OPINION: England’s Year – Win Percentage Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

Having completed a 4-0 series whitewash against Sri Lanka last week, England have reached the end of their busiest year ever, and the time seems to have come to reflect on the preceding 12 months. The latest press release from the ECB tells us that during 2016, England have played 26 matches across all formats of the game, and won 21 of them – giving them a win percentage of 81%.

Now of course that is pretty impressive. (For the record, in 2015 their win percentage was 50% – 6 games won, 6 games lost across all formats.) But it’s also pretty obvious that a team’s win percentage doesn’t tell the whole story of their year.

For England, given that nearly half of their victories (10 games in total – about 48%) have come against teams we would have expected them to easily beat anyway (Sri Lanka and Pakistan), it’s perhaps more pertinent to look at the lost games – and particularly at the manner in which they were lost.

Of the 5 games in which England were defeated in 2016, 3 of them were lost when chasing. More significantly, all 3 of these losses were matches which, at the half-way stage in their chase, England looked on course to win easily:

1. The WWT20 semi-final. England chasing 132, and at the 10-over mark were 67-1, coasting along. They subsequently collapsed to finish on 127-7, missing out on a spot in the final by 5 runs.

2. The second ODI in the Caribbean at the Trelawny Stadium. England were chasing 148, were 56-3 after 24 overs – and collapsed to 110 all out.

3. The fourth ODI at Sabina Park. Target 224. England reached 95 before losing their first wicket. They were all out for 181.

I’ll mention one other match here which England did ultimately win: the final ODI in Sri Lanka. Nonetheless, it’s pertinent that at one point England were 58-6 in this game, following a rather embarrassing middle-order collapse. They ended up reliant on Nat Sciver and Dani Hazell to bat out of their skins in order to take them to respectable total. Against almost any other team in world cricket, being 58-6 at any point would have been fatal.

When Mark Robinson sacked his best batsman, back in May, his justification was that the rest of the team were “hiding behind” Charlotte Edwards. The argument seemed to go as follows: when Edwards gets out, the rest of the team no longer believe that they have the capacity to win the game. That’s when the collapse happens. Get rid of her, and other players will step up; get rid of her, and the problem disappears.

I never quite bought this argument. And the evidence above seems to suggest that I was right. Old weaknesses die hard, and the tendency for England to collapse in a heap doesn’t seem to have vanished quite yet.

I don’t want to put a downer on what has been a pretty positive 6 months for England – with the rise of Alex Hartley; the exciting debut of Sophie Ecclestone; the return of Fran Wilson from the wilderness; and a new captain in Heather Knight who seems to be relishing the responsibility. But ignoring a problem, pretending it no longer exists, isn’t going to make it go away. It certainly isn’t going to win you a World Cup.

The last time the Women’s World Cup was played in England, back in 1993, England had a coach – Ruth Prideaux – who knew that so much of cricket is mental. She had her players chanting “we will win”, at a time when sports psychology wasn’t even a thing. It paid off. England beat Australia, got to the final, and won it. Afterwards, most of the players recognised that believing they could do it was one of the most crucial factors in that victory.

Do England have the players at their disposal who can win a World Cup? Yes, I’d say they do. But whether they’ve got it in them mentally is another question entirely. So many of their losses in recent years haven’t been to do with talent, but with not being able to withstand the mental pressure that comes when you know you should be able to make the runs, but you just aren’t quite sure if you can do it. That’s when the collapse happens.

Unfortunately for England fans, you won’t get much greater psychological pressure over the course of a career than playing in a home World Cup. It’s going to be a stern test. If I was Mark Robinson, I know what I’d be focusing on this winter – and let’s just say it wouldn’t be cardio training.

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14 thoughts on “OPINION: England’s Year – Win Percentage Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

  1. Three words for Mark Robinson ‘Dr Stephen Peters’

    The England team has talent but as I’ve also said before the core batsmen have suffered or struggled all too often at the hands of our closest rivals and then shown fragility under pressure in subsequent series.

    There will be no significant infusion of batting talent for a while it seems, although a refreshed and unleashed Sarah Taylor in the middle order would give the team a boost for the summer.

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  2. Typical over negative article by you Raf.
    Yes it will be a big ask to win the World Cup, even the coach has said that. There are some deep scars there which need to heal.The surrender in the semi final and the disappointment of the ashes is the reason why the changes have been made.
    This is a new team who so far have shown really positive signs of going in the right direction.
    Don’t belittle their acheivements but celebrate them.

