Don Topley: England must improve tactics and selection if they are to truly contend in World Cup
PUBLISHED: 10:33 28 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:04 30 June 2019
In his latest cricket column, Don Topley talks about England's World Cup performance so far and praises County Championship contenders Essex.
England's hopes of qualifying for the World Cup semi-finals are still in their own hands but any more sloppy cricket tomorrow could see them lose control of chasing their dream of winning a World Cup, on home soil.
Several people have criticised the ten-team schedule of this World Cup - it's too long, or not enough teams are participating etc. However, with a complete round-robin the top four sides on form will naturally qualify for the semi-finals.
In a strange way it's been kind to England as they have now lost three matches (Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia) and are still in this World Cup - that's quite remarkable. In a ten-team event clearly you can't have quarter-finals.
England's fielding badly let them down v Pakistan; their batting surprisingly let them down v Sri Lanka and only a few days ago England bowled particularly poorly upfront v Australia, in helpful bowling conditions.
Chris Woakes apart, Jofra Archer had his worst day in England colours, together with a poor Mark Wood. They both bowled two lengths (too short or too full) and allowed the Aussies easy scoring opportunities on a wicket that offered much help to the seamers.
To be brutally honest it was not clever bowling at all, where disciplined bowling was the order of the day. Tight, boring and probably predictable bowling, by pitching it up, allowing the ball to swing and/or seam, but most importantly, targeting the three pieces of wood, namely, the stumps.
You cannot get dismissed, bowled or LBW, as you take two dismissals out of the equation when you bowl short or wide - it's that simple!
I was surprised by Moeen Ali getting the nod over the dependable Liam Plunkett and I bet the management regretted that decision quite quickly. England looked sloppy in the field too, but then were buried by the two tall Aussie left armers, Mitchell Starc and Jason Behrendorff.
Starc is the very best exponent of left arm swing with the new ball and with the old ball and, he does it at extreme pace. He probably has been the very best bowler in world cricket for a number of years and across all formats too.
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The pair opened up for Australia and showed why quality left arm swing bowling is like gold dust. With a majority of right-handed batsman facing them, batsmen tend to plant and commit their front foot as the ball swings late back in.
Batsmen then have to play around their front leg and become LBW candidates or simply line up the ball incorrectly and are bowled.
James Vince and Joe Root will testify to this and so will the other seven England batsmen who the two left armer's dismissed. Left arm bowlers - even with pace - who don't swing the ball in are never as dangerous.
Talking of dangerous bowlers it's great to see Essex's Jamie Porter back in form and taking wickets for the county, who are Championship contenders again.
Jamie openly admitted he was struggling for some form and rhythm earlier in the season and wasn't getting many wickets, so his confidence was a bit down - it's a vicious circle.
Jamie has worked hard and has bowled himself into some match-winning form, claiming nine wickets (5/51 and 4/22) last week in their cracking win over impressive leaders, Somerset.
Clearly, there was something in the wicket as Essex's 216 was the highest score of the four innings. In truth runs have been a premium at Chelmsford, with bowlers dominating.
The brilliant Simon Harmer claimed an incredible 12 wicket haul (5/23 and 7/38) in a bizarre fixture at home to Hampshire, which saw Essex win by an innings and eight runs - Essex only made 214 in their only innings.
Alastair Cook is content averaging just under 50, Ravi Bopara is doing fine too, but the other batsmen (Nick Browne, Tom Westley, Dan Lawrence and Ryan Ten Doeschate) all need to contribute more in their quest for accumulating decent batting points and to set games up, especially if they are to mount a challenge for the Championship, come September.
Ten Doeschate - a most admirable, selfless and popular captain - 'could' be approaching his last season as he celebrates his 39th birthday tomorrow in the opening day of the Championship fixture at Trent Bridge vs Nottinghamshire.
My thoughts then turn to tomorrow: good luck England, good luck Essex and happy birthday skipper!