Head coach Matthew Mott struggled to explain England’s “timid” approach in losing to Ireland but thinks channelling the uninhibited spirit of the boys in green can resurrect their T20 World Cup campaign.
England now need to win their remaining three Super 12s fixtures to guarantee a place in the semi-finals, starting against tournament hosts and defending champions Australia at the MCG on Friday.
They have been left little room for manoeuvre in their group and morale is low after a largely dismal display with ball and bat in a shock five-run defeat to Ireland under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method.
While England will again have to keep a close watch on the Melbourne skies with rain forecast, Mott has urged his side to concentrate on what they can control and take a leaf out of Ireland’s playbook.
“We were a bit stunned,” Mott said. “We knew we didn’t play at our best level. I think we were timid.
“I can’t explain it but I thought that rather than being flat, I think there was just a bit of nervousness around. We need to bounce back really quickly because we’ve got a lot on the line.
“We don’t have the luxury of losing another game, we’re playing against the hosts and defending champions. Ireland had a bit of a free hit against us in a rain-reduced match.
“They came out and played with a really free spirit. And that’s what we need to do from here on in when we’re put in situations where there’s a decision to be made. We want to take the aggressive option.”
Captain Jos Buttler, his Test counterpart Ben Stokes and paceman Mark Wood all spoke frankly in what Mott termed was a “sombre” England dressing room afterwards, their first defeat in six completed T20s.
A misfiring batting line-up has hit just 15 boundaries in two matches so far but Mott feels they could be smarter if fours and sixes are hard to come by and take advantage of the larger outfields here.
“The intent was there, we just didn’t hit the ball very well,” Mott said. “In those conditions maybe twos are a better option. We need to take our medicine and make sure we turn the strike over.
“I think we’ve played really solid cricket over the last month. We had a bad day but we’re not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
England are unlikely to make sweeping changes to their XI and the prospect of rejigging their batting order seems remote despite the suspicion Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone are too low.
Stokes, batting at four, did not reach double-figures against either Afghanistan or Ireland but he has been dependable with the ball as his economy rate of 4.26 is the best by an Englishman.
“I think Ben’s an incredible player for our team and a real leader in our group,” Mott said. “He’s been key for us, I think he’s bowled some big overs, particularly in the powerplay.
“He hasn’t come off with the bat yet but his career would suggest at some point somebody is going to pay the price and hopefully that’s Australia. He’s a world-class player, (in) T20 you miss a lot but you need match-winners and he’s one.”
Australia find themselves in a similar position to England in needing to win but the chance to inflict a possible knockout blow is not of utmost concern to Queenslander Mott.
“I don’t need any motivation,” added Mott, who left his position as Australia women’s coach to take up a post with England’s white-ball sides earlier this year.
“I’ve got a lot of friends in that group, both in the playing group and the staff, but as you find in cricket you love the one you’re with. Being part of this group is very special to me.
“We’re incredibly motivated and (the Ireland result) just adds to that motivation. You very rarely go through these tournaments undefeated. I expect us to bounce back really well.”