By our reckoning, which has been wrong before and will no doubt be wrong again, England now have 15 One Day Internationals confirmed between now and the start of the World Cup. A lot can change in that many matches – 15 games ago Michael Carberry was opening with someone called Kevin Pietersen and Boyd Rankin was making light work of the Australian batsmen. Ah, halcyon days indeed. But time is certainly ticking towards that opening match against Australia on Valentine’s Day 2015 and let’s face it, England are doing a very good impression of most other 50-over England teams for the past 20 years.
We pointed out a few weeks back that England need to plan their strategy(ies) for the World Cup. It turned out that at least some of the management had indeed read our article, seeing as Graham Gooch’s ball-slingy-thing was confiscated and England’s batting coach sent to do some po-faced charity gig instead. Judging by England’s performances in the series defeat to Sri Lanka, their approach will feature a mix of penetrative quick bowling, attempted defence in the middle overs, steadily shambolic starts with the bat and a cross-fingered hope that Jos Buttler or Ravi Bopara can somehow get them close to the line. Losing 3-2 was no disgrace, even in the most English conditions ever, but there is still a feeling of ineptitude, notwithstanding the wonderful demolition of Sri Lanka at Manchester.
So time is running out. Are the selectors going to experiment between now and February? Maybe not. Are we inevitably going to see the Melbourne sun reflecting off James Tredwell’s magnificently domed head? Yes, we think so. Can England continue to ignore what Nick Knight describes as gun-players? Good question. Will Sky Sports learn that Nick Knight asks rhetorical questions, which he then answers? No, we doubt it.
Well we promised a second volume of England’s World Cup Ladder and that’s what we’re giving you. Advance warning: it gets grim.
1. James Anderson (+2) The most consistent bowler in the series against Sri Lanka has proven that Anderson is still integral to the one-day side. If bowling stocks were as full as they once were, then perhaps Anderson could sit out ODIs to prolong his Test career…but they’re not and he clearly should be first name on the World Cup team sheet.
2. Alastair Cook (unchanged) Hmmmm. Unless the management have a massive volte-face, Cook is going to remain captain in this format. However the swell of people thinking he should not play limited overs cricket for England is growing into a tsunami. Our view is not quite so clear-cut as that, but we do accept that the incumbent top four are somewhat unexplosive.
3. Stuart Broad (+1) Yes there are still question marks about his fitness, but we suspect that even at 75% fitness he would hobble into the World Cup squad. England need game-changing wicket-takers and he is certainly that.
4. Jos Buttler (+7) No longer is Jos Hooiveld the greatest living sportsman named Jos. His stunning innings at Lord’s was evidence, if it was required, that his batting combines power, wristiness and invention with scintillating results. Such awesome ability will make him perhaps the one England player that other countries envy – and
massively outweighs his slightly inconsistent work behind the stumps.
5. Ian Bell (+3) Now just 260 runs short of Paul Collingwood, Bell is England’s second highest run-scorer in ODIs. That does seem somewhat surprising, given he’s never really seemed settled in the team – partly due to ongoing debates about which position he should bat. But his class speaks for itself and it’s unthinkable for England to be without him next year.
6. Eoin Morgan (-1) Everybody’s favourite darling, it seems, apart from ours. Yes, he has a good record in limited overs, but his form is not as great as the media seem to believe it is. In our opinion, it is nonsense for him to be touted for the Test team and nor do we particularly give much attention to the voices calling for him to captain the 50-over side.
7. Ravi Bopara (-1) Oh Ravi, always the bridesmaid’s uglier sister and never the bride. He’s good with the bat, he’s good with the ball, but there’s always a nagging feeling that for England to improve in this form, they need Bopara to turn good into very good in at least one of his disciplines.
8. Chris Jordan (+16) There’s only one word to describe his series: magic cricket.
9. Gary Ballance (+11) Although at times troubled by spin, Ballance appears to be doing just enough to continue his infant England career for now. A man who could do with a really big score for England as much as he could do with one of Paul McKenna’s DVDs.
10. James Tredwell (+8) It was roughly two years ago that we coined the admittedly not very original phrase “Fucking Tredwell”. Yes he is doing a job, but so was Jimmy Savile.
