After England's shock defeat to Ireland, Ian Bell discusses the state of play for Jos Buttler's side and the do-or-die clash with hosts Australia.
Well, I don’t think anyone predicted that, but you’ve got to give full credit to Ireland and Andy Balbirnie.
What we have seen so far in the T20 World Cup – certainly at the MCG – the wickets have done a little bit more than what most people would have thought. Normally they’re very flat wickets and the bat dominates, but they’ve had a bit of grass on them, they’ve gone through, they’ve been quick, and the weather has been overcast so there’s been good conditions for bowling, which is unusual for a T20 competition, which are usually geared up for lots of 4s and 6s.
But the fact of the matter is, Ireland out-bowled and out-batted England.
England were honest with themselves – I saw Mark Wood come out with a statement about how they didn’t deserve to win – they simply weren’t good enough with the new ball, and the conditions have suited that new ball period.
England will be bitterly disappointed not to have hit the standards we’re so used to seeing, but as I’ve said before, in T20 cricket more than any other format, it only takes one or two guys to have a good day, and any team in this competition can beat any other team.
It’s also great for international cricket. We’ve already seen Ireland turn over West Indies and we want to see the game grow, and we want associate nations and Test nations to be beating the bigger teams, and now it’s not just my generation that lost to Ireland in a World Cup so we can put that to bed!
As part of the team that lost that game back in 2011, you have to accept that sometimes you’ll have good days and bad days. You expect to win all the time, but you have to accept that other people can play well, and you’re not guaranteed to win every game.
In that one in particular, we had 330 on the board and we had Ireland dead and buried at 111-5, then Kevin O’Brien comes and smashes 113 off 63. We should’ve beaten India in a very tight game just before that but like I say, you can’t win every game.
There was talk that in a rain-affected game that the order could’ve been shifted slightly, particularly with someone like Dawid Malan who had been labelled a while ago as a bit of a slow starter, but actually his statistics have improved over the first 10/20 balls.
Moeen Ali also came out to bat ahead of Liam Livingstone, but with the left-hand spinner in George Dockrell coming in, they wanted a left-hand batter in, and Moeen’s an incredible player of spin.
A lot of this is about match-ups. They’ll have a clear indication of which batters they want to face which bowlers and vice versa. All the homework you do on each team with statistics of strike rates against certain types of bowling is done by the coaching staff and the players will largely stick to it. That comes into play massively nowadays; it’s not just ‘let’s turn up and have a game of cricket’, there’s lot of information there – so I think that will have been why Moeen came out to bat earlier.
But at the end of the day, England had their best side out. They didn’t perform how they’d have liked, and all credit goes to Ireland.
Australia I believe are the oldest team in the competition, but I think England are perhaps the most experienced in terms of cricket played, so all their players will have been through this where they lost a game, and in such a volatile format as T20, this will happen. They need to stick to their beliefs and try not to change too much. They know it works.
Even when England won the World Cup in 2019, it wasn’t a smooth ride, so I don’t think they’ll worry, but Australia is now a huge game.
What I will say though is watching Australia, their batting in particular has looked average at times. Aaron Finch is a concern for them. He’s obviously a world class T20 player but he’s not in a good place, though they do raise their game for these ones.
England had the better of them in the warm-up series, but this is the real deal now in what’s almost a knockout game.
I don’t think England will panic. When they won their first game against Afghanistan, they went with their strongest team, and when you lose a game, the temptation is to panic, but if that was the best team before Ireland, I don’t see why it’s not the best team before Australia.
England bat very deep with lots of bowling options covered, so I think they’ll go with the same team again unless there are any injuries.