England has lost five of its six games ahead of Saturday’s crucial match against five-time champion Australia. It’s arguably the worst run for a title-holder since 1999, when Sri Lanka lost three out of five games and failed to make the playoffs.
England awaits the same fate now – another loss and its chances of retaining the title will be nil.
With Mohammed Shami’s rampaging spell to help India dismiss England for 129 runs in a 230-run chase, the writing was on the wall in Lucknow.
With just a solitary win against Bangladesh, and sitting last in the 10-team standings, England faces must-win scenarios in its last three games. It must somehow muster enough inspiration to finish in the top eight, otherwise it will not qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy in Pakistan.
“The ICC do change the rules quite a bit with qualification and to be honest I don’t think it would affect in any way the way we have played in this tournament," coach Matthew Mott said of the qualifying process. "So it’s not a big deal.”
England has struggled because of a lack of runs – and batting time – in the tournament. In six games, it has batted a full 50 overs only twice – against New Zealand in its opening game at Ahmedabad, and against Bangladesh in Dharamsala, where Dawid Malan got its only hundred of the World Cup.
Across the other four losses, England batted 40.3 overs against Afghanistan, 22 overs against South Africa and 34.5 overs against India – a gross under utilization of its batting talent.
Only Malan averages more than 30 for England after six innings – 236 runs at 39.33. The likes of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Liam Livingstone have failed to live up to expectations.
The English bowling has also suffered from the inability of Chris Woakes and Mark Wood to make a collective impression on Indian wickets. Its bowling attack was destabilized by Reece Topley’s hand injury that ruled him out of the World Cup, and has also missed all-rounder Stokes being able to bowl in this edition.
Stokes confirmed Friday he will undergo knee surgery after the World Cup in a bid to cure his longstanding fitness problems and prolong his career. Concerns over the test captain’s left knee have increased over the last 18 months and Stokes has not bowled in a match since July.
“I am having surgery after the World Cup," Stokes said. “There was a lot of time put into deciding when to get it done.”
Australia captain Pat Cummins said England's poor form at the tournament “is sad to see.”
"I don’t know much else to say,” Cummins added, with a sheepish smile, when he was asked about England’s results.
Still, England isn't without hope, particularly after two enforced changes to Australia's relatively stable lineup following the tight win over New Zealand l ast week.
“We have had a disastrous World Cup and there’s no point sugar coating that because it’s the truth," Stokes said. "(But) we know these last three games, for us, we have got a lot to play for. I know there will be a lot of noise around England vs. Australia in the next game, but we have got to play for pride of what it is to put this shirt on.”
Spinning allrounder Glenn Maxwell was ruled after sustaining a concussion after falling off a golf cart earlier in the week. out owing to a concussion suffered during a freak golfing accident on Monday.
Mitch Marsh was also made unavailable after he flew home to Perth for personal reasons. It leaves Australia having to rebuild the batting lineup, likely with the recall of allrounders Marcus Stoinis and Cameron Green.
Australia’s top-order remains the biggest threat to England's bowlers.
Veteran opener David Warner has 413 runs in six innings and is among the tournament's leading scorers. Travis Head returned from injury with a near-chanceless 109 off 67 balls against New Zealand in Dharamsala.
Having them followed in by Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Josh Inglis gives Australia the upper hand at the Narendra Modi Stadium — the biggest cricket venue in the world — which will host the World Cup final on Nov. 19.
After losing their opening games to India and South Africa, the Australians have rallied with four consecutive wins and are third in the standings – equal on eight points with New Zealand, but ahead on run-rate.
After England, Australia faces Afghanistan in Mumbai next Tuesday and Bangladesh in Pune on Nov. 11.
The top four teams advance to the semifinals.
AP cricket: https://apnews.com/hub/cricket
The Associated Press