LEGENDARY former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding has weighed in to the debate surrounding England’s poor World Cup performances, believing that Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance is not yet equipped for international one-day cricket.
The Yorkshire batsman has endured a torrid time since surprisingly being installed at No 3 for Eoin Morgan’s team for the opening game against co-hosts Australia.
Ballance has been unable to return the faith in him, scoring only 36 runs at an average of nine to leave his place in jeopardy ahead of Monday’s must-win encounter with Bangladesh in Adelaide.
“I’m not sure why Ballance has been used at three – he wasn’t even initially in the squad,” said Holding.
“He doesn’t know what’s going on.
“I rate Gary Ballance very much as a batsman for Test cricket, don’t get me wrong, but it seems to me that he hasn’t been able to adjust to one-day cricket yet. Perhaps further down the line he will.
“But, right now, I don’t think he’s the man for the job.”
Holding – who took 249 wickets at an average of just over 23 in 60 Tests for the West Indies, believes England can no longer afford to overlook Alex Hales, who has been kept under wraps despite calls for England’s selectors to unleash the 26-year-old’s hard-hitting talent on a tournament which has been dominated by batsmen.
“You need to have someone who can potentially be destructive,” said Holding. “He is in that mould of a Chris Gayle.
“He might not do it all the time, just like Gayle doesn’t do it all the time, but when he does do it, you know you are going to have a huge total.
“At least you are better off having someone that you know can potentially destroy an attack than someone who you think will hammer out a good score over a period of time.”
Gayle lit up the tournament when he hit the first World Cup double-century, blasting 215 against Zimbabwe, and elsewhere the likes of AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell have provided the type of ‘X-factor’ England have not been inclined to trust.
All-rounder Moeen Ali was promoted to the top of the order in the lead-up to the tournament to provide the fireworks – and he hit a quickfire century in England’s only win against Scotland – but around him the more traditional stroke-making of Ian Bell and Ballance has been preferred in the top three.
England have suggested throughout the World Cup that reaching the quarter-finals was the primary aim and from there they could beat anyone on their day. Holding says the West Indies are in a similar situation and that in Gayle they have a man capable of inspiring a shock result.
“I think only three teams can win the World Cup – South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – but it is a one-day tournament and one team can turn up at a quarter-final and have a blinder of a game and beat the No 1 team,” he said.
“England might get that with Hales or the West Indies might get another double century out of Chris Gayle against New Zealand or Australia and they win a game in theory they should not win.
“If that’s the way you’re thinking you have to give it a try.”
England’s early-over problems have not been restricted to the bat with experienced new-ball pairing Stuart Broad and James Anderson having shared just four wickets between them at a combined average of 91.50.
Holding holds some sympathy for Broad and Anderson with the white Kookaburra balls used at the tournament offering little assistance.
“The white balls have not done a lot either through the air or off the pitch and I think that is why those two have been struggling – as they have struggled overseas on so many occasions,” said Holding.
“We’ve seen if the ball is not swinging that James Anderson is quite ineffective and for me Broad falls down because he is not consistent enough.
“He gets five or six wickets in an innings and then in the next couple of innings he gets nothing – bowlers need to get two or three wickets a game.
“You can offset that if you are being economical in a one-day game, but when you are the lead man, or your other front-line bowler is not taking wickets either, that damages the team.”
Bangladesh warmed up for their game with England by knocking Scotland out of the competition with a six-wicket win.
Kyle Coetzer became the first Scotland player to score a World Cup century and his splendid 156 from 134 balls, including 17 fours and four sixes, helped them post 318-8 in Nelson.
But the Saxton Oval pitch most certainly favoured the batsmen as Bangladesh – helmed by Tamim Iqbal’s 95 and further half-centuries from Mahmudullah (62), Mushfiqur Rahim (60) and Shakib Al Hasan (52no) – reached 322-4 with 11 balls to spare.