Cricket Expert & Columnist
Feeling the strain
Injuries and a heavy schedule are hampering England's World Cup plans, says Nasser Hussain.
Last Updated: 26/01/11 7:24am
Getting hammered 7-0 or 6-1 will do England no favours before the World Cup so they must win several of their remaining one-day matches against Australia, if only to boost their confidence.
I'm not that worried about how the side performs at this stage because I know this is a good unit made up of very capable individuals, but I do believe they need to rediscover that winning knack before heading off to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
They'll now have to do that without Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan, both of whom have picked up injuries trying to cope with a schedule that leaves a lot to be desired.
The amount of cricket on this tour is absolutely ridiculous and I hold the ICC and both boards culpable. They need their heads examining if they think the players can consistently perform to their best in a raft of limited-overs games after such a massive Ashes series.
There is a real danger that the quality of bowling around the world will deteriorate significantly if we continue to ask players to play so much and I wouldn't be surprised at all if the likes of Swann and Bresnan are quietly quite pleased to get back home and rest up for the World Cup.
I fear for someone of the calibre of Brett Lee - a high-quality bowler who we want to see out on the field - if we continue down this road and I'm sure Australia will grab the chance to give him a wrest if they wrap up this series in Adelaide.
The last thing they need is for Lee to break down so soon after a long lay-off because he's played seven games in two or three weeks.
Both sides have jaded players in their ranks and neither has played their best cricket as a result; Australia are deservedly ahead but they and England will have to improve markedly if they want to be serious World Cup contenders.
England have tried to play the brand of 'no fear' cricket that earned them the World Twenty20 title but its impact has been limited.
It doesn't worry me if the batsmen get out having a go but I am concerned by the number of soft dismissals we've seen - batsmen falling to long hops from Steve Smith and David Hussey, two part-time spinners, or running themselves out.
You can't afford mistakes like that - particularly when you are trying to carry two players as out of nick as Matt Prior and Paul Collingwood.
I've got some sympathy for Prior; it's never easy being placed under the microscope, as England have done by preferring him to Steve Davies, especially when you are trying to fill that problematic opening slot.
England have tried 17 different combinations since the last World Cup in their attempt to find long-term successors to Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight and in some respects they are no nearer.
The best sides benefit from long-term planning which is why I would have stuck with Davies.
But now they've chosen Prior the selectors have to give him a run. I've always believed that if you invest faith in someone then you have to give them a chance and I don't think two games is sufficient in Prior's case.
Now's not the time to shove Ian Bell up the order, even though I believe he's talented enough to bat in any position. What if he'd got two good balls and a couple of low scores - would we now be questioning his role in the side?
I'd stick with Prior and see how he responds in what have become even bigger games for England.