In the space of a week, England have gone from being talked up as potential challengers to South Africa at the top of the ICC Test rankings – to being tipped by some to be eliminated from the ICC Champions Trophy at the group stage, on home soil.
Should this embarrassment come to fruition, it would be a remarkable change in fortunes for Alistair Cook’s men. Despite a rocky winter programme, they looked to be hitting top form during the recent Test series against New Zealand with a comprehensive 2-0 victory.
Since though, they’ve been anything but convincing in their showings during the first two matches in the ODI series. The Kiwis will take to the field in the 3rd ODI at Trent Bridge knowing victory is already in the bag. This after their dominant 86-run victory over the hosts on Sunday at the Rose Bowl followed up Thursday’s five-wicket success at Lord’s.
Nevertheless, as well as pride, both sides will want to iron out any problems ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy which gets under way on Thursday.
New Zealand will be heading into the group stage which features England, Australia and Sri Lanka, high on confidence even if they were to lose at Trent Bridge. On the other hand, Alistair Cook, Andy Flower and the England squad know they need a victory to save face and gain some momentum in the run up to the Champions Trophy.
Many factors have led to England’s downfall during the two ODI’s thus far. The obvious being England’s top order getting starts in both matches, but only Jonathan Trott going onto a big score (109no) during the last ODI.
Alistair Cook, Ian Bell, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan made decent starts during the chase on Sunday, only to throw give their wickets away at crucial times of the innings which turned the game in the Kiwis favour.
Another factor which has led to two lacklustre bowling performances has been the fitness issues regarding England pace-men Steven Finn and Stuart Broad. Both have missed the two ODI’s thus far, leaving question marks over their possible participation in the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy.
Both Finn and Broad would have produced the bounce required to trouble the likes of Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor, who have been in fine form and battered England’s bowlers to all corners during the matches.
However, without Broad and Finn, they turned to the unpredictable and inconsistent Jade Dernbach and Tim Bresnan, who’s produced very ordinary England performances over the past year.
Without the cutting edge that Broad and Finn provide, England’s pace attack looks average at best. Alastair Cook also believes their absence has damaged the team’s form of late.
“Clearly when you lose bowlers of the quality of Stuart and Finny, it does leave a hole,” he said rather downheartedly following the defeat on Sunday.
“It’s given the opportunity to guys to step up and show us what they can do. We’ve learned a lot about these players and about us as a side for the future.
“But it’s obviously a concern; the standards we’ve played to so far here haven’t been good enough.”
Another possible option for England should Broad and Finn miss out, is the in-form and proven Durham wicket-taker, Graham Onions. Despite an injury ravaged couple of years, he’s bounced back of late, and has taken seven wickets in his last two 40 over performances for the Dynamo’s.
England get their Champions Trophy campaign under way on Saturday against Australia while New Zealand play Sri Lanka on Sunday.
First though, they have an ODI against the Kiwis to play. A win might prove a huge psychological boost for either team before meeting each other again next week in what may prove to be an “elimination match”.