England know they cannot afford a potentially terminal third World Cup defeat against South Africa… Jos Buttler and Co have talked a good game about unleashing the monster within but now is the time to deliver
- England take on South Africa on Saturday knowing they have to win
- Both sides are reeling from defeat and a third would derail their World Cup aims
- Jos Buttler has stressed the importance of reconnecting with the old ways
England go into Saturday’s clash with South Africa saying all the right things about unleashing the monster within. They also know that defeat will leave them sipping chai latte martinis in the last-chance saloon.
With almost a month to go before the World Cup final, it wasn’t meant to be like this when they set about aiming for a third global white-ball trophy in four years.
England simply cannot afford a third defeat now, not with India, Australia and Pakistan still to come. With that in mind, Jos Buttler became the latest senior figure in the camp to stress the importance of reconnecting with the old ways.
‘It’s about reinforcing that message – that we don’t go away from the style we want to play, just because we haven’t had the results we wanted,’ he said.
‘We know it’s served us well over a long period of time. If you’re going to lose, I’d rather lose in that style – I’d rather we go down on our sword and continue to take the game on.’
England captain Jos Buttler knows England cannot afford a third ODI World Cup defeat
The sight of England’s batsmen spending the best part of two training sessions trying to hit the ball out of Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium has certainly reflected the collective mood
The sight of England’s batsmen spending the best part of two training sessions trying to hit the ball out of Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium has certainly reflected the collective mood.
The return of Ben Stokes from a hip injury, meanwhile, is the timeliest of fillips at a venue where true pitches tend to reward the cleaner hitters.
But South Africa have a few of those too, having begun the tournament with World Cup-record 428 for five against Sri Lanka in Delhi, where Aiden Markram battered a century in 49 balls – another tournament record.
Quinton de Kock has scored two hundreds – including one in the win over Australia – with Rassie van der Dussen adding another. Dramatically rebalancing the ledger was South Africa’s defeat by the Netherlands in Dharamshala on Tuesday, giving critics the chance to rehang the ‘chokers’ tag around their necks.
Ben Stokes’ return means Sam Curran is likely to miss out against South Africa
Against South Africa on Saturday, this will be a day when England have to match word with deed
But they will have listened with interest to England’s repeated backing of their attack leader Chris Woakes, who has two wickets at 67 in this tournament and an economy-rate of 7.5. If they play him again now, it will be no better than a calculated risk.
With Stokes returning, Sam Curran is likely to miss out, having averaged 11 with the bat and 70 with the ball. Partly because of his absence, and partly because of the Wankhede’s lively surface, England will also consider strengthening their seam department, bringing David Willey into the equation.
Above all, though, this will be a day when England have to match word with deed.
If losing one game might be considered a misfortune, and two looks like carelessness, three could be terminal. We may be about to find out what Buttler’s England are made of.
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