England are coming back to the field in ODIs, with patchy results since their 2019 World Cup triumph, including four losses in their past five matches.
Since the World Cup, England have lost a home series to Australia, drew a series with South Africa, dropped a match to Ireland, and are now 0-1 down in India after their batting fell apart on Tuesday.
England were 0-135, chasing 318, before they lost 5-41 as India’s bowlers strangled their middle order and won them the match.
The English side will only just hold on to their number one ranking if they lose the final two matches of their current series, moving to 120 ranking points ahead of India (119) and New Zealand (118).
England were the world’s best team in the four years between the 2015 World Cup and the 2019 version, marginally ahead of India.
Perhaps partly due to a lack of ODI cricket – they’ve played just 10 matches in the last 20 months – England don’t look the same side.
Australia proved England are far from unstoppable in this format by beating them 2-1 in the UK six months ago. In that series, Australia looked buried at 5-73 chasing 303 in the decider. But Glenn Maxwell (108) and Alex Carey (106) shocked England with an incredible stand of 212 from just 30 overs.
Australia have, to an extent, turned the tables on England in 50-over cricket, having beaten them in four of their last six matches, including a World Cup warm-up game. England, of course, won by far the most important of these encounters – the World Cup semi-final when they thrashed the Aussies.
But it is clear the once-yawning gulf between England and Australia in one day cricket has closed considerably. India, meanwhile, could soon steal England’s mantle as the world’s best ODI team. They have been hot on England’s tail over the past five years.
The difference now, though, is England haven’t unearthed any new ODI stars in recent times, aside from Archer who debuted nearly two years ago. Otherwise, the key members of the English team are all veterans – Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Adil Rashid and Chris Woakes.
Conversely, India have a production line of precocious talents. Barely a series goes past, in any of the three formats, that India don’t seem to unearth another young player of rare ability.
Combined with their bevvy of proven ODI stars – Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar – this places India in a commanding position. Particularly given the next one day World Cup will be held in India in 2023.
India’s bowling stocks, in particular, have become remarkably impressive. They now boast a battery of fine quicks as well as extraordinarily deep spin reserves. Yadav, Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar and the rarely-used Ravi Ashwin give India five fine spin options in ODIs.
By comparison, England’s bowling depth is poor. These are the career ODI bowling averages of England’s six-man attack they fielded against India – Moeen Ali (51), Sam Curran (43), Tom Curran (40), Ben Stokes (40), Mark Wood (39) and Adil Rashid (32).
While Rashid’s numbers don’t do him justice – he’s become a high-quality ODI spinner – the rest of that group are rank ordinary ODI bowlers.
In a very short space of time, England have become heavily dependent on Jofra Archer in white ball cricket.
That physical burden is already weighing on Archer, who was rested from this ODI series and may also miss the upcoming Indian Premier League due to an injury of his bowling elbow that’s been hampering him for 18 months.
Without Archer, the England ODI attack badly lacks penetration. Fellow express quick Mark Wood is meant to be the alternative strike weapon. But six years into his ODI career he looks no closer to achieving that goal, with a career strike rate of 42.
That pales in comparison to the strike rates of Aussie quicks Mitchell Starc (27), Pat Cummins (33), Josh Hazlewood (33) and even Kane Richardson (33).
To remain the undisputed number one ODI side, England badly need to unearth a second quality spinner to support Rashid and at least one or two more good quicks. If they don’t, India look likely to end England’s era of ODI pre-eminence.