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Are England the most explosive ODI batting unit of all time?

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Australia might have rolled over England in the Ashes, but it won’t be nearly as easy in the five-match ODI series starting tomorrow. The English have become an elite team with the format’s most destructive batting unit.

    Since the 2015 World Cup, which Australia won in a canter, England comfortably have the best win-loss ratio of any team in ODIs, with a 34-15 record. By comparison, Australia’s 26-21 record is only the fifth best, behind England, India, New Zealand and South Africa.

    It’s been an extraordinary turnaround for the Poms, who had been a poor ODI team for almost the entirety of the format’s existence.

    They were disgraced at the last World Cup – hammered by Australia and New Zealand early on and knocked out in the group stage by Bangladesh – prompting a belated overhaul of their approach to 50-over cricket.

    The first major change was naming a new national coach in Trevor Bayliss. The Australian set about modernising the nation’s antiquated tactics and selection strategies, with a heavy emphasis on attack-at-all-costs cricket.

    To that point the English had fallen years behind other teams tactically, particularly on the batting front, where their conservative line-up aimed for totals of 270 to 290 in an era when other teams were hunting 330-plus.

    Bayliss axed slow scorers like Ian Bell and Gary Ballance and promoted explosive strikers Ben Stokes, Alex Hales and Jason Roy.

    Rather than playing cautiously to build a platform for a late innings push, they decided instead to start blazing from ball one. The dividends were immediate. In their very first ODI after the World Cup England churned out 9/408 against losing finalists New Zealand.

    England have exceeded 300 in almost half of their matches since that tournament and have topped 350 no fewer than nine times, including a phenomenal 3/444 against Pakistan 18 months ago. Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan finished off that innings with an unbeaten stand of 161 from 72 deliveries.

    That pair have been integral to the transformation. Given licence to explore the full depth of his outrageous batting talent, keeper-batsman Buttler has added a rare dynamism to his side. Buttler’s ODI record – an average of 37 at a strike rate of 118 – is all the more extraordinary when you consider that, among batsmen with a minimum of 500 ODI runs, no-one else has ever averaged above 35 while striking at better than 110.

    Thanks to his exceptionally fast hands Buttler can easily manufacture boundaries from presentable deliveries. Yet Australia have had his measure in recent times – he’s averaged just 16 at a strike rate of 69 in his past eight ODI innings against them.

    Morgan, who has encouraged Buttler to cut loose at every opportunity, will be hoping his man can get over that hump and obliterate Australia.

    During his time as English skipper Morgan has earned plaudits not just for his fluid batting but also for the faith he places in his players. He has backed his aggressive batting line-up, giving them the green light to follow the most attacking gameplan ODI cricket has ever seen.

    England's captain Eoin Morgan bats

    Eoin Morgan (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

    Every other ODI team builds periods of consolidation into their batting strategy. Typically this occurs in the middle overs as they seek to cruise along while keeping wickets in hand for an explosion in the final 12 or so overs. England, meanwhile, push the accelerator to the floor from the first over and keep it there.

    That is why since the last World Cup no team has come even close to scoring as fast as England’s extraordinary average of 6.3 runs per over. The other four heavyweights of the format – Australia, India, South Africa and New Zealand – have all scored at between 5.72 and 5.85 runs per over in that time.

    To highlight what a massive change England have made in their scoring rate, note that they went at just 5.29 runs per over on average across the five years preceding the 2015 World Cup.

    Tomorrow is the first time we will see this new and vastly improved ODI batting approach on Australian turf. While the Ashes was frequently boring thanks in equal parts to sleepy pitches and the tourists’ ineptitude, this series promises to overflow with highlights.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (42)

    • January 13th 2018 @ 10:06am
      Brainstrust said | January 13th 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      If you don;t have much in the way of quality bowling but having plenty of big hitting allrounders and heaps of depth then it makes perfect sense to go bat heavy and use your depth to hit your way through 50 overs.
      Australia have got plenty of big hitting allrounders and big hitting batsman as well and could outhit Engtland if they wanted to select that sort of team. Starc and Cummings are good hitters and wicket taking bowlers so they can have plenty of wicket taking and hitting that way. Their selection is heaps of bowlers and allrounders with little batting, and heaps of bowling depth offers no advantage in any form of cricket.
      if you look at the 2015 world cup team it had three bowlers only and three batting all rounders. Now they have 4 bowlers and 4 batting allrounders who else is crazy enough to pick such a team.

      • January 13th 2018 @ 4:17pm
        Neil Back said | January 13th 2018 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

        It may be me, or it may be your syntax and punctuation, but I have no idea what you’re concluding.

        • January 15th 2018 @ 8:25am
          Kavvy said | January 15th 2018 @ 8:25am | ! Report

          Not just you Neil, I was quite confused by BT’s post too.

    • January 13th 2018 @ 10:28am
      Jake said | January 13th 2018 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      About as explosive as a wet fart. They had everything stacked in their favour at the CT and failed……again.
      Maybe the most explosive English batting unit of all time but any under 10 side is more explosive than previous English sides.
      Like the kiwis, the poms always talk their cricket sides up but never deliver.

      • January 14th 2018 @ 11:08am
        Jacko said | January 14th 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

        I didnt know Ronan was a Pom

    • January 13th 2018 @ 10:52am
      paul said | January 13th 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report

      Ronan, of the 13 ODI series the Poms have played since the last World Cup, 8 have been in England. This would clearly give them an advantage in terms of home team knowledge about grounds and pitches. Along the way, they managed to beat heavyweights such as Ireland and the West Indies, but lost to India in England and Australia in England.

      This might be Englands best ODI batting lineup as you suggest, but is it good enough to compete against the big boys – I guess we’ll start to find out this month and when they go to NZ

      • Columnist

        January 13th 2018 @ 12:10pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | January 13th 2018 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

        Paul you’re right these ODI series in Australia and NZ will tell us a lot about just how much England have improved as an ODI side.

        They should like the flat Australian pitches, which are similar to the ODI decks back in England, but their batting lineup will be tested in NZ where the decks tend to be slower and tackier, making it harder to tee off.

        • Roar Guru

          January 13th 2018 @ 1:56pm
          Chris Kettlewell said | January 13th 2018 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          Most of the Aussie grounds are bigger than the English ones too in general aren’t they? Playing on smaller grounds can dramatically help that all out aggressive method as it’s easier to get mishits to go for 6 than at places like the Gabba and the MCG.

          • January 13th 2018 @ 5:41pm
            Dexter The Hamster said | January 13th 2018 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

            The problem with that is, they tend to just bring the rope in to make the grounds smaller. I went to the ODI at the Gabba last summer and the rope was in at least 10m in some places. Felt the field size was smaller than the Oval in London.

        • January 13th 2018 @ 3:46pm
          Paul said | January 13th 2018 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

          and nary a mention of Ben Stokes!!

    • January 13th 2018 @ 11:01am
      David said | January 13th 2018 @ 11:01am | ! Report

      Your suggestion that all other ODI teams cautiously build an innings ready for an explosion in the last 12 overs is 1980’s or 1990’s thinking. Other opening batsmen including (but not limited to) Chris Gayle, Verendah Sewag, Adam Gilchrist and Brendan MacCullum, changed the game by attacking from the start. England is merely following this blueprint.
      This is possibly the worst article on The Roar for some time – perhaps it is designed to get the crowds in as the BBL seems to offer more entertainment that this impending series.

      • Roar Guru

        January 13th 2018 @ 11:10am
        Rellum said | January 13th 2018 @ 11:10am | ! Report

        Kaluwitharana is the one who started that off, or at least brought attacking in the first 15 into prominence.

        • Columnist

          January 13th 2018 @ 11:43am
          Ronan O'Connell said | January 13th 2018 @ 11:43am | ! Report

          Actually Rellum, Kaluwitharana was building on the strategy earlier used by NZ’s Mark Greatbatch, who a few years previous bucked the trend of conservative ODI batting by going after the opening bowlers and seeking to exploit the early overs fielding restrictions.

          Greatbatch made a splash with this strategy at the 1992 World Cup when he scored at a strike rate of 88 as an opener, which was scorching compared to some of the other leading openers in that tournament like Gooch (Strike Rate 51), Marsh (42), Haynes (56), Wessels (54), Srikkanth (55), Mahanama (54), Botham (58), Hudson (63) etc.

          • January 14th 2018 @ 9:40am
            jammel said | January 14th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

            Great call on Greatbatch Ronan – I remember him going hard early!

            Great stats on the other openers at that time!

            • January 14th 2018 @ 11:10am
              Jacko said | January 14th 2018 @ 11:10am | ! Report

              I remember Greatbatches first game…..2 fours in the first over then out……We had never seen anything like it until then

      • Columnist

        January 13th 2018 @ 11:27am
        Ronan O'Connell said | January 13th 2018 @ 11:27am | ! Report

        Thanks for your measured contribution David.

        I never said “all other ODI teams cautiously build an innings ready for an explosion in the last 12 overs”

        What I actually wrote was: “Every other ODI team builds periods of consolidation into their batting strategy. Typically this occurs in the middle overs as they seek to cruise along while keeping wickets in hand for an explosion in the final 12 or so overs.”

        Attack early, cruise through the middle overs, then explode late with wickets in hand, that’s been the dominant ODI batting strategy for years now. England are the only team who regularly attack throughout the whole innings.

        But, by all means David, continue to create fantasies and then rant angrily about your concocted fantasies. You’re earning great respect.

      • January 13th 2018 @ 8:48pm
        Duncan Smith said | January 13th 2018 @ 8:48pm | ! Report

        Roy Fredericks for West Indies at the WACA 1975 against Lillee and Thomson. But that was a test, ha ha.

    • January 13th 2018 @ 11:28am
      Jeffrey Dun said | January 13th 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

      Ronan, you mention that in recent times England has the best win loss ratio, while Australia has only the fifth best.

      I don’t follow ODIs very closely, but I get the impression that, outside of World Cups, we don’t take the format very seriously, particularly away from home. We rarely play a full strength bowling line up in any one match, and there have been occasions we have sent second string sides to play an away tournament – for example the team that was sent to South Africa a few years ago.

      I think that Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins may be too much for the England batsmen to handle, but I doubt we will see the three of them altogether in any match this series.

      • Columnist

        January 13th 2018 @ 11:48am
        Ronan O'Connell said | January 13th 2018 @ 11:48am | ! Report

        Jeffrey you’re spot on there, Cricket Australia for a long time often haven’t shown great respect for ODI series, particularly ones away from home, resting a host of key players or scheduling series in other formats at almost the same time, stretching player resources.

        The peak example of that was when they toured SA in 2016 with what I described as their “worst-ever ODI attack” http://www.theroar.com.au/2016/09/25/australia-land-south-africa-worst-ever-pace-attack/. They then promptly got whitewashed 5-0 by the Proteas, with that woeful attack getting destroyed.

        CA don’t seem worried about Australia’s ODI ranking, only about having them ready for World Cups.

        • Roar Rookie

          January 13th 2018 @ 12:37pm
          Roger said | January 13th 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

          I don’t mind that approach Ronan (ignoring rankings in favour of peaking at World Cup stage) given that it gives top level exposure to more players should they be needed at the pointy end.

          • Columnist

            January 13th 2018 @ 1:02pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | January 13th 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

            Alan I have no problem with teams resting key players from occasional matches to keep them fresh but Australia have overdone it at times and turned out rank lineups as a result.

            The obvious example being for the ODIs they lost 5-0 in SA in 2016 – that humiliation came right before the Proteas toured Australia and I think it gave SA major momentum and confidence which they carried to Australia where they won the Tests 2-1.

            • January 14th 2018 @ 4:15am
              Broken-hearted Toy said | January 14th 2018 @ 4:15am | ! Report

              The bowling line-up the Aussies fielded was at least good for a laugh! Or at least it made me chuckle. It felt like they had no interest in the series what so ever and had got drunk and pulled the bowlers’ names out of a hat.

          • Roar Guru

            January 13th 2018 @ 2:01pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | January 13th 2018 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

            It does seem that every ODI series played in between world cups is about getting as many promising players into it as possible, building up experience in more players and gradually working their way to having the best team come the next world cup, almost not caring about the results they get in between.

            The World Cup results show that this strategy has certainly worked, but it would probably be good to be more regularly picking closer to best possible teams and trying to win those tournaments. Certainly when you consider the expense of tickets to watch these matches, it’s insulting to those who pay to come and watch when they rest large numbers of the best players and put out a second-rate team.

    • Roar Guru

      January 13th 2018 @ 12:58pm
      Ryan H said | January 13th 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

      The scary proposition too is how much depth is in their batting, with just about all their bowlers more than capable hitters. For example they might have Willey, Woakes and Rashid at 8-10 in this series, and that is seriously strong.

      • Columnist

        January 13th 2018 @ 1:04pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | January 13th 2018 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

        Plunkett is a really handy lower-order batsman too – averages 21 at a blazing strike rate of 101 in ODIs.

        • January 13th 2018 @ 9:00pm
          Nudge said | January 13th 2018 @ 9:00pm | ! Report

          Is 101 really a blazing strike rate in One Dayers when you consider that he probably only bats mostly between overs 45-50?

          • Columnist

            January 13th 2018 @ 9:17pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | January 13th 2018 @ 9:17pm | ! Report

            It’s a very good strike rate for a tail ender Nudge, there are very few specialist bowlers around who average 20+ at a strike rate of 100+ in ODIs.

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