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England have accepted their chances of defending their World Cup crown are over after slumping to a fourth defeat in their first five matches in India.
The abject run of form has seen the 2019 champions slip to ninth in the table and invited an early inquest into exactly what has gone wrong with a side who were once trailblazers in the 50-over game.
Here, we look at five reasons for their current plight. Get the latest Cricket World Cup odds here.
Lack of new blood
Even the best sporting teams need renewal from time to time, but England’s ODI golden generation has been resistant to change. Eight of their 2019 heroes were back for another go and most look a shadow of their old selves. With the Metro Bank One-Day Cup relegated to developmental status, it has been hard for domestic players to force their way in, and even one of the outstanding players of the coming generation – Harry Brook – has struggled to make the XI.
Waiting for Superman
England were thrilled when the inspirational Ben Stokes agreed to end his retirement from the format and it looked a trump card when he hit a national record 182 in his first series back against New Zealand. But this tournament has already passed him by. Having ruled himself out of bowling due to knee problems, he then picked up a hip complaint during the warm-up week and missed England’s first three games. Now, just as he is back and getting his eye in, England are effectively gone.
A major part of England’s success under previous skipper Eoin Morgan was built around their fearlessness at the top of the innings. At their best the partnership of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow was a fearsome prospect, with the pair’s rampant style giving new ball bowlers the quivers. But Roy was axed on the eve of the tournament, Bairstow is short on form and Dawid Malan builds his innings more methodically. As a result they have averaged a humdrum 58 from their first 10 overs so far, and lost nine powerplay wickets in their five games. The team’s momentum is rotting from the head.
England used just 13 players in 11 games when they won the trophy four years ago but had already used all 15 of their squad in their first four this time. They started off loaded with all-rounders, got spooked so badly that they dropped four of them by the time South Africa came around and then reverted back to their original game plan against versus Sri Lanka. Their most in-form bowler, Reece Topley, was a surprise omission from the first match before injury later ended his tournament, Brook was ditched last time out in a side exclusively comprising thirtysomethings and Moeen Ali has drifted in and out despite being vice-captain. The act of putting a balanced XI together has proved beyond them.
It is one thing to be beaten by the better team but another to giftwrap the advantage to your opponents. England did exactly that unforgivably in their crunch clash against the South Africans in Mumbai, where Jos Buttler won the toss and opted to field first in oppressive heat and humidity that left his side with the toughest possible task. He also handed Afghanistan the chance to set the tone in Delhi and paid the price then too. Two run-outs against Sri Lanka summed up their scrambled minds, a chaotic one for Joe Root and a comedic one for Adil Rashid. England have lost 47 of a possible 49 wickets to date, showing just how wasteful they have been.
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