Nick Matthew column: ‘Safe’ England must release the shackles to reach last eight

England's James Taylor, right, receives a pat on the head from teammate Joe Root after he was dismissed by Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga, left, during their Cricket World Cup match in Wellington last Sunday.
England's James Taylor, right, receives a pat on the head from teammate Joe Root after he was dismissed by Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga, left, during their Cricket World Cup match in Wellington last Sunday.
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Let’s not beat around the bush, England’s performances so far at the ICC Cricket World Cup have been pretty miserable.

A mauling at the hands of Mitchell Johnson and the Aussies before Brendon McCullum wellied them all around Wellington against New Zealand. A win versus Scotland followed before England finally posted a good total against one of the ‘big guns’ versus Sri Lanka. However, Kumar Sangakarra and co always made that total look below par when they cruised to victory for the loss of only one wicket. England now need to beat Bangladesh and Afghanistan to progress; a task which sounds relatively straight forward on paper, but certainly not a guarantee the way they have been playing. If one of these games is called off due to rain then they are on the next plane home.

In Sheffield’s Joe Root England have an undoubted bright spark; someone made for the big occasion. Maybe I’m biased but I can’t help but admire his feistiness and fighting spirit. He seems to bat better the bigger the trouble England are in when he comes to the crease. Add to this the likes of Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler and James Taylor and England have high hopes for the future. But what has happened to the experienced players in this World Cup? The likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ian Bell look way below their best. The captain, Eoin Morgan, has been searching for form. Yet Ravi Bopara and Alex Hales have been left on the bench while Kevin Pietersen is in exile despite their pedