Standing on the outfield at Kensington Oval after England’s 2-1 one-day series defeat against West Indies, Matthew Mott was keen to present the experience as a success rather than a failure for his men. “I reckon we’re going to take a lot out of it,” the head coach said.
“We’re very excited by the group that’s here. We just need to show a bit of patience and back them and support them and make sure they’re staying true to the things we’re saying. We want to win games, there’s no doubt about that, and we’d much rather be where they are right now, but it’s vital that we get those games into these players.”
The previous 10 days had highlighted some of this new-look team’s strengths and also their weaknesses.
With the exception of the captain, this was a remarkably callow group – Jos Buttler has played 29 more ODIs than England’s other 14 players combined, of whom eight have played fewer than 10 times or are yet to make their debuts. If any of them are to be involved in the next World Cup in 2027, and given that they play little or no domestic 50-over cricket, experience in the format in a variety of conditions and match situations is invaluable. So long as England remain in the top 10 of the International Cricket Council’s rankings – and thus in line for automatic qualification – it is less important to win than to learn.
There are 37 ODIs scheduled in the 40 months between now and the end of the current Future Tours Programme in April 2027, nearly half of them in its final 10 months as preparations for the tournament intensify. The idea of playing an ODI series weeks after one World Cup and years away from the next appeared bizarre, but it has clearly helped to shift focus to the future, accelerated England’s rebuilding process and improved the players involved.
England’s spinners bowled 58.4 overs across the series, taking 12 wickets at an average of 24.08 while conceding 4.92 an over, proving more incisive and considerably less expensive than their seamers. The conditions were not always helpful, particularly with a damp ball in the final game but, still, results were excellent. No bowler contributed more than Rehan Ahmed, who performed brilliantly and consistently in a variety of situations. As Liam Livingstone put it: “Rehan has come in and replaced Adil Rashid, and we don’t even know that Rash isn’t here.”
Mott said the 19-year-old had been “a bit of a revelation for us”. Will Jacks was outstanding in the final game, Livingstone excellent in the first, and with Rashid still around and Tom Hartley in reserve, spin seems a real strength. Death-bowling is a concern, however, with Sam Curran, Brydon Carse and Gus Atkinson all suffering at the end of West Indies’ two run chases.
It was not hard to work out what had been the crux of the batters’ conversations about their approach to 50-over cricket. “There’s always so much time, so much more time than you actually think,” said Harry Brook. Ollie Pope said the format’s best performers “have shown in that middle order that you have more time than you think”. But there is still a gap between their words and their deeds and England still have a propensity to panic if they lose wickets early, as they did at the World Cup.
In the final game on Saturday, England teetering at 48 for three, Brook was run out attempting an unnecessary single from his third ball of the day, and in the same over Buttler was caught after top-edging an attempted hook, the first ball he faced with his team in trouble and more than 30 overs still to come. Jacks and Phil Salt look an exciting combination at the top of the order, albeit with plenty of room for improvement, but beyond that the batters are clearly receiving the right message – now they have to act on it.