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England won only one of their four games in ICC World T20 2014. Bharath Ramaraj looks back at what was an enervated show put up by them in the mega event.
The England squad touched the shores of Bangladesh to take part in ICC World T20 2014 after a humiliating tour of Australia. The Ashes 2013-14 whitewash followed by a drubbing in the shorter formats of the game had left the England setup in a state of wreck. Even during the short tour to the Caribbean, they failed to impress in the Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is). With England’s best player in T20Is, Kevin Pietersen, shown the exit door unceremoniously, there didn’t seem to be much of a hope for them to make their mark in the tournament.
In the first game of the tournament, they took on a buoyant New Zealand line-up that had enjoyed success at home against India and West Indies. Riding on some solid performances by Michael Lumb, Moeen Ali and company, they reached a competitive total of 173. Unfortunately for England, thunderous forks of red-lightning and incessant rain meant that they lost the game via the Duckworth/Lewis (D/L) method.
It was followed by an unexpected victory against one of the tournament favourites in Sri Lanka. In that game, Alex Hales gave a glimpse of what Nottinghamshire cricket cognoscenti have come to expect of him. Power-packed shots twinned with timing. Flying on the wings of his hundred, England chased down the monstrous target of 190.
However that remarkable win turned out to be a false dawn. In the crucial encounter against South Africa, which was a must win game for England, they flattered to deceive with the ball. The England seamers backed their strategy of pitching on a short of a length. For a while it seemed to be working too. Inexplicably, the erratic Jade Dernbach decided to bowl fuller length. AB de Villiers with his flashing blade duly explored every crevice of the ground against Dernbach and the inexperienced Chris Jordan to take South Africa to a huge total. Even though, England’s batsmen gave a fine exhibition of batsmanship, they fell short by three runs.
The final nail in England’s coffin was the embarrassing loss to minnows the Netherlands. The loss was worse than even the nail-biting defeat they suffered at Lord’s against the men in orange in the ICC World T20 2009. While chasing a modest total, the England batsmen played like novices and didn’t seem to have a clue about rotating the strike on a deck that was on the slower side. That unquenchable desire and a single-minded focus to push the envelope in terms of performance was missing.
So, what positives can England take from a humiliating World T20 2014 campaign? Hales’s ability to notch up big scores is one of them. With a high back-lift, he generates a lot of power especially, in the arc between the long-on and long-off region. Lumb fired in fits and starts, but he continues to be troubled by the slower bowlers. Ravi Bopara had a fine tournament, but one expects more from him. Ali showed flashes of brilliance, but he is still very raw.
England’s bowling and fielding was way below par. Sitters were dropped and the bowlers didn’t even get their basics right — a far cry from it being a symbol of excellence that one saw from England when they lifted the World T20 2010 trophy in the Caribbean. The England think-tank needs to answer tough questions now. The present line-up is akin to a rudderless ship that has no vision or direction and is about to sink. Stuart Broad‘s wasn’t great as a leader either. He was tactically poor and undoubtedly there are question marks over his captaincy.
Sport sometimes is similar to a novel with full of twists and turns that keep unfolding with every chapter. Even last year, England cricket seemed to be in good health. But ever since they embarked on a trip to Australia to defend the Ashes, it has been a long downhill path for them. Their embarrassing loss to the Netherlands in the World T20 2014 was a true reflection of a setup that is completely devoid of confidence. But hope springs eternal and the next chapter in the annals of English cricket may still be one that of resurgence.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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