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With three points in as many matches, England will need to step up as they approach the business half of their group fixtures — with tough matches against South Africa, Bangladesh and the West Indies lined up — if they are to advance into the quarter-finals. And while England may have brought much suspense into the mix, as a team that promised a lot they have been frustrating to watch — something we come to expect from Pakistan.
Unlike the Shahid Afridi led mercurial and volatile nation — hot one hour, cold the next — the English batting order has been solid as ever — amassing 961 runs in three matches. Then why the poor show? England’s sub-standard bowling glints mischievously with the eyes of a culprit. The primary let down for England — as it was during the latter part of the Australian summer — is the running out of steam of the erstwhile incisive James Anderson.
England’s performance graph over the four months mirrors Anderson’s to a tee. Australia’s chief tormentor with 24 wickets during the Ashes, he could’ve arguably been the MVP — so to speak — of the series, with the kind of impact he had on the host team’s psyche with his unplayable swing.
After the Tests, he went back to be with his family, but rejoined the team after they sent an SOS as they trailed the seven match ODI series 3-0. They did pull one back, immediately, but as Anderson lost his form — leaking as many as 91 in one match — England lost the series, comprehensively.
It has been four months of non-stop cricket for England and they have been showing signs of wearing down for quite sometime now. The 3-1 result Down Under to retain the urn has faded to a blur — as if having been achieved in a different era — with the cumulative 1-7-1 win-loss-tie record in the in the ODIs ever since, effectively subsiding the Ashes euphoria.
And to expect their primary seamer to hit form on the flat sub-continental tracks right away was optimistic, as his record suggests. In the 140 matches that he has played, Anderson has claimed 188 wickets at 31.2 runs per scalp. In India, his average leaps to 57.3 runs per dismissal for the 14 wickets he has claimed in 16 matches.
Anderson, who mostly targets length or back of a length, has been refraining from bowling fuller deliveries in India. With the tracks or the conditions hardly conducive, at his pace it’s an open invitation for the batsman to hit the ball out of the park. And so far they haven’t shied away from it.
He has leaked 213 runs in three matches in the World Cup so far — 35 more than the next most expensive, the interestingly named Bernardus Pieters Loots of the Netherlands — for two wickets.
The Ashes hero has gone bust in such a spectacular fashion in such a short time, it could be a cricketing equivalent of, say, a Lehmann Brothers announcing filing for bankruptcy one fine day. And him being the leader of the pack, it had an impact on others as they have given away 959 runs overall.
Little surprise then, the English cricket team, despite a robust batting, have slipped into a recession, and for a bail out, ironically, will have to rely on the very cause: James Anderson.