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    • I am not belittling their achievements or being negative – I actually specifically say in the piece that they have had a positive 6 months overall – did you skip that bit?! The point is that England are going to face much stiffer opposition next year than Pakistan or Sri Lanka, and glossing over problems with their mental approach to batting isn’t going to do them any favours in the long run. It’s called being a realist!

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  3. You keep saying that Charlotte Edwards was “sacked”. She was not. She chose to retire after being dropped for the 2016 internationals. Think it may be time to look forward rather than backwards.

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    • “Looking backwards” would be calling for Edwards to return. I have not done that in any way, shape or form. I am looking forwards, trying to assess what this team – the one we currently have – need to do to win the World Cup next year. That’s the whole point of the piece.

      And we will have to agree to disagree about the “sacking”. If you are told by your coach that he no longer sees any place for you in the team – as captain or player – that is being sacked as far as I am concerned.

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  4. You do make some good points Raf. If Enland are going to progress in the compition it is important they avoid fatal batting collapses. They are no different to any other team in that aim though,
    I do think that you should be highlighting the revival in the 4th ODI in Sri Lanka as a positive. If they had been bowled out for 100 we could have been looking at an upset. Instead they showed the necessary character to get out of trouble and post a match winning score. Marsh and Langston also playing their part here too. Also to win the batting second to clinch the series in the WI when batting first was so obviously crucial, is surely another sign that the team is starting to learn how to win in tough situation.
    Charlotte has gone and it is tedious that you keep referring back to her every time something doesn’t go quite right for the girls.

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  5. I had the benefit of being at the final ODI in Colombo and to call it a “middle order batting collapse” if grossly unfair. The wicket was on its 4th match and the Sri Lankan slow bowlers did a fantastic job of bowling in good areas, exploiting the turn and bounce in the wicket. Dani and Nat and then Laura Marsh did very well to get the total to 240, incidentally all of the above bat in the middle of the order.
    In the resulting run chase on the following day England made quick work of the Sri Lankan line up to wine by 162 runs, you can only beat the team in front of you and the steps made by England have been positive ones.

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    • If the 4th, 5th and 6th wickets are not ‘middle order’ then what is ‘middle order’ ? If the middle order starts with the 7th wicket partnership, can you advise what you would call the 4th, 5th and 6th wickets.

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    • That’s interesting, thanks. Obviously it’s hard to tell the whole story just by following an online scorecard. Hope you enjoyed the match.

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  6. “Satisfactory but with caution” – that’s basically all that Raf has stated in this article. It’s not heresy.

    A year in which we blew a world cup, beat the 7th and 8th best team in ODI and narrowly beat a West Indies team 3-2, whose current ODI capabilities extends to losing to India 0-3. Can anyone rate this as reason for unbridled joy ? The sequence of matches in the ICC World Championship dealt us a ‘no-win’ series of series in which the best one can achieve is to simply win them and the best emotion is satisfaction.

    Highlighting losing a world cup to a batting collapse (which at the time was nothing new and clearly irritated the hell out of Robinson) and highlighting repeat ‘offences’ of this nature during 2016 is hardly looking back. It’s entirely reasonable to use these events to support a cautious view of the future. Robinson’s dismantling of the previous Academy structure tells us everything we need to know about its likelihood of producing a production line of international players. He wasn’t happy with it. Robinson’s ‘removal’ of Edwards and Greenway (whether right or wrong) removes a massive amount of experience from the team and is further reason for caution, especially given how under-exposed most of our players are in Ashes and World Cup level matches. Caution isn’t criticism.

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  7. Your right to an extent Clanger. The message should be one of cautious optimism going forward. My complaint with the article is most of the attention is on negative points and there is only a small paragraph given to anything positive and why there has to be references to Edwards again I don’t know.
    Yes they beat Pakistan and should have done of course but it was the manner of how it was done with records broken that was exciting.
    Yes they should have beaten Sri Lanka but again it was the margin of the wins, that was encouraging, bigger than Australia’s in their recent tour.
    Lots of us didn’t expect us to win in the WI but we did.
    They have also won without Taylor and without Shrubsole. Brunt also missed some games in Sri Lanka. Who would have thought that was possible this time last year.
    Yes they need to avoid collapsing but as WL highlights, there are signs they are beginning to learn. Weren’t we also 50 odd for 5 in the first ODI in the West Indies and recovered to win.
    i don’t expect us to win the World Cup but I am encouraged and excited by how our girls are going.

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  8. I will support Raf on this one, there is a case for cautious optimism and this needs to be demonstrated by examples where an issue remains.

    England will not play enough ‘tough’ games or fixtures against their strongest opponents pre-world cup to banish the demons by results alone. Instead need positive reinforcement of their batting talent.

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