By Jack Vavasour
The One day series against Australia can be considered a huge coup for a brilliant England side who truly established themselves as best in the world.
Jos Buttler dominated the series averaging an incredible 137 – including one century and three unbeaten innings. Buttler’s brilliance was especially evident in the final match of the series as England slumped to 114-8 and defeat looked inevitable, up steps Buttler who recorded his slowest ODI century to date but demonstrated his true grit and determination to force England over the line and secure a historic Whitewash over the disappointing Australians.
England’s humiliation of their oldest rival highlights just how far this team have come since their dreadful performance at the 2015 World Cup. Since then they have won eleven series out of the fourteen that they have competed in. This record has been due to the impressive form of players such as Buttler.
The most important is the discovery of Jonny Bairstow as an opener and his subsequent form. Bairstow has an average of 51 in ODIs and for years was brought into the team when Buttler was being rested but truly has wrestled his way in and has never looked back since. Bairstow has also been helped by the wonderful Jason Roy – who many thought would struggle to return to the team having been dropped during the Champions trophy – but has recently broken the English record for the highest score in an ODI and forms the dream opening partnership with Bairstow.
As impressive as England’s batting is, a game is not won in one innings, they also need to bowl effectively. That was achieved with a two-pronged spin attack of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid who both seem to take wickets for fun. Both have struggled with red ball cricket recently, Rashid even stopped playing it all together.
Yet, with the white ball they seem to cripple teams to totals which are easily achievable by the overpowering batting attack. These two spin kings are aided comfortably by seam bowlers in the shape of David Willey, Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett. Wood offers pace, Plunkett consistency and Willey is the wicket taker. Willey, despite being less economical than his colleagues, takes wickets as the batsmen are frustrated down the other end and are forced to search for runs off his bowling.
All of this would not be possible without someone pulling the strings and being a master tactician, that man is Eoin Morgan. Morgan, recently, appears over-shadowed by the men he leads as they break records and wow crowds with their performances, yet without Morgan it is questionable whether the team would work.
In cricket, the captain is the most important player and Morgan appears to know just how to get the best out of his players, much like old England captain Mike Brearley did with Ian Botham.
Competition for places
The series whitewash of Australia is made even more impressive when you consider the players who were missing from England’s squad. Both Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, often key components of this team, were injured and their deputies stepped up impressively. It is questionable whether these two will get their places back, Bayliss should consider continuing with the team as it is and force them to fight to get back into it. This is difficult as Stokes is one of the most talented cricketers of his generation.
However, if the team is performing as well as it is then having to perform to keep your place will surely drive the team forward and when no-one is safe then the players have another incentive to reach the heights they have been.
The Australia series, despite being a destruction of one of the best teams in cricket, can be considered as less of an achievement than it has been viewed as. This is due to the players that Australia have lost in the recent months.
The obvious absentees are the exiled Steve Smith and David Warner, both wonderful players who would have made a considerable difference to this embarrassment of an Australian cricket team. Much like Morgan the captain Smith would have rallied his troops and organised them in potential match winning formations.
The new captain, Tim Paine, lacks Smith’s authority, not least due to his inferior cricketing ability, but due to his ‘nice guy’ approach and his sledgeless Australia team. It is a difficult time for Australian cricket following the ball-tampering scandal, however, having an Australian team who want to be liked is wrong.
The Australians dominated due to their ruthlessness and being a team you cannot like, they are famous for their sledging and I cannot think of anything worse than batting with a player like Warner yapping in your ear.
Furthermore, away from Smith and Warner, Australia were unfortunate to lose their three fast bowlers to injury before the series. Had Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood been playing then the results would have looked a lot different, England would most likely have still won but Australia would have had a bowling attack that inspired fear in the batsmen.
Instead, they arrived on English shores with a laughable attack whom England’s fearsome batting line up managed to tear to shreds and send home with their tails between their legs.
The only bowler who can leave with his head held high is Billy Stanlake who consistently troubled the English batsmen and actually showed his worth.
Eyes on the World Cup
Australia will return next year for the World Cup a different side and England should be ready. Their bowling attack will be restored and improved now that Stanlake has been discovered and Smith and Warner could also be back in the set up as their bans end on the 28th of March, months before the World Cup begins.
Despite England’s success they must continue to build and improve prior to a home World Cup next year.