England’s one-day cricket has been a breath of fresh air since the World Cup but this series has provided a reality check.
Their style of cricket has been so much better than what we saw at the World Cup and I love the positive way they bat. Performance levels have risen individually and collectively.
But you do not win a World Cup playing one way. You have to be smart sometimes and use your brain. England did not do that in the final two matches of the series and let South Africa steal a win.
I watched the last two matches closely and it was as if the players had an excuse for getting out. They say ‘it is the way we play’. But a savvy team becomes world champions by realising that there is more than one way to bat.
England seem to think they can make 330-350 on any surface. By going hard at the Wanderers and Cape Town they ended up miles short and not batting out their overs. Failing to bat the full overs is a cardinal sin in 50-over cricket. It is OK to be bowled out with five or six balls to go but five or six overs is schoolboy cricket.
Sometimes you have to realise you need an old school method. It is the job of the top four to set the tone and realise what is a good score for the pitch they are playing on. They need good communication to say ‘no it is not 330, it is a 270 pitch’.
Their strike rate does not have to be 100 every time they bat. It is not possible when the ball is swinging around.
England have more talent than ever before in white ball cricket but just need to be a little cleverer and keep up their standards for a whole series. What surprised me was the level of fielding. They are all good fielders but made too many mistakes and missed chances cost you against a good team.
It is about concentration. Their minds switched off at key moments. It is a skill in itself to concentrate in the field. It is like the routine of batting. But it is an area England can master. It is just down to putting in the same hard work to fielding as they do batting and bowling.
They have been praised a lot recently and rightly so. Now they have to take some criticism and accept they are not the finished article. Maybe this is a handy warning sign for them at this stage of their development.
It can’t all be blamed on inexperience. Eoin Morgan is one of the most experienced players in the team but he has played some ridiculous shots. You want him to be aggressive but there comes a time, particularly on a Cape Town pitch doing a bit, when you have to hang in for a while.
It does put him under a bit of pressure as captain. He has managed the team well for a year but to lose 3-2 having been 2-0 up is a blow.
Next month he takes the team to India for a World Twenty20. It is staggering to me they have not got a spin bowling coach. Playing spin will be crucial and they have picked three spinners who have never played international cricket in India. The exclusion of Stephen Parry surprised me and to not have spin bowling coach as well looks to be a big oversight for an
England set up that prides itself on being good at the small details.
Eoin has had one World Cup disaster already. Since then he has taken the team down a different path and success has built expectation. I now expect them to do well and be competitive in India. There is a pressure on them to succeed whereas in the past we have given them little chance of winning.
Joe Root is crucial to their success in all forms of the game now. He makes batting look too easy. He scores at such a high level of intensity. He is the ultimate player who has managed to turn what used to be high risk shots into medium risk and medium into low risk. It is all through good preparation and work ethic of always wanting to improve. He is a model player for everyone to watch and aspire to be.
Alex Hales has got something and it is worth giving him another run of games at the top of the order to see if he can adapt to Test match cricket. He plays good, strong cricket shots and has to do that in Test cricket. He drives hard, punches the ball, flicks off his hips and pulls well. Those are very successful shots in Test cricket too. He just needs that inner belief that he can make the transition to Test cricket. Don’t be daunted by batting a long time. He has done his chances of staying in the Test team no harm at all.
Jason Roy is typical of this team. He has a lot of talent, is wonderful on the eye but gets out. Batting is about staying in and he has to make starts count. Once he gets to 20 he should go on and make a score.
The good thing for England is they have so many talented players waiting in the wings giving them lots of options. For example, James Vince could come in to the side or James Taylor bat at three with Root moving up to open. It is a healthy environment to have because it puts individuals under pressure if they have a bad series.