A star-studded England line-up has fallen well short of expectations in defence of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup title they famously won in 2019.
England’s title defence is on the brink of collapsing well short of the knockout stages at the ICC
Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.
A sixth defeat coming at the hands of arch-rivals Australia on Saturday, or in one of their other remaining matches against Netherlands and Bangladesh, will confirm what already seems most
likely – England’s title defence is over before it truly began.
“It has been a disastrous defence of the title,” former captain Michael Atherton said on the latest episode of The ICC Review podcast.
“I think most people could accept a team that played pretty decent cricket and just came up short. That happens in sport,” he said.
“There is no divine right to win every game, no divine right to win these competitions, and England have been very good for a long time,” Atherton said.
“But it’s the way England have just been hammered. If you look at the defeats, five of them have been by unbelievable margins,” he said.
“I don’t think anybody saw that coming, and it is very difficult to understand,” Atherton said.
England’s campaign has barely got going after being thumped in the tournament opener – a rematch of the epic 2019 final against New Zealand – by nine wickets.
The convincing 137-run win over Bangladesh that followed put England back on track, but four straight defeats since then mean they have one win from six matches and a growing list of
problems to address.
“The end result is England have not done very well, and therefore you’ll find reasons to fit the performance,” Atherton said.
“So whether it’s the toss, whether it’s the selection, whether it’s the central contracts that were announced, who knows?” he questioned.
“You could probably say it’s a combination of all those things, little things that have added up and eventually have meant that this team is a long way short of where it should be,” Atherton said.
England’s biggest-ever defeat in terms of runs in an ODI came against South Africa when they never looked like reaching the target of 400 and soon collapsed to fall 229 runs short.
That result was one of several crushing losses that have left England with the worst net run rate at the tournament and in bottom place on the standings with three matches to play.
“The obvious mistakes, the biggest I thought was the toss at Mumbai when Jos (Buttler) put South Africa in to bat on a roasting hot day, a must-win game,” Atherton said.
“But I thought that was, in terms of the captain’s role, that was the biggest mistake,” he said.
“You can then look at other things like selection, but I had sympathy for making one or two changes because they were going so poorly before that,” Atherton said.
England have managed one century to opener Dawid Malan and four fifties across an entire batting group that has made little impact in a tournament otherwise being powered by big hitting and record-breaking totals.
Joe Root has two half-centuries but like the rest of the current middle-order is averaging under 30 and with a strike rate under 100 at this Cricket World Cup.
Even Ben Stokes, so often England’s saviour including in the 2019 World Cup final, has had little influence with 48 runs in three knocks since overcoming injury issues that still prevent him from bowling.
“The bottom line is that many of their best players have just not hit form. Root, (Jonny) Bairstow, Stokes, Butler himself, they are all over 30 but they’re not over the hill.” Atherton said.
“What happens in sport is that confidence just drains away rather more quickly than it builds up,”
“It takes a long time for a team to become dominant as England were in one-day cricket, a long time to build that kind of really strong core of confidence there. But it doesn’t take much for it to whittle away,” Atherton said.
“One or two players not hitting form, one or two defeats, and suddenly you’re in crisis mode and that can be very difficult to change,” he added.