England had a dead rubber T20 World Cup match yesterday against India. It’s just as well for England that there was nothing riding on it as it didn’t go as well as one would have liked. England conceded too many with the ball and then looked less than helpless with the bat en route to a comprehensive defeat. The main problem when England were batting was their old nemesis: spin. It wasn’t even good spin, but England still looked helpless in reading it and collapsed quite farcically. There have been several predictable statements about the implications of the collapse and whilst it is bad I think there are only a few things one can take from this match.
The first is nothing to do with the batting and instead relates to England’s failed tactic with the ball. They decided the best way to go after India was with four seamers and a lot of short stuff. It didn’t work. Bresnan was hit around the park, Dernbach had a disastrous last over (and wasn’t great in the other three) and Broad was never terribly effective. The only bowler to do well was Swann, the lone spinner, who took 1-17 off his four overs. It was a dead rubber, so some experimentation was understandable. But England must take note that it didn’t work. Whilst that wasn’t the reason they lost, chasing a large total never helps the batsmen either.
Stuart Broad is still not convincing as a T20 captain. (Or any captain, actually, but this is the only format in which we’ve seen him.) Admittedly it’s harder to judge captaincy in so short a format, but he does not really seem to be on top of matters. From what we saw last year, Graeme Swann looks much better suited and although the ECB did interview several candidates before deciding on Broad I think they might want to reconsider at some point.
Whilst there is no doubting that England do have a big problem against spin, it is important to remember that such things do happen in T20s. At the end of last summer, England collapsed in a very similar manner against the West Indies at the Oval and lost a match they probably ought to have won. No one said anything about there being a fatal weakness that would haunt them in Tests then and rightly so. There are similarities, but the style of play is overall so different that I think it is very hard to draw long-term conclusions from one T20 innings. Again, England do have a problem against spin. But we knew this from watching them in the UAE and Tests against Sri Lanka, not watching a single T20 innings.
Looking at the next round of the tournament, for which England qualified after their first match, they will still have a lot of confidence in getting to the knockouts. Their group contains the West Indies, Sri Lanka and New Zealand and they only need to finish in the top two to the semi-finals. They will want an improved performance before then, but they certainly can do so. They’ve actually done rather better in this group stage than they did two years ago when they won. Of course, this all assumes the rain stays away. Given the forecast, that might be optimistic and we might see some ridiculous rain shortened results.