidates, a couple stand out - Harry Brook, Sam Billings and James Rew. Harry Brook and Sam Billings are the best possible options given their ability against spin and their experience in other franchise leagues. Rew, on the other hand, was part of the ICC U-19 World Cup earlier in the year and has a playing style resembling that of Eoin Morgan's. Given the options that England have, the middle-order issue might not be a big one by any means yet one to resolve as soon as possible.
#2 Pace Troubles
On the next one, pacer troubles! A team that steamrolled oppositions in the previous World Cup are left fielding a pace attack of David Willey, Sam Curran and Reece Topley in the ongoing South Africa-England series. The aforementioned trio isn't bad at all but lack the experience and the star power associated with England. In fact, none of them featured in the previous edition as well. While Liam Plunkett has been cast away, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer are MIA.
While Chris Woakes is on the comeback trail, the duo of Wood and Archer have not been lucky with injuries over the last year or so. Both of them add a lot of variety and much-needed pace to the English attack, which looks one-dimensional. They have tried easing Brydon Carse into the mix but he still remains raw in terms of ability. The likes of George Scrimshaw and Ben Green are beginning to make a name for themselves but Archer and Wood remain the key to unlocking England's full potential.
#3 Second Spinner Conundrum
Last but not least, comes the second spinner puzzle. England have done well in the last few years in the middle-overs courtesy of two assets - a hit-the-deck-hard kind of pacer (Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood) and their spin duo of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali. While Rashid stands out as the best white-ball spinner in English cricket, Moeen chips in as the second spinner albeit inconsistently. Alas, a need for a genuine second spin option or even a back up option arises.
England has tried its hand in developing Matt Parkinson, who has not taken to international cricket well so far. There aren't many options to fall back on in the domestic circuit as well. However, a few names do pop out upon retrospection. While Matt Parkinson is the consensus favourite to lead the English spin attack in the future, a couple of promising spinners in Dan Moriarty, Jake Lintott, Rehan Ahmed and Callum Parkinson.
The only way is to test these options out for a few games although it may not happen in the next year or so. However, the English management will have to place their faith in one or two of the above with Rehan Ahmed's credentials shining the most.
All in all, England has its task cut out ahead of the all-important World Cup next year. While their batting continues to exude confidence and firepower, their bowling attack doesn't quite fall into the same category. But with brilliant options and a good coach at the helm, England will still walk into the tournament as one of the hot favourites. Only time will tell as to how England shape their future!