England have, undoubtedly, the best batting unit in the world – even better than India’s. They have a powerful lower middle-order and bat deep (unlike India).
But it is their bowling which is a bit of a worry.
To ensure they had a great batting unit capable of amassing big scores, something they lacked in the period before the 2015 World Cup, England haven’t paid as much attention to their bowling prowess. And are now paying for it.
They almost lost after scoring in excess of 400 at St George’s and it was only a late batting collapse to the leg-spinner, Adil Rashid, that ensured a win for England.
The insane consistency in scoring 300-plus totals has seen them rack up a batting average which is second only to India since the 2015 World Cup. In terms of strike rate, though, there is no one even close to England. England have also registered 45 centuries in this time-frame (second only to India).
Where they have faltered (and India has the advantage) is in the bowling department.
India have a bowling average of 31.47 since the 2015 World Cup with a strike rate of 36.4 – which ranks amongst the best in the business.
England, on the other hand, have been overly reliant on their batting. The bowling has been average to poor sometimes as evident from an average of 36.34, which is the worst after West Indies and Sri Lanka. Their bowling strike rate also places them in the bottom half.
This isn't due to a lack of individual contributions, though. England's bowlers have the most four-plus wicket hauls since the 2015 World Cup – 30 in in 82 matches. It is instead the inability of the attack to combine together as a destructive unit that's holding England back.
They have also not been able to restrict the opposition batsmen. An economy rate of 5.69 in this period shows how expensive England have been with the ball. Only Sri Lanka has a worse economy in this time frame.
In the period after the World Cup, they have as many as 34 totals in excess of 300 in ODIs, the second best being a distant 20 by India. Of the top seven highest ODI totals since the last World Cup, England own a whopping five with three scores over 400.
Highest ODI totals after WC 2015:
481: Eng v Aus, Trent Bridge, 2018
444: Eng v Pak, Trent Bridge, 2016
438: SA v Ind, Mumbai, 2015
418: Eng v WI, St George's, 2019
408: Eng v NZ, Edgbaston, 2015
399: Eng v SA, Bloemfontein, 2016
399: Pak v Zim, Bulawayo, 2018
While their big scores stand out, another statistic which highlights the weakness in their bowling unit is often missed – England have lost 8 of the 34 matches in which they made over 300 (the most losses for any team after scoring 300). This suggests that their bowling hasn’t been good enough even after the batting has done its job.
As a bowling unit, England have conceded over 300 as many as 22 times since the 2015 World Cup with the next best being Australia with 18. Unlike other teams, though, England have managed to win 50% of these matches courtesy the pedigree and quality of their batting unit.
England have been too dependent on their batting over the last three to four years. The bowling unit will have to share more of a burden and take the pressure off their batsmen if they are to win their first World Cup title.
First Published: March 4, 2019, 5:43 PM IST