YORKSHIRE boss Martyn Moxon has said England are still searching for a formula in one-day cricket – despite the fact their World Cup campaign is already under way and they have had months to prepare solely for the tournament.
England go into tomorrow’s match against New Zealand in Wellington aiming to atone for an abject 111-run defeat to the Kiwis’ fellow hosts Australia in their opening group game in Melbourne on Saturday.
That performance was punctuated by the problems that have plagued England in recent times – careless batting (particularly at the start of their innings) and costly bowling (particularly at the finish), while the catching and fielding was substandard.
It came despite a deliberately designed build-up to the competition that has seen England play nothing but one-day cricket since August and which even led to the rescheduling of the Ashes to maximise their chances of winning their first 50-over World Cup.
However, after a 3-1 home defeat to India, a 5-2 reverse in Sri Lanka and the perfect pre-World Cup acclimatisation of a tri-series in Australia in which they played five fixtures against India and the hosts, England’s tactics and team selection for their opening cup game did not suggest consistency and clarity of thought.
Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance was recalled to the No3 batting position and James Taylor pushed down to No6 in place of Ravi Bopara – arguably the correct move, but one which highlighted capricious strategy and made a mockery of England’s decision not to take Ballance to Sri Lanka.
The plan of bowling slower ball bouncers in the final 10 overs to try to negate the short straight boundaries at the MCG also failed spectacularly as Australia helped themselves to 105 runs in that period, Yorkshire’s Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell leading a dominant overall display.
Moxon – who played eight one-day internationals to go with 10 Tests – believes England are still capable of upsetting the form book and winning a tournament in which the format practically guarantees passage to the quarter-finals.
But the Yorkshire director of cricket said that if England are not quite improvising as they go along, they are still seeking how best to play one-day cricket after an unprecedented period to get ready for the event.
“They’ve just got to get a method, really,” said Moxon. “It’s really frustrating that we’ve had a long period of one-day cricket and yet we’re still trying to find a method, whether we’re batting or bowling.
“The plan that they had was all ripped up when they came back from the Sri Lanka series. They changed the captain. They dropped Stokes. Jordan has gone out the frame. The blueprint’s been ripped up.
“Now the problem is that Morgan is getting less runs than Cook did, and it’s not worked out so far changing the captaincy.
“Bell’s obviously done well and is a quality player, and yet he wasn’t even playing in Sri Lanka, so we’ve been kind of making it up a bit as we’ve gone along as to what the team should be.
“Having said that, we can still win the competition if the players play to their capabilities.
“The problem is at the minute they’re not.
“The odd one or two players are getting a score, but we’re not getting the consistency throughout the order and it’s similar with the ball, particularly in the last 10 overs.
“The plans that we seem to have aren’t working at the moment, and they’ve got to get new plans quickly and execute them well.”
Moxon, who fancies New Zealand for the trophy, believes one of those plans should be to bowl more yorkers.
He also feels England’s decision to bowl first in Melbourne – instead of trying to set the tone with the bat – betrayed cautious thinking and urged them to be more aggressive.
“Confidence is a big thing in one-day cricket – you go out expecting to win as opposed to hoping to win – and I think at the minute England are hoping to win rather than expecting to,” he said.
“We saw when England won the toss and bowled in Melbourne that slightly negative frame of mind in the camp, and I think if they’d been really confident and positive, they’d have batted, posted a score and put Australia under pressure chasing.
“If they can beat New Zealand that will certainly give them a lot of confidence going into the remaining games, but clearly the bowling in the last 10 overs of the innings is a problem – has been for a long time now, pretty much all winter – and they’ve got to get that sorted quickly.
“But I believe a yorker, bowled well, is still the hardest ball to hit, whether there are fielding restrictions or not, and they definitely have to bowl more yorkers.”
New Zealand will be seeking to maintain a 100 per cent start after victories against Sri Lanka and Scotland. England play Scotland on Sunday, followed by Sri Lanka (February 28), Bangladesh (March 9) and Afghanistan (March 13).