Even if England lose the second one-dayer at Brisbane on Friday, they will theoretically remain in contention for a series win. All they have to do is win the last three games. But, the manner in which they have been thumped by Australia thus far, winning three games in a row would be expecting the impossible of England. They did manage to taste triumph in a practice match a couple of days back, but one would be over-optimistic to read too much into it. Before heading on to the field, England must first believe that they can win, only then can they compete against the rampant hosts.
Self-belief is what has been lacking in England ever since they were trounced in the opening Test. This lack of confidence was evident in the opening game defeat at the MCG. England batted reasonably well to post a challenging target in front of the Aussies, but once Aaron Finch went hammer and tongs, they simply threw in the towel. When Finch was dropped early on and there were edges flying around, someone needed to lift England. The inspiration needed to come from within the team, but it was nowhere to be seen.
Though there were some positive factors for England from the defeat in the opening ODI, the performance of Gary Balance and Eoin Morgan in particular, they will be tested again as their Ashes nemesis Mitchell Johnson will be back in action at Brisbane. Even though Johnson will only bowl 10 overs in the shorter format, he could still cause a lot of damage with his pace and bounce, as he did in the series in India, which put his floundering career back on track. On a not-so-serious note, it remains to be seen whether doing away with the moustache changes Johnson’s fortunes in any way.
To win at Brisbane, England need a lot of things to go right. First and foremost, they need their skipper Alastair Cook to fire. It has been a while since Cook has come up with a big knock, and with every failure the pressure on him is increasing. Cook did not have many fans as a leader, but with his batting also not up to the mark, critics have got another reason to point fingers at him. With no Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad, Ian Bell is another experienced hand who needs to deliver.
Of course, it would help the most if batsmen who get 50s go on to make hundreds, just like Aaron Finch did for Australia the other day. Balance and Morgan got half-centuries in the same game, but neither of them carried on to cross three figures. At the same time, a better all-round batting performance would also aid their cause. As of now, only a couple of them are firing. England’s bowling was pretty ordinary at Brisbane, as was their fielding, which allowed Australia to bat without much pressure.
Can England turn things around in spite of so much going against them? Difficult, but not impossible if they believe in themselves.
--By A Cricket Analyst