By David de Winter – Sports Editor
Much has been written about England’s approach to one-day cricket. Since reaching the World Cup final in 1992 they have consistently failed to achieve anything of note in the limited overs format, save for a couple of Champions Trophy final appearances on home soil. After the debacle at the World Cup it was clear something had to change. Having installed Trevor Bayliss as coach (a slightly left-field choice but someone who has a good record in one-day cricket) there has been much talk of a ‘new era’, a ‘clean slate’, ‘starting afresh’ by the England management. The inclusion of the likes of Jason Roy, Sam Billings, Adil Rashid and David Willey in the squad was a promising start, but no one, least of all me, could have expected such instant rewards.
In case you missed it, England beat New Zealand by a record 210 runs at Edgbaston yesterday, in the process scoring 400 in an ODI for the first time. Joe Root’s 71-ball century was the fourth fastest in England’s history whilst Jos Buttler’s 66-ball century was the second fastest. Their tally of 14 sixes is their highest in ODIs and Buttler and Adil Rashid’s partnership of 177 was a record for the 7th wicket. So how have England gone from complete no-hopers to total world beaters in the space of three months?
Not to blow my own trumpet but regular readers (hi Mum and Dad) will know that I have been championing the inclusion of Roy and Billings for about a year. They contributed very little to the outcome of yesterday’s match but their positive, aggressive and confident demeanour demonstrates a modern and very un-English approach to the game (pioneered by one Kevin Pietersen). Even though Roy scored a diamond duck, the fact that he was willing to go after the bowling from ball one showed a positive attitude and one that should be encouraged, not criticised.
Ironically it was actually some of the more experienced players – Root, Buttler and Steven Finn – who were the real match winners alongside spinner Adil Rashid who looks a completely different player to the one who made his debut against Australia 6 years ago. England have finally realised that they were light-years behind the rest of the world in terms of their approach to ODIs. By picking players with the abilities to play modern-day limited-overs cricket instead of trying to shoehorn established internationals into roles that they are unfamiliar with, England have already taken a giant step in the right direction.
Whilst there are many admirers of previous England coach Peter Moores, it was clear that his obsessive nature was not conducive to a successful England team. Remember his “we’ll have to look at the data” comment after the World Cup defeat to Bangladesh? Moores’ penchant for the minutiae was a clear negative. Sod the data – just go out and play cricket. At least that is the opinion of interim coach Paul Fabrace: “I want them (the new players) to go and enjoy playing international cricket and express their skills.” It is a far cry from the detail-heavy approach of the Moores era. Players seem to be allowed to perform without fear of reprisal.
England haven’t actually become world beaters overnight. They just happened to play at their maximum against a New Zealand side who didn’t bowl, field or bat particularly well. This ‘new era’ is very much in its infancy and there will inevitably be points in the future where it will be questioned. However, to thrash a New Zealand side that reached the World Cup final three months ago in the manner they did is a notable feat. Having played catch-up for so long in one-day cricket, England seem to have found the formula to take them to the next level. Long may it continue.