England are favourites alright, but are they good chasers?
There has been little doubt over the fact that England are one of the, if not the most, accomplished team of the World Cup and will certainly make it to the semi-finals, but there has been a question mark over how they react under pressure situations, which is naturally the most while chasing.
England are done with six of their nine matches of the group stage and it would not please them to know that their toughest three encounters against New Zealand, Australia and India are yet to come. The team is sitting at the fourth spot with four wins and two losses from six matches and has eight points.
If England win two of their remaining three fixtures, they are guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals, but things can be dicey if they lose two games, which is pretty much possible, given the potential of the oppositions against which they are up next.
After the loss against Pakistan, England had won three matches on the bounce and it looked as if they would steamroll their way through to the semis, but the team made some strange moves in the match against Sri Lanka. If you have to put it into perspective, it was England who lost that match, more than Sri Lanka winning it.
Eoin Morgan has been excellent as a captain for England till now but there were some moves in the match against Sri Lanka that were debatable. Accepted, that the hosts only allowed Sri Lanka to score 232 but they reached that total from being 3-2 at one point in the third over. Why then were the likes of Mark Wood and Chris Woakes not bowled out. Instead, Moeen Ali bowled his full quota of 10 overs. There is no doubt that Ali is economical, but he is more of a containing option than a wicket taking one.
Mark Wood bowled eight, which was still alright was but it was Chris Woakes got just five overs and could have been given a longer spell, in which case, England might have succeed in restricting Sri Lanka to less than 200 and hence would have got the valuable two points.
Cold feet while chasing
While analysing England's loss to Sri Lanka, Eoin Morgan said in the post-match press conference, "You look at the basics of a run chase. You know, partnerships are very important. We struggled to get enough partnerships going, or one substantial one. There were a couple of individual innings. But that is not good enough to win a game."
Three out of England's four wins in the tournament have come batting first. They won the tournament opener against South Africa by 104 runs after the team got a 311-run total on the board. In the next game against Pakistan, Morgan & Co had to chase down 349. Centuries from Joe Root and Jos Buttler helped them get close but there were no real contributions from other batsmen, which is why they fell short by 14 runs.
They batted first against Bangladesh in the next game and piled up 386 runs and won the match comfortably. The team had to only chanse a paltry 213 in the next game against West Indies and did it without breaking a sweat, winning the game by eight wickets. They then put up a record 397 runs and Afghanistan never really made an effort to chase it down.
However, in the next match again when they had to bat second and the target was only 233, the team kept losing wickets at regular intervals and at the end were beaten by 20 runs. This highlighted that despite having all the makings of a complete team, they do struggle to hold their nerves under pressure and this can be the differentiating factor for them going forward in the tournament.
"I think when we get beaten we tend to come back quite strong. We tend to resort to being aggressive, smart, positive cricket, so let's hope that is the case on Tuesday," Morgan had said in the same press briefing. One can only hope that the skipper's words come true in the team's next fixture against Australia.
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