Time running out for England to be seen as World Cup contenders

India's Suresh Raina (right) celebrates catching out England's Ben Stokes with captain MS Dhoni.
India's Suresh Raina (right) celebrates catching out England's Ben Stokes with captain MS Dhoni.
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Frustrated Alastair Cook warns England must urgently start playing to their potential to avoid more setbacks they can ill-afford on the road to the World Cup.

England’s batsmen again fluffed their lines against spin as India romped to a six-wicket victory at Trent Bridge on Saturday to take an unassailable 2-0 Royal London Series lead.

Cook was at a loss to explain his team’s collective frailty against Ravi Ashwin (3-39) and his part-time helpers in the India spin attack, as the hosts wasted an opening stand of 82 and ended up 227 all out.

India then barely broke sweat, Ambati Rayudu making a career-best 64 not out, to pass the mediocre target in just 43 overs.

After England’s second trouncing in four days – they lost by 133 runs in Cardiff – Cook acknowledges they simply are not producing the cricket they should.

“There are some good players there, who are not showing it,” he said. “It’s something we need to change around.”

Discounting a one-off win against Scotland in Aberdeen, England have lost four of their last five ODI series’.

“Australia (last winter) was after a very tough Test series, and the Sri Lanka series was 2-2 going into the last one – and they played well in that match,” added Cook.

“But it is frustrating we are not playing to standards we know we are capable of, and need.”

The mitigation for England in Nottingham was a pitch which surprised everyone by offering conspicuous turn after Mahendra Singh Dhoni chose to bowl first.

“I don’t think anyone who looked at that wicket thought it was going to turn as much as that,” said Cook.

“It must have just been the tackiness. (But) no, we didn’t play the spin very well.

“Obviously, we didn’t in Cardiff either. But they bowled well, and did turn it.”

Cook got out to Rayudu, the first batsman in international cricket to do so, but he said: “Ashwin and (Ravindra) Jadeja are very good at one-day cricket spin bowling.

“We had a few soft dismissals, and a few good balls as well.

“Every time we tried to build a partnership, we lost wickets, and that obviously keeps holding you back if you want to play aggressively.”

That, he insists, was England’s problem – rather than the one identified recently by their critics, that they do not have enough power among their frontline batsmen.

“I thought we got off to a really good start again,” he said. “Everyone keeps talking about more power at the top. (But) we were 50 odd off 10 the other day, 50 off nine – we’re getting good starts.

“The problem is that 40 was our top score at Cardiff, and 44 was our top score here ... you’re not winning games of cricket when you do that.

“We know how important big runs are at the top of the order – one of the top four or five going on to get a hundred or an 80 sets the game up, and you can build partnerships.

“We’re just not doing that at the moment, and that’s what’s really hurting us.”

Cook himself has gone 37 innings, dating back to June 2012, without an ODI century – and he knows that is far from an acceptable sequence, with the World Cup looming in Australia and New Zealand early next year.

“It will take someone to score that hundred, and everyone will jump on the back of that,” added Cook.

“You get 330 and you win a game of cricket, and it changes.

“It would (just) take someone like ‘Morgs’, (Eoin Morgan) for example, to suddenly go bang bang and get some 80s. He’s that type of player.

“But again, probably it’s confidence as a batting unit that we haven’t scored the runs in the last couple of games.

“The only way (to put it right) is not looking at anyone else, but the six or seven batters to turn it round themselves.”

One minor encouragement for England at Trent Bridge was the return of fast bowler Steven Finn, so badly out of form last winter and absent from international cricket for almost a year.

Finn has also been selected in the Twenty20 squad, and Cook senses he is on his way back to peak form.

“He probably went for a few too many runs (at Nottingham), but as a guy bowling at 86, 87mph on a slow wicket, he adds a different dimension,” said Cook.

“You saw the best of Finn in New Zealand, and India once when we were there.

“If he can get back to that level, he’s a very fine bowler.”

India never looked back from the moment Suresh Raina had Cook’s opening partner Alex Hales caught-behind sweeping, and Dhoni was full of praise for his team – including Mohit Sharma’s direct-hit run-out of Ian Bell from the deep.

“It is a fantastic performance by the whole team,” he said. “What was brilliant, apart from the bowling, was the fielding.”