England have set a new trend at this World Cup by unleashing speed demons Jofra Archer and Mark Wood
- Fast, short-pitched bowling is all the rage at this World Cup in England
- Bowlers are looking for something different against powerful batsmen
- You have to credit England for being at the forefront of that this summer
I had reservations about England fielding Jofra Archer and Mark Wood in the same side because it went against the way they have done things on their rise to become the best one-day team in the world.
Yet it is a move that has proved they are ahead of the curve.
We have often seen trends set at global tournaments. For instance, in the 1992 World Cup New Zealand opened with a spinner in Dipak Patel and then in 1996 Sri Lanka gave us the first real pinch-hitters in Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana.
I had reservations about England fielding Jofra Archer and Mark Wood in the same side
Then look at the way England won the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean in 2010 and the slower ball bouncer was a big part of their armoury.
In this World Cup, fast, short-pitched bowling is all the rage, with bowlers looking to combat the all-powerful white-ball batsmen by coming up with something different.
You have to credit England for being at the forefront of that, even if it has meant leaving out a second spinner who has been a big part of their success in Moeen Ali.
But it is not just a case of running up and banging it in, as West Indies did to little effect at Southampton on Friday. You have to be smart as well and Wood and Archer were very smart in bowling West Indies out for 212.
Archer took three wickets as West Indies were bowled out for 212 in Southampton on Friday
Fast, short-pitched bowling has become all the rage and England are at the forefront
I would give credit, too, to Chris Woakes. He may not have the stats of Archer and Wood in this tournament but he sets the tone with the new ball and the way he bowled up-front on Friday was integral to the success of the other bowlers.
I wrote in these pages about how England needed to bowl at Chris Gayle, something they often got wrong in the Caribbean last winter, and they did it very well here.
After winning a good toss, England bowled tightly at first and went past his bat, with Woakes in particular producing Test match lengths and lines to Gayle.
That’s why Woakes was so disappointed when a catch went down off him because he had built up the pressure on Gayle until he felt he had to go after him.
But it proved not to be an expensive miss because Liam Plunkett, who remains such an important man in the middle overs, struck again with a slower ball bouncer that Gayle felt compelled to try to hit over one of the long Hampshire Bowl boundaries.
Chris Woakes sets the tone with the new ball and his role was integral in the eight-wicket win
So while all the attention was on England’s batting before this tournament and there were concerns about an attack that could be prone to going for 350, the thinking that has gone into their bowling has been excellent.
The injuries are a concern. It’s OK to carry one injured player, as India are doing with Shikhar Dhawan in the hope he will be fit for the later stages of the tournament, but two would be a problem.
Which is why England will be assessing Jason Roy and Eoin Morgan carefully.
The captain does not look too bad but if Roy is out for any length of time then maybe it provides a chance for Moeen to bat in the top three. It might be exactly what his batting needs because he has been struggling at seven.
Injuries at the top of the order provide Moeen Ali with a chance to bat in the top three
Yet England have already lost Alex Hales and the last thing they need is to lose Roy too. James Vince is a fine player but he is no Roy or Jonny Bairstow.
This was a big day for England and this win gives them breathing space. If they can beat Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, as they should, in their next two games then they will probably need to win only one of their last three games against Australia, India and New Zealand to reach the semi-finals.
And you would back them to do that.
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