“You have to win big matches at some stage in the tournament if you are going go to on and win it. Ours have come a bit sooner than expected.”
So came the perfect summation of England’s plight in this, a home World Cup that promised much. With three defeats, the last of which coming on Tuesday against Australia, their semi-final places do not quite hang in the balance, but do rely on them beating both India and New Zealand to get through on their own terms.
Defeat by 64 runs confirmed Australia’s place in the top four and made it three games in a row that England have failed to chase this World Cup. Targets of 349 (Pakistan at Trent Bridge), 233 (Sri Lanka at Headingley) and this 289 at Lord’s were deemed chaseable, especially to a side that have made their name as prolific chasers. In fact, they had only lost three times when batting second since the end of the 2017 Champions Trophy before this World Cup.
So, what doing? Root – 107 against Pakistan, 57 against Sri Lanka and just eight on Tuesday – believes the absence of one more partnership in their three defeats is to blame.
“I think when we have done it well we have had two substantial partnerships through the chase,” he said. “We haven’t really managed that – we haven’t had two guys who have batted for a long enough period of time to put the opposition under pressure for a 20 or 25 over period and generally when we have chased well that is what has served us well.”
Of course, the first aspect to consider is pressure. Not just the pressure of being the number one-ranked team going into this tournament – they have now dropped to second – but also of being hosts. On paper, this squad is England’s best hope of winning a 50-over title since the one that fell short in the 1992 final. Root though, contests the assertion.
“I wouldn’t say that (pressure) has been a massive thing.” He cedes, though, that on surfaces that offer something for the bowlers, yet again, this England line-up have found wanting. “Adapting to some of the conditions and turning up to some venues and things have been quite different throughout this tournament to when we play one day series there in the past and we haven’t necessarily adapted as well as we could have in the last two games in terms of the surfaces.
“You look at some of the par scores throughout this tournament have been very different to when we have played in bilateral series. I think as well, there are a number of things we could have done slightly better in the last two games. It would be silly to sit and mope about that and get all caught up in it – we have two opportunities now to go and qualify.”
What will be of some reassurance to England is that they have beaten both New Zealand and India in ODI series in 2018: the latter 2-1 with comprehensive 86-run and eight wicket wins. That first match, defeat by eight wickets was inspire by the left-arm wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav, who took six for 25. The home batsmen adapted accordingly and were able to nullify his threat, along with that of leg spinner Yuzvendra Singh Chahal.
They will come up against both again on a Birmingham pitch that will be fresh but will take turn if the surface used for Pakistan v New Zealand is anything to go by. England, though, will look to draw on their experiences last year to counter both Yadav and Chahal who have three and eight wickets this tournament, respectively.
“We hadn’t faced a lot of them but now we have that in the bank, it is important we are aware of the threat those two pose but collectively as an attack. You look at some of the other games and the way other sides have gone about playing India very much been concerned about the two spinners. But it’s the other guys who have caused pressure.”
India will go into Sunday as favourites and, following Pakistan’s victory over New Zealand, England could enter the match in fifth position unless Afghanistan are able to shock Pakistan when the two meet on Saturday. If the team do not feel the pressure right now, they will them.
Root, as one of the wiser heads in the dressing room, has urged patience. The crowd at Edgbaston will be majority cheering for India and, while something no alien to this England team in home matches, it could ramp up the pressure.
“I personally think we have to be very calm about how we approach the next couple of games. The games themselves might get quite emotional especially the atmosphere at Edgbaston could be the case – being very clear and precise about the threats the oppositions pose and when we are at our best what that looks like both individually and collectively.
“Ultimately we have a really good opportunity to get to a semi and we have just got to look at performing our best and to the way we know we can.”