MICHAEL VAUGHAN hit the nail on the head.
Speaking on The Tuffers & Vaughan Cricket Show last week the former England captain said that Eoin Morgan’s one-day team need to stop having “moments of madness” if they are to win the World Cup this summer.
“England have got everything required to win the World Cup except for these moments of madness,” said Vaughan.
“It happens every four or five games and, if it happens in the semi-final, then they are out.”
England had one of their sporadic meltdowns in St Lucia on Saturday, bowled out for just 113 in 28.1 overs before the West Indies cruised to a seven-wicket victory with 37.5 overs to spare, Chris Gayle hammering 77 from 27 balls with nine sixes and five fours.
It was England’s heaviest ODI defeat in terms of balls left (227) and saw the five-match series finish 2-2, with the third game in Grenada washed out.
One might have got long odds on England failing to win at least one of the series in the Caribbean, the Tests/ODIs, with West Indies 2-1 victors in the five-day contests.
The three T20 games coming up between the sides are neither here nor there in the context of a year in which England’s attention is very much fixed on the World Cup and Ashes, but this has been a sizeable reality check for the tourists so far, just as it has been a wonderfully inspiring renaissance by a hitherto downtrodden West Indies.
Vaughan’s point, couched in the sense that Morgan’s men need to be smarter and adapt better to conditions, is that it counts for little if you are top of the one-day rankings, like England, if you then retain a frustrating propensity to shoot yourself in the foot.
England might get away with the odd horror show like this in the World Cup group stage, but not during the pressure of a knockout match – as happened to them in the 2017 Champions Trophy semi-final in Cardiff when they struggled to adjust to a slow surface and lost to Pakistan.
On Saturday England were not smart and palpably failed to adapt to a pitch offering spongy and steepling bounce, perishing to an array of attacking shots that did nothing to dispel the notion of flat-track bullies.
“How’s England’s batting in ODIs when the pitch isn’t a batting paradise?” tweeted Ian Bishop, the former West Indies fast bowler, thereby posing a rhetorical question.
Three days earlier England had enjoyed the batting paradise of Grenada to the extent that they plundered 418-6, their highest ODI total against the West Indies and their third-highest ever.
Their 113 in St Lucia, by contrast, was their lowest ODI total against the West Indies, for whom pace bowler Oshain Thomas starred with 5-21 – well supported by Carlos Brathwaite (2-17 from eight overs) and Jason Holder (2-28 from seven).
The only batsmen to pass 20 were Alex Hales and Jos Buttler, who both made 23 on a day when the tourists lost their last five wickets for only two runs.
It was a case of from the sublime to the ridiculous for the World Cup favourites, against opposition who, it must be remembered, had to qualify simply to reach the World Cup.
On this evidence you could not completely rule out the West Indies as dark horses for that tournament, particularly with Chris Gayle, the self-styled ‘Universe Boss’, leading their batting.
Imagine having the chutzpah to call yourself the “‘Universe Boss’ and then the class to make it sound as if it is something of an understatement, something that Gayle pretty much achieved during a series in which his scores were 135, 50, 162 and 77, including an ODI series record of 39 sixes.
Indeed, on the same pitch on which England had folded so meekly Gayle recorded the fastest ODI fifty by a West Indian, reaching the milestone from 19 balls with six sixes and three fours.
He was fortunate to escape when he top-edged a pull off Chris Woakes to deep fine-leg, the umpire calling a no-ball for height, but some of the shots were extraordinarily contemptuous and clinical in the extreme, even pace bowler Mark Wood made to look ordinary as Gayle, at one point, took him for 6, 6, 4, 4, 6.
Wood bowled him in the end, but it was a Pyrrhic victory as both he and Woakes were subjected to ruthless punishment.
For England, who were without pace bowler Liam Plunkett, who had a sore left foot, this was a chastening experience from start to finish.