As Jos Buttler’s team lost to Sri Lanka on Thursday for the fourth time in five games, England’s World Cup title defence had gone about as terribly as it could have. Even skipper Buttler acknowledged that it has been difficult to comprehend how awful his team has played. Following Sri Lanka’s eight-wicket thumping, Buttler declared, “I’ll walk back in the dressing room and look at the players sat there and think how have we found ourselves in this position with the talent and skill that’s in the room.”
Prior to the competition, England’s selection policy was comparatively stable. Select the best five players, then share the fifth bowler position between Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone at six and seven. Adil Rashid and three quicks round out the starting XI. Although the team they chose supported that strategy, England wavered from their original plans, and the strategy hasn’t been solid from the outset of the competition. Each of the other lineups and batting orders has advantages, and one might legitimately argue that England would be better off using the six-best-batter or all-rounder balance.
However, the issue facing England is that there is a severe lack of consistency in selection since even those in charge don’t seem to be certain of the starting lineup. The majority of the participants appear uneasy and insecure as a result of the drastic cutting and altering, and the outcomes speak for themselves.
Confused at Toss
England lost two games after winning the toss and choosing to bowl first. It was an unclear choice in each instance. Afghanistan demonstrated their ability to chase down a respectable score against Pakistan, but their best chance of upsetting a team such as England was always going to come from getting off to a fast start with their gifted openers, amassing a respectable first-inning total, and then applying maximum pressure with their spinners. That’s precisely what England gave them permission to do. The choice made by England to toss versus South Africa was even more unexpected.
Selecting an XI consisting of just five primary bowling options—two of whom have a track record of injuries (Reece Topley and Mark Wood) and one who was noticeably ill (Adil Rashid)—and asking those five to bowl first on the third-hottest October day Mumbai has experienced in a decade was a major risk. The heat caused England’s attack to wither.
Lack of Adaptability
Following South Africa’s defeat, head coach Matthew Mott stated that the choice to bowl first was made on local statistics. Ignoring the wisdom of such a use of statistics, his remarks are consistent with the impression that England is adhering unduly to preconceived notions. With four bowling options in their lineup, England has made it obvious that they are targeting early wickets with new-ball swing. They will then use a combination of heavy speed and spin to control the middle overs. That hasn’t succeeded, but neither has England changed.
Buttler has occasionally shown signs of frustration when his side is on the pitch. He is not a captain who possesses the soft ability of controlling his emotions throughout a game. Since he is a wicketkeeper, it is also not feasible for him to see his bowlers on a regular basis during crisis situations, which have arisen alarmingly frequently this season. Buttler therefore required help. However, Moeen, his vice captain, who has usually taken on the job of communicator on the field, was left out of the England squad for their second, third, and fourth games, which meant he was unable to exert any influence when things went wrong, especially against Afghanistan and South Africa.