11. Joe Root (+1) England know what to do with Our Joe as much as we know what to do with the large mouldy mess at the bottom of our fridge. His off-spin may be useful (especially in a post-Swann universe) but it should only be used in moderation, whilst he has been batting like a man afraid of losing his spot in the team. Which is a perfectly cromulent view for him to take.
12. Alex Hales (NE) Rightly seen as the option that England should consider in order to liven up their top order. If the selectors don’t give him a go between now and next February, they need to be first against the wall when the revolution comes.
13. Ben Stokes (+3) Is obviously a more than useful option, once fully fit, not forgetting that in his last four ODI innings he scored a total of nine runs. England are yet to conclude whether they will opt for five front-line bowlers or three / four bowlers augmented by all-rounders. Stokes has more to gain if they prefer the latter.
14. Steven Finn (-4) There was a time when this man was ranked number two ODI bowler in the world. It was last July. Even in September against the Australians he was still ranked third. And then? Nothing. But without having appeared for England since, he is no longer ranked at all. This makes baby Jesus cry.
15. Harry Gurney (NE) The long-armed levers from Nottingham has made an encouraging start to his international career, though it may be a bit premature to say that he is the new Ryan Sidebottom (let alone comparing him with Wasim Akram, as was done by some minor blog or something). It’s not new to say that the left-arm variation is a useful addition to the pace attack (*something about angles*) but that doesn’t make it any less true.
16. Moeen Ali (NE) It certainly feels like his career is on an upward trajectory. In the fickle and farcical world of England selection committees though, that means bugger all.
17. Michael Carberry (+10) Although he is ‘up’ from last September, he’s actually on his way ‘down’ again. Unless he has a miraculous summer in a coloured shirt for Hampshire (winning the Royal London Cup at Lord’s would be nice…), he won’t get picked again.
18. Jonny Bairstow (-1) Underwhelming; but we could probably fill a cricket website with shit about underwhelming England players.
19. Tim Bresnan (-5) Chris Jordan may well have put the last tungsten tipped screw in to Bresnan’s coffin.
20. Chris Woakes (+3) Woakes is still hanging around the edges of England squads: not so much a bad smell as an unnoticed fart.
21. Samit Patel (+5) Busy turning his career around like some kind of nimble catamaran rather than the aircraft carrier that he normal resembles when trying to change direction. We don’t think he’ll feature again for England, but the way things are currently going, we may not necessarily complain if he does.
22. Craig Kieswetter (+6) The only reason Actually-His-Face-Isn’t-That-Square Craig Kieswetter is rising on this ladder is that so many others have fallen off. Should Buttler not make the World Cup due to injury or other unknown unknown, then England, based on current guesswork, will be forced to pick either Bairstow or Kieswetter. They might as well just pick Bruce French. Or Peter Moores. Or Paul Farbrace. Or Andy Flower. Or Paul Downton. Or the bloke who sings Jerusalem at the start of every sodding match.
23. Michael Lumb (NE) It was Lumb and Kieswetter who helped England blast their way to the World T20 trophy in 2010. Could they do the same in 2015? No. Lumb’s record of a century on debut (at the age of 34) followed by just two more caps will go down in history as one of the stranger careers in recent times.
24. James Taylor (-7) Have the England selectors looked down the side of the sofa?
25. Luke Wright (-6) We honestly can’t remember if he’s Good Luke or Bad Luke at the moment. Either way, it probably doesn’t matter.
26. Jade Dernbach (-5) Falling down this ladder quickly, like shit down a ladder.
27. Scott Borthwick (-2) If England had shown some faith in one of their young spinners, may be they wouldn’t be taking Tredders down under. In truth, Borthwick probably falls into the Ali / Patel camp (rather than the Adil Rashid camp, which is good news for him).
28. Danny Briggs (-6) Any ability he may have with the ball will be offset by inability with the bat. England already have one so-so spinner (and another in the shape of Monty Panesar who is about rung number 885 on this ladder), they don’t need Briggs to do that job.
29. Peter Trego (+1) If we can just do 28 more of these by February…
30. Liam Plunkett (NE)