It was close… but not close enough for England, as they lost their second game in the World Cup to the surging West Indians, leaving them level on zero points from two games, at the bottom of the table with Bangladesh and Pakistan.
How much trouble are England in? Mathematically speaking, not that much: if they win all their remaining games, they still have a c. 99%* chance of qualifying. But that 1% is crucial – as things stand, their destiny is not in their own hands, so that even if they win all their remaining games, they could still find themselves missing out on a spot in the semi-finals.
More significantly, they’ve lost their “insurance policy” – with 3 of the big 5 still left to play (New Zealand, South Africa and India) if they lose again, they really are in a much more precarious situation. They would then very-much be dependent on other results, with only a 57% chance of qualifying even if they finished with 4 wins and 3 losses.
How did we get here? The general consensus against Australia was that England played pretty well – certainly their best ODI performance of the winter… though arguably that isn’t saying much after their Ashes drubbing!
But there were a few warning signs against Australia – they bowled 9 wide deliveries, conceding 21 runs (more than Australia’s margin of victory) in the process and the front-line seamers (Brunt, Shrubsole and Cross) took only 1 wicket, with Nat Sciver chipping in two more.
Against the Windies, the wides got worse – 13 wide deliveries, conceding 23 runs – and again the seam attack struggled to take wickets. After these two matches, the combined figures for the front-line seamers are 1-292.
The runs conceded to wides are a little bit of an occupational hazard of Amy Jones standing up to the stumps, which comes with some big advantages – not just the obvious one of more stumping opportunities, but because it forces the batters to be constantly worrying about being stumped, restricting their shot options coming out of the crease.
Nonetheless, 22 wide deliveries in two games is too many – Australia bowled just two versus England, and that should be the benchmark.
The inability to take wickets though is more worrying, because it has been “A Thing” since at least last summer – remember the last day of the Test v India? Yes, there were dropped catches; but they were mainly tough chances. (Nasser Hussein is very good – he is really leading this commentary team from the front, as he did so often when he captained England – but he was a little harsh on Lauren Winfield-Hill’s first-ball drop of Dottin – she had a long way to move, and only got anywhere near it because she was so sharp.)
Kate Cross can point to a spinner-like Economy Rate of 3.6 from 10 overs in mitigation; but the justification for playing her as well as Brunt, Shrubsole and Sciver – meaning England have a very samey, right-arm, medium paced, seam attack – is that she has been taking wickets in ODIs, not her economy.
Surely something has to change now, especially after Lauren Winfield-Hill failed again? As I’ve said before, LWH one of the BEST people in the game, but she’s not scoring runs in a spot that could be given-over to allowing England more bowling options, which they clearly need because Heather Knight was reduced to bowling herself for 7 overs, while clearly looking physically uncomfortable.
Here’s what I’d do for the next match, from the players available. (Remember, Lauren Bell is not available – she can’t be subbed into the squad unless someone gets COVID.):
Yes Davies is another right-arm medium, and Farrant’s left-arm would add a bit of Salt’N’Vinegar to the variety pack; but Davies does give you more control, which England also need.
England’s World Cup isn’t over by any means, and the result against Australia shows that they can mix it with the best on their day, but the current bowling line-up is looking stale. It’s probably unfair to single out Anya Shrubsole… but I’m going to do it anyway: she was getting a lot of swing, but it was the same swing every delivery, even the slower balls, and the batters know it’s coming, so it didn’t trouble them.
And now it’s England who are in trouble.
* The exact maths employed here assumes no games are rained off (because there are still too many scenarios remaining (about 10.5 billion!) to do the numbers including rain on my little laptop!) but the percentages will be broadly correct.