Time is running out if England are to victor

PLAYING CATCH-UP: England head coach during a press conference at Edgbaston

PLAYING CATCH-UP: England head coach during a press conference at Edgbaston

First published in Sport

PETER MOORES admits time is short for England to make themselves a competitive force at next year’s World Cup.

If England fail to win both remaining one-day internationals against India, at Edgbaston today and Headingley on Friday, Alastair Cook will have led them to five successive series defeats.

Their only success in that time – aside from a one-off fixture against Scotland – came in Cook’s absence, when Stuart Broad was captain in the West Indies last spring.

Moores has been coach so far only for one series setback, at home to Sri Lanka this summer.

However, after trouncings against India to go 2-0 down with two to play in the Royal London Series and with less than six months before the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, he has significant issues to address.

Cook’s sub-80 strike rate and England’s failure to cope with India’s spinners in Cardiff and then Nottingham over the past week are among the most vexed topics.

Moores has heard the critics claiming England are playing in the past, against opponents who have surged ahead, and those who advocate Cook should step aside in favour of a more dynamic 50-over batsman. But he said: “When people say ‘you’re going to go back and play like England in the 19 whatevers’, that’s not what we’re doing.

“We’re pretty clear on a strategy to go and be successful.

We have to find the right people to put that in place.

“But 50-over cricket isn’t quite the same as people just walk out and whack it. The best sides don’t do that either.”

The Moores template is one that takes account of the statistics to which England once seemed entirely wedded but also asks players to think on their feet and assess whether it is time to sit in or hit out.

“We have seen the game changing in the way people are striking the ball, and we’ve got to get the balance right in our side,” he said.

“We’ve also got to believe in ourselves in what we’re building towards, both as a coach and a team, so we find a style of play that can be successful against the best sides.

“But we’ve got to work fast.

“We’ve got to accelerate the development of the team quicker than might be normal to get ourselves really competitive by the World Cup.”

England’s two defeats against India have seen them lose 13 wickets to spin, but Moores is confident they have batsmen who are capable of much better.

“Playing spin is an area where we want to improve,” he said.

“We’ve got some good players of spin, like (Ian) Bell, Cook and (Eoin) Morgan, but we have to deliver in a oneday game.

“I think we have a chance now to really work at how we’re going to put pressure on spinners.

“The role of that player is to be able to normally score about five-an-over in the middle overs and not get out, which is what you need to do to be a successful side.

“England have got players who have done that in the past, and we’ve got to start doing it again. In the last two games we haven’t.”

He also believes Cook, Bell and Joe Root all have the ability to up their tempo.

“If you look at any topflight team, you’ve got a couple of guys in the top order who are striking somewhere round about 90 and are averaging about 50.

“We’ve got players who can do that. There’s been lots of talk about scoring 300.

“But that doesn’t happen all the time, and in certain different conditions you (just) have to score what is a winning score on that pitch.”

Cook, without an ODI century in his last 37 innings, is under most pressure.

But Moores added: “His record matches a lot of other people’s.

“There are top 10s in the world, who are outstanding players in that form of the game, and Alastair will be working to keep moving his game forward.

“But to his credit, his conversion – five hundreds, 19 50s in 80 odd games – is pretty high.

“He’s certainly got more hundreds than anybody else (in this team), and that’s part of what we’re looking to do.

“His strike rate, just under 80, yes, you might want to grow it a little bit.

“When he’s in form, he’s got his way of playing that can be effective in one-day cricket.”

Moores describes England as “unfancied” for the World Cup, and their current form makes grim reading.

But according to India spinner Ravi Ashwin, all is not necessarily lost just because a team go through a lean period before a major tournament.

“I remember in 2003, when India toured New Zealand and we had a horrible tour ... and (then) we went all the way to the final there,” he said.

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