Lutters’ World Cup lines (part eight)

FINALLY the England fans and, by the sounds of it, team are put out of their World Cup misery by a very impressive Sri Lankan side.

The winter started so well with a triumphant Ashes campaign, and ended with a whimper in Colombo.

The whole winter has taken its toll on the various England squads, and the admission of Sussex skipper Michael Yardy’s depression and subsequent flight home only shows the pressure and stamina that an overseas tour of around five or six months requires from a player.

Everyone in cricket wishes Yardy (who is a really nice bloke, by the way) the very best as he tries to deal with his issues, and even Geoff Boycott may have to admit that perhaps his comments were ill-advised about the Sussex man.

I’ve no doubt that he will get the very best support from ECB and Sussex in the coming weeks and months, and will almost certainly seek advice from Marcus Trescothick, who suffered from the same thing.

Back to the cricket, England’s luck certainly ran out with their 10-wicket drubbing at the hands of the co-hosts. The whole tournament has been badly managed by both coaching staff and captain in my opinion.

Michael Vaughan, who can’t seem to keep his mouth shut now he’s retired (people in glass houses, I know), has said that Strauss’ days as one-day captain are running out, and I would tend to agree. Strauss is a very good Test match captain, but his tactics are naïve in the limited overs game. It’s fair to say that he hasn’t been helped with some bizarre selections from coach Andy Flower.

It’s no surprise that the four teams in the semi-finals have regularly played with three spinners. Asian pitches are world renowned for being very spin-friendly, and very seamer-unfriendly, but England (and they were not alone, Australia and South Africa did the same thing) pig-headedly continued to pick just two spinners and sometimes just one. Questions will need answering by the selectors over that particular policy.

As a result, England’s bowling attack was essentially toothless (although the effort can’t be faulted), and they were backed up with some pretty average fielding for much of the tournament, which is inexcusable.

It was not only the bowling and fielding that should expect criticism; the batting was not great either. It was interesting to watch the batting styles of both teams. England doggedly stayed in their crease and hit just 12 boundaries in their 50 overs. The Sri Lankans (and we only saw two of them) however disrupted the England bowlers’ length by leaving their crease and smashed 22 boundaries, plus three sixes.

There will be some that say Jonathan Trott batted too slowly. He is currently the leading run scorer in the competition and without him England would have taken an earlier flight home.

It is fine to have someone bat through an innings, but the others need to look to push the score on by playing attacking shots where possible. Ian Botham, bore though he is, made a good point that the Sri Lankans played no reverse sweeps in their 10-wicket victory, whereas England seem almost obsessed by the shot. It looks good when it comes off, but it’s premeditated and if the ball’s not there for it, the batsman just looks silly.

I think England’s problem is this: they are good at Test cricket because they know exactly what they want/need to do, and do it. In the 50-over game they have no concrete plans, and it shows. It was always going to be a tough ask to win the tournament in the sub-continent because we haven’t got the bowlers who can utilise the conditions as well as other teams. Injuries obviously didn’t help, but the England management need to sit down and devise a plan. It will probably be a plan that doesn’t include Andrew Strauss as captain (although he will probably remain a player), which is a shame, because although some blame can be attributed to him, you can easily argue that he didn’t have the tools to work with.

All-in-all, the squad will almost certainly be pleased to get back home and put their feet up for a couple of weeks. This winter’s schedule could have caused untold damage to the squad mentally, with too many games and too much travel having a massive effect on the players’ ability to perform at the required level; Jimmy Anderson is probably the best example of this, as well as Michael Yardy.

The domestic season starts soon, but I wouldn’t expect to see too many of the squad playing in the traditional friendlies against the universities.

And who will win the World Cup? I honestly have no idea, except I think that New Zealand are probably the weakest of the four teams that are left. Whatever the outcome, the tournament has been a good one, if a little long.

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