22 February 2015
Scotland v England preview, Match 14, Christchurch
England is under pressure after successive defeats, while Scotland will have nothing to lose in this clash
England will know that there are issues with the batting, and that the bowling has been picked off a bit too easily in conditions that should actually suit its attack.
England has begun its ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 campaign in disappointing fashion. Against Australia, England’s bowlers conceded 342 runs, Steven Finn going at nearly eight an over, and the batsmen fell well short, folding for 231. Coming off this defeat, it was outplayed by New Zealand. From 104 for 3, England imploded to 123 all out, Tim Southee slicing through the batting with 7 for 33. If the collapse was not bad enough, Brendon McCullum waded into the bowlers, making 77 off 25 balls and a mockery of the run chase. Finn, of whom much was expected in this tournament, was taken for 49 from two overs.
In this backdrop, England takes on Scotland, and watching the two teams train on the eve of the game, it was clear which camp was a happy one and which was worried about tripping up. Scotland did not have the greatest game against New Zealand, its batting faltering against high-quality, fast, swing bowling, but when it was their turn with the ball, the bowlers showed heart and fight.
On match eve, England’s net session was all business, with the top order clearly unsettled. To change things around, England needs a change of mindset, and bringing in an aggressive batsman such as Alex Hales, and allowing him the freedom to tee off in the top-order could be just the shot in the arm for a team that is struggling. How long England will stick with Finn remains to be seen, and the conditions at Christchurch on match morning could well have a role to play in that decision.
In contrast, Scotland’s lead-up to the game was light and airy. All professional cricketers, it is not as though they were horsing around, but there was plenty of chatter, plenty of ribbing and the warm-up game off footy was energetic, with players throwing themselves around and larking about when a goal was scored.
Watching the two teams, assessing their respective situations, it was impossible to escape the sense that Monday’s match is going to be all about England, in many ways. England will know it should come in as firm favourite, but will be wondering if that is actually true. England will know that there are issues with the batting, and that the bowling has been picked off a bit too easily in conditions that should actually suit its attack.
Scotland has never won a game against a top team in a World Cup fixture, and will see the match as a great opportunity to stitch together a good game of cricket. If it wins the toss, and there is a bit of cloud cover about, there is enough skill in the ranks to get the ball to move about and trouble England’s batsmen. With a few early wickets in the bag, Scotland could put England in two minds, and, a team that does not really know what works best for itself could freeze and fall back on old bad habits.
One of the marked differences this World Cup has thrown up from previous events is just how competitive the Associate nations have been. Ireland has beaten the West Indies and UAE ran Zimbabwe close for almost the entire 100 overs of their game. Scotland is acutely aware of the kind of profile Ireland has built for itself, and realises that this can only come from winning games of cricket when the world is watching. And, if the cricketers allow themselves to believe that England has played itself into a position where it is ripe for the picking, who can grudge them that?
England: Ian Bell, Moeen Ali, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (capt), James Taylor, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
Scotland: Kyle Coetzer, Calum MacLeod, Hamish Gardiner, Matt Machan, Preston Mommsen (capt), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross (wk), Josh Davey, Rob Taylor, Majid Haq, Iain Wardlaw.
Don’t discount the Associates – they are here to fight
New Zealand v England: In Numbers