It may be too early to say England have a mountain to climb at the Cricket World Cup but a steep progression is needed as the team face Bangladesh in the shadows of the Himalayas.
Jos Buttler’s side did not deliver a peak performance against New Zealand in their opening match. It was a pretty bleak performance, in truth, as they slumped to a nine-wicket defeat in Ahmedabad.
England stuttered to 282-9 as they failed to build substantial partnerships – each of the top-six stands reached at least 24 but only one passed fifty: Joe Root and Buttler adding 70 for the fifth wicket.
With ball in hand, England were then wayward. Chris Woakes leaked 27 runs from his first three overs, Mark Wood haemorrhaged 38 from his initial three.
New Zealand were 92-1 after 11 overs and ultimately breezed to their target with 82 balls to spare to hit the summit of the World Cup table, leaving England rooted to the foot of it.
To labour the mountain references further, the question has been asked as to whether this England side is past its peak with only four members of the squad (Sam Curran, Gus Atkinson, Harry Brook and Reece Topley) under 30. Just two of those – Brook and Curran – played against New Zealand.
With age comes wisdom and experience, the knowledge that you can win World Cups after setbacks, something England did in the 50-over version at home in 2019 and T20 edition in Australia last year.
But with age also comes creaking bones. Ben Stokes’ hip is the latest part of his body to give him gip. It led to him missing the New Zealand match and he is likely to sit out Tuesday’s meeting with Bangladesh as concerns persist over the quality of the outfield.
Buttler has described the surface at the HPCA Stadium, which hosted Saturday’s clash between Bangladesh and Afghanistan, as “poor” and said it could compromise the “integrity of the game” with players possibly having to be “careful” in the field.
“That goes against everything you want to be as a team,” said Buttler ahead of a game you can watch live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event from 5.30am (6am first ball).
Mehidy, Shanto in form for Bangladesh
With Dharamshala’s spot in the foothills of the Himalayas, temperatures tend to be chillier and conditions often favour seam bowlers. That is why Topley is poised to come into the XI, most likely at the expense of one of England’s spin-bowling all-rounders in Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali.
Still, Bangladesh spinners Shakib Al Hasan and Mehidy Hasan Miraz enjoyed themselves on Saturday, taking three wickets apiece as Bangladesh bundled Afghanistan out for 156.
Even if the venue proves a haven for pace bowlers on Tuesday, then Bangladesh have some decent quicks in their side, too.
Right-armer Taskin Ahmed has bagged 22 ODI wickets in 2023 at an average below 18, while Mustafizur Rahman and Shoriful Islam are a couple of slippery left-armers.
Batting-wise for Bangladesh, Najmul Hossain Shanto took his tally of ODI runs this calendar year to 757 with an unbeaten 59 against Afghanistan, his eighth fifty-plus score in 15 innings, while Mehidy is now firing with the blade after being elevated up the order from his usual No 7 or No 8 berth.
The spin-bowling all-rounder struck a century while opening against Afghanistan in September’s Asia Cup, hit half-centuries at No 3 or No 4 against England and Sri Lanka in World Cup warm-up matches, and then kicked off his World Cup with 57 against Afghanistan.
What will give England comfort is that Bangladesh have only posted three fifty-plus opening partnerships in one-day international cricket in 2023, so Buttler’s boys will fancy making early inroads against a side they will not be taking lightly. England have been burned by Bangladesh before.
Will England ‘throw more punches’ in second game?
A loss to the Tigers confirmed England’s meek exit from the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, while they were swept 3-0 by them in a T20 international series in March of this year.
England did win the ODI series versus Bangladesh this spring but were denied a 3-0 whitewash as Shakib’s fifty and four wickets earned the hosts a 50-run win in Chattogram.
That 2015 defeat to Bangladesh was one of the darkest days in English white-ball cricket but it triggered a turnaround that has led to the team becoming reigning world champions in both limited-overs formats, achieved by playing fearless, aggressive cricket.
England appeared to go away from that against New Zealand on Thursday. “They didn’t throw many punches. I don’t think they went hard enough,” was 2019 World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan’s assessment of the batting. We should probably expect less timidity against Bangladesh.
Winning well is important for England from now on in.
Yes, they suffered three defeats en route to their 2019 triumph on home soil but each of those three losses were tight affairs whereas their opening mis-step against New Zealand here was an absolute hammering.
The only way is up. Let the climb begin.
Watch England vs Bangladesh live on Sky Sports Cricket from 5.30am on Tuesday (6am first ball) or follow over-by-over text commentary on skysports.com and the Sky Sports App.
Watch every game from Cricket World Cup live on Sky Sports. You can also stream with NOW for £21 a month for six months.