Cow Corner

How England can win the World Cup

Cow Corner

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Ask any Australian, and they'll tell you that winning the World Cup is easy (well, before yesterday, at least).

"Aw, look mate..." they'll start, before recalling their three consecutive triumphs and reminding you of England's spectacular failures.

From the 2007 ensemble who left us the lingering memory of Fredalo, to the 2003 side which were high on principle and low on qualifying for the knockout stage, and the 1999 team who crashed out of their own party in dismal fashion at the first opportunity.

This year, things are different. The field's wide open and the World Cup holders are already on a plane home.

England are three games away from winning a maiden World Cup, and they have a genuine chance of doing so.

So how can England give themselves every chance of emerging triumphant? Well, Messrs Strauss and Flower, Cowers is glad you asked.

This is how England can win the World Cup...

Don't pick Paul Collingwood

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It might sound obvious, but like a boyfriend or girlfriend who's no good for you any more, there'll be part of Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss' mind that entertains the idea of going back. Collingwood might be able to contribute something in every discipline and he certainly possesses plenty of experience, but recalling players out of form can be disastrous (see Duncan Fletcher's shoehorning of Geraint Jones and Ashley Giles into England's 2006-7 Ashes team).

Embrace the batting powerplay

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What is it with teams and innovations? Many teams have taken their sweet time to get to grips with the UDRS, for instance, but the idea of using it when you're pretty sure you were on the end of a bad decision is not that complicated. As for powerplays, what's the big deal? It causes little or no concern when the fielding side take it from overs 11-15, so why should it be any different when the batting side take it?

Cowers suggests taking it midway through the innings. Not only will it confuse sides who fully expect it to come close to the end, but it will also increase the chances that two proper batsmen will face it. And refrain from slogging. Eight an over without losing a wicket will do nicely, and there are no shortage of gaps in the field to allow ones, twos, and the occasional boundary.

Win the toss and bat

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Short of a double-sided coin (and Cowers reckons that Strauss is above that sort of thing) England cannot influence the toss. But if they do win it, they should bat first. England's two defeats may have come by failing to defend totals with the ball, but the five games at Colombo in the World Cup so far have all seen bat-first decisions from captains, and allowing for minnows and Australian collapses, those choices have been the right ones on a Colombo pitch with a hint of life in it and a dash of dew in the evenings.

Change the batting order

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If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But Prior's wicket, as you can see, has been broken. Regularly. Without him having added very many runs. Time for a switch.

Ravi Bopara is in form, having played one innings where he unleashed his aggression (Netherlands) and one where he consolidated (South Africa). He's also got experience of opening - on subcontinental pitches - for Kings XI Punjab in the IPL.

Prior? Not so much. His batting stock was at its highest when Steven Davies had the gloves and opener's berth just a couple of months ago.

At the change of innings...

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Most ODI games are determined early, played out predictably after one side gains early control of the match - but not so for England. If there is any lesson England has learned this World Cup, then surely it's that there's always a chance of a match turning on its head. When India had 338 on the board from 50 overs, the game was not over. When Ireland had to chase 328 against them, the bowlers should not have been complacent for a moment. When England had been shot out for 171 against South Africa, hope remained.

If England do suffer a calamitous start against Sri Lanka or a prospective opponent afterwards, there is time to pull it back - and the opposite is true as well.

Sneak Collingwood onto the field

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OK, so it's not strictly cricket, but if we're putting it on the morality scale then using Colly as a substitute fielder is hardly up there with having Zimbabwe's Trevor Penney on the field for England in the 2005 Ashes (yes, it happened).  At present England's ailing side have no shortage of niggles and strains - an umpire would scarcely blink if, say, Tim Bresnan needed a 20-over rubdown after his opening spell...

Try the yorker

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You never know, you might like it. England's bowling attack have never been particularly keen on them, but the yorker is essential for subcontinental pitches, taking flat tracks out of the equation and a danger delivery with the new ball, which swings for a handful of overs at the start, while the old ball can reverse-swing towards the end. England pacemen's preferred variation, the slower bouncer, has been far less effective than it was a year ago in the Caribbean World T20 as batsmen grow familiar with the ploy. It's no coincidence that Lasith Malinga, who ironically fires in yorkers as if they're going out of fashion, has been taking a wicket every 17.7 balls at the tournament to date - and when you get it right, the stumps look a bit like the picture above.

And most importantly of all... play the game without thinking too much

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Make no mistake, if England do not go on to win the World Cup, it will not be because they did not put enough into their preparation. Strauss and Flower have turned England into careful planners, diligent trainers, and a tight team unit. It was fair praise they earned during the Ashes, and it is no less true after a few up-and-down results in pyjama cricket.

But relax! Three more matches, then home to your families for the first time in almost half a year.

If Cowers could give the team talk to Strauss's men, it would be this: enjoy the games, believe that the hard work has been done, and don't be afraid to play on instinct rather than to rigid plans.

England can win the World Cup. Perhaps they might even be starting to believe it too.

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DERANGED CELEBRATION OF THE DAY: Imran Tahir, or the Marco Tardelli of cricket as he is otherwise known, has brought a lot of things to South African cricket besides his dyed ginger hair and guile with the ball in his hand. His crazed celebrations are fast becoming legendary: pictured below is one such routine which even his team-mates were allowed to join him in. Still, it was the Kiwis who were jubilant at stumps.

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SHOT OF THE DAY: Jesse 'The Fridge' Ryder showed what 10 pints of Guinness and a bacon bap for breakfast can do by carting a good length ball from Botha over cow corner and depositing it into the top tier of the stand.

STAT OF THE DAY: Ross Taylor achieved the impressive feat of reaching 3,000 runs in pyjama cricket as he moved past 24. The landmark was slightly undermined, however, when it was pointed out that he is only one-sixth of a Sachin Tendulkar.

TWEET OF THE DAY: "A UN fleet is stationed half-way across the Indian Ocean in case it all kicks off between New Zealand and South Africa. We'll soon know: who is the greater man: N Mandela or A Parore?" (cricket-loving comedian Andy Zaltzman)

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: It's no wonder that South Africa are roundly criticised and labelled as chokers at every major tournament, it's because they are! Again they bottle it from a winning position, and again they talk about the 'ifs' and the 'buts'. Pathetic. (Po has his say after Graeme Smith's side's latest capitulation.)

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COMING UP: The fourth quarter final sees Strauss's England in action, so searing drama and edge-of-the-seat tension is therefore guaranteed. Sri Lanka are the opposition, and the atmosphere is sure to be electric at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

CAPTION COMPETITION: Jatun4 is the proud victor of yesterday's caption contest with his Boycott-related banter. A sterling effort, Sir. Pictured below is today's offering - post your caption attempts in the comments' section at the bottom of the page...

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