Sorting by


What England’s XI against Australia tells us about their muddled thinking

AHMEDABAD — England head into a showdown against Australia on Saturday that Joe Root has described as the team’s Cricket World Cup final with a number of selection dilemmas following a shocking campaign.

With five defeats in six matches so far, the defending champions have long been out of the running for the semi-finals and another loss on Saturday would mathematically knock them out.

Under normal circumstances, the rebuild of this ageing 50-over team that will surely come ahead of the 2027 World Cup in southern Africa would start now.

With 11 players in the 15-man squad over the age of 30 and just one in Harry Brook under 25, this would normally be seen as a perfect time to introduce some fresh blood. The likes of Brook, Brydon Carse and Gus Atkinson are all deserving of a chance in the final three games against Australia, the Netherlands and Pakistan. Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali, to name three, surely aren’t going to be part of England’s ODI plans after this nightmare World Cup is over so why play them now?

The decision by David Willey this week to announce he is retiring from international cricket after the tournament would under normal circumstances mean he should miss the final three games. Why would you pick a bowler who is not going to be available for next month’s tour of the Caribbean let alone the next World Cup?

However, the curveball of qualification for the 2025 Champions Trophy and England’s need to finish in the top eight of the standings to get to Pakistan in two years’ time means they will be tempted to stick with their “Dad’s Army” rather than change things up.

The confusion over the new Champions Trophy qualification criteria – with World Cup finishing positions rather than rankings now used – was summed by under-fire England coach Matthew Mott admitting he had only been made aware of it during his team’s doomed run chase against India in Lucknow last Sunday.

Despite the fact the International Cricket Council (ICC) decided to change the way teams qualify for their second-most important 50-over tournament in November 2021, it only became widely publicised when UK journalists in Lucknow were briefed about it last weekend, with England only finding out when they were asked about it by reporters covering the team.

It means there is plenty riding on these last three matches and England, as tempted as they might be to switch up selection, are likely to not to deviate too much from the unchanged XIs they selected for the defeats against Sri Lanka and India.

Two wins will be needed in the last three games to avoid the ignominy of failing to qualify for the Champions Trophy. The stakes are high too, with former captain Eoin Morgan admitting he thought Mott would probably be sacked if that humiliating scenario came to pass.

So Stokes, a specialist when it comes to facing the Aussies but who will surely retire again from 50-over cricket after this tournament, Woakes and Willey will all probably remain in the XI for Saturday.

The case of Willey is interesting. He said in his retirement statement he would give his all if selected in any of the last three games. Of that there is no doubt but the timing of his announcement, after he was the only member of the World Cup squad not to receive a central contract last week, was a massive two fingers up to England and fuelled rumours of squad disharmony. But he has been one of England’s best players during an otherwise hapless campaign so how do you drop him?

Cricket - ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 - England Practice - Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad, India - November 2, 2023 England's David Willey during practice REUTERS/Andrew Boyers
David Willey has announced he will retire from international cricket at the end of the World Cup (Photo: Reuters)

“They are decisions to be made by the coach and the captain,” Root said of whether Willey should be picked. “Only Dave will be able to tell you how he’s come to that decision and why he’s made it now. “But you talk about David Willey: the thing you can never look past is his professionalism. By announcing his retirement it’s made these three games as big as they can be for him.”

England certainly have a point to prove after what has turned out to be perhaps the worst World Cup defence by any champion in any sport. Pride, and a place in the Champions Trophy, is there to play for. Whether they can actually break a confidence-sapping cycle of four successive losses remains to be seen. But expect them to hold rather than fold when it comes to picking their team to face the Australians.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button