RSA vs ENG ODI series: England’s ODI struggles continue under Jos Buttler

After winning the T20 World Cup in Australia last year, it seemed that England, under the leadership of Jos Buttler, had put their troubles in white-ball cricket behind them. While the 3-0 whitewash at the hands of Australia, days after winning the World Cup, raised some concerns, the two recent losses to South Africa have intensified their struggles in the 50-over format. 

The build-up to the series was dominated by the return of fast bowler Jofra Archer after 18 months and not so much on Buttler’s patchy record as ODI skipper. England were missing some key personnel in Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood, while the Proteas named a full-strength side in their bid to automatically qualify for the World Cup. 

In the first ODI, deciding to bat first, South Africa put up a good total of 298. The returning Archer bowled his full quota of overs and took a wicket, although he conceded at 8.1 per over, while Sam Curran was the pick of the bowlers with 3 wickets. 

Jason Roy passed fifty for the first time in 14 innings and converted it into a hundred as England accelerated to 146/0. After Roy’s dismissal, though, a dramatic collapse ensued, which saw them bowled out for 271. 

Particularly the inexperienced middle-order in the absence of Root, Morgan and Stokes was exposed by the fiery South African pace attack. “The pitch got more difficult,” said Jos Buttler when asked about the reason for their collapse. 

The 2nd ODI was a close contest as well and England were asked to bat first this time on a belter of a pitch. After getting out for a duck on debut, Harry Brook showed is class with a composed 80, while Buttler’s 94 propelled England to a commanding 342. 

Only once has England scored more than 342 in ODI cricket and not won. But the bowlers had no answer to Bavuma’s onslaught in the chase. Woakes and Topley, brought in for the 2nd ODI, had a tough game and conceded at 9 an over. South Africa cantered to the target with ease to seal the series. 

This was England’s 5th straight defeat in the format and they have won only 2 of their last 12 ODI games, making it a bit easier for sites like Cricket Betting Man to predict the outcome of their games at the moment. It is the worst run of form England have endured since before the 2015 World Cup, which sparked their white-ball renaissance. 

This was also their 4th consecutive ODI series loss, losing to India, Australia and South Africa. With the World Cup just 10 months away in India, England are losing form at the wrong moment.

There is also a Ben Stokes-sized hole to fill in the middle, while they are also feeling the loss of Morgan – the captain, more than Morgan, the batsman. Both were at the forefront of England’s white-ball revolution since 2015 and played a key role in their World Cup triumph. 

England have been a team in transition ever since the two batting mainstays retired. While Morgan has retired from all forms, Ben Stokes seems to be flirting with the idea of returning to the fold. Both Buttler and head coach Matthew Mott have recently said that they would gladly welcome Stokes back into the ODI team. 

A major factor that has led to the side’s poor ODI form is the unrelenting fixture list. Less than a week after lifting the T20 World Cup in Melbourne, England were back in action for a 3-match ODI series against Australia, which forced Buttler to term the series as a “write-off” and proving Stokes right in moving on from the ODI game. 

England have been preparing for back-to-back T20 World Cups in the last couple of years, while test cricket remains the priority. This has led to the focus being completely shifted away from ODI cricket. Since the 2019 World Cup, very rarely have we seen England put up their strongest XI on the park in 50-over games, with rest and rotation being the priority.

Stokes said in his retirement statement that playing in all three forms of the game is impossible for an English cricketer. He took a dig at the ECB when asked what the reason for the team’s ODI was struggles, answering “begins with S ends with E and has chedul in there as well“. 

England have also shown the ability to turn up for the big occasions even with minimal preparation during their T20 World Cup triumph and will hope they can replicate that in India later this year. In the meantime, Buttler’s team need to string a couple of results together.