What can one of make of England’s performance in the World Cup so far? Try and comprehend this… they laboured to beat Netherlands, tied with India, lost of Ireland, came from behind to defeat South Africa and went down to Bangladesh in yet another thriller on Friday. All one conclude is that the Englishmen have been consistently inconsistent. And such performances will not take them too far in the tournament. As it is, they will now have to beat West Indies and hope Bangladesh lose one of their games to ensure the qualification into the quarter finals. In short, they find themselves in a highly precarious situation and will have to play out of their skins from here on.
Against Bangladesh, England flattered to deceive with both the bat and ball, which eventually ended in another shocking defeat for the battered Englishmen. After Shakib Al Hasan won the toss and surprisingly asked Andrew Strauss’ men to take first strike, England had a great chance to bat Bangladesh out of the game. But, they never looked it command during their innings. They cannot be faulted for adopting a cautious approach at the start. But, the problem was that no one kicked off after getting their eye in. Strauss, Matthew Prior and Ravi Bopara all got into double figures, but no one went on to make a substantial contribution. The only partnership of note was between Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan, who has replaced the injured Kevin Pietersen. Trott and Morgan batted with a lot of sense and purpose and looked on course to reviving the England innings. Unfortunately for the batting unit, both fell just when it seemed that the innings was on the upswing. At least one of the two needed to carry on. Instead, England lost the momentum and it was all downhill for them from there onwards. In hindsight, it was an utterly disappointing batting effort.
For England to make a comeback from there, they needed to put in an extremely disciplined and hard-hitting effort. But, the Bangladesh openers had totally different plans. Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes came out all guns blazing as Bangladesh looked set to pull off yet another upset. Until the pair was at the crease, England looked down and out for the count. But, England fought back well courtesy some disciplined bowling and fielding and an excellent spell by Ajmal Shahzad. The quickie’s three-wicket burst brought them right back into the game, and with Graeme Swann also supporting him ably, England seemed in firm control of the game. But, when it’s England expect the unexpected.
Just as the game seamed all but sealed, Mahmudullah and Shafiul Islam combined forces to leave England shell shocked. Importantly, it wasn’t a ‘slog all’ partnership and both the batsmen picked and chose their shots. England were clearly not prepared for this unexpected onslaught and were found wanting at the end. As the boundaries started coming, the England heads began to drop. In the end, Bangladesh cruised to victory in a sense as England yet again let their guard down when a pressure cooker situation arose.
The win will boost Bangladesh’s confidence no end. Following the disaster against West Indies, they needed a win like this to raise their sagging morale. The latest win means they are still alive in the competition and could pip England to sneak a place into the quarter finals. Of course, it will not be an easy task, but they will be buoyed nonetheless. The performance of the opening batsmen will give them a degree of assurance as they look ahead to the remaining to clashes. Bowling wise too they have been performing reasonably well. But, it is the middle-order batting that is Bangladesh’s biggest concern. They need to set things right over there. In spite of his inconsistency, the experience of Mohammad Ashraful should be given a chance yet again since the others haven’t done any better.
For the record, Bangladesh’s remaining two games in the league phase will be against Netherlands and South Africa. They should be able to overcome the former test, but the Proteas will be the big challenge for them. That said, they had, in fact, got the better of South Africa four years ago in the Caribbean. The win came on a sluggish pitch that assisted Bangladesh’s spinners and the South Africans succumbed to the pressure as their frailties on slower surfaces were exposed. In that context, Bangladesh would hold a distinct advantage as they are playing the South Africans at home this time. Home environs should give them a lot of confidence to come good on the big day. But, before that, they need to see off Netherlands. True, the Dutch have been going downhill ever since running the Englishmen close in the opening game. However, they showed marked improvements against India and hence cannot be underestimated.
Shifting focus to England, all they can do now is play out of their skins and beat West Indies. They need to also ensure that they improve their run-rate as much as possible in case that comes into the equation. Most importantly though, they need to get their mindset right. Somebody needs to come up with something magical or inspirational to get England’s thinking back on track. After all, beating West Indies will not be an easy task for them considering that the Caribbeans managed to crush the Irishmen, who had successfully chased down a mammoth England total and rewritten history.
A lot needs to go right for England in the game against the West Indies. Also, they need some degree of luck to boost their confidence, which has taken a definite battering. Strauss and coach Andy Flower need to put on their thinking caps on and assess the areas where England can show marked improvements. After all, they cannot afford any mistakes against the Windies else it would be all over for England. In short, it’s time for the think-tank to head to the drawing table and start from scratch all over again.
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