England’s experience of “messing up” in the semi-final of the 2017 Champions Trophy should serve them well in the World Cup, Paul Farbrace believes.
England were the only side to progress through the group stages of that Champions Trophy without losing a game but, faced with a used Cardiff surface and the pressure of a big knock-out game, they appeared to suffer an attack of stage fright. In fairness, they also came up against an accomplished Pakistan side which went on to beat India in the final.
The semi-final saw England limp to 211, with their final wicket falling to the penultimate delivery of the 50th over. Tellingly, two of their most aggressive batsmen played uncharacteristically cautious innings, with Ben Stokes making 34 from 64 balls without a boundary, and Eoin Morgan making 33 from 53 balls. In reply, Pakistan raced to victory with eight wickets and almost 13 overs in hand.
While England’s failure to adapt to that used surface – low and slow as it was – was thought to be a key factor at the time, Farbrace feels the pressure of expectation was more relevant. And Farbrace, England’s assistant coach at the time, believes the experience should prove helpful ahead of the World Cup. In particular, he feels it should serve to enforce England’s policy of playing fearless, attacking cricket.
“The experience of messing the semi-final up in Cardiff has been a really good lesson,” Farbrace said. “The team will have learned a lot from that experience. It was almost a dress rehearsal for the World Cup.
“The message coming off the pitch that day was that it wasn’t a great surface and we only needed 180. So instead of saying, ‘right: let’s try to get 180 as fast as we can and risk being bowled out with 12 overs to go; we don’t mind that because we’re trying to play in a certain way,’ we stopped trying to play in that way.
“We went back to playing old-fashioned one-day cricket. We went back to trying to bat the 50 overs and thinking that, if we did that, we would have a score. We went against everything we had tried to do in the previous couple of years.
“That makes it even more frustrating and disappointing. If we’d been bowled out for 170 in 32 overs and lost, we could have lived with that, because that’s how we set out to play. But the fact we tried to play a different way and lost is even more difficult to accept.”
Partly as a result of that experience, there has been more talk in the England camp about acknowledging the expectations people will have of them this year and trying to embrace that experience.
“We have spent a lot of time talking about the experience of being a favourite going into a home World Cup,” Bayliss said. “There’s a been a lot of talk about embracing and enjoying the tournament. Not locking themselves away, but watching it, reading it, getting involved and trying to enjoy it.
“The team are quite comfortable with being favourite and being at home. They are comfortable with the high level of expectation that goes with it.
“They genuinely are a favourite. They’ve been No. 1 for 15 months. They’ve played excellent cricket and earned the right be No. 1.
“One of the goals we set was to be in the top two or three in the world going into that tournament. We know teams outside that have very little chance. We proved that last time: we were ranked No. 7 going into that and it was no surprise we finished where we did.”
Meanwhile, Farbrace confirmed Warwickshire would continue not to play football as part of their warm-up routines. While the England sides under Bayliss and Farbrace have continued to play the game before almost every training session and game, Warwickshire’s former director of cricket, Ashley Giles, banned it from the club as he felt it presented too strong an injury risk. As the new director of the England’s men’s teams, Giles is also expected to ban it at that level at some stage.
But while Farbrace is an enthusiastic footballer – he used to coach the game and describes himself as “a huge Chelsea fan” – and England continued to play it on the recently-concluded Caribbean tour, he will not go back on Giles’ decision at Warwickshire.
“Football is off limits here,” Farbrace said on his first day as director of sport at Edgbaston. “I love football and a few of us staff might play.
“But the club policy has been for players not to play and that won’t change. Not for the moment, anyway. They came to that decision a little while ago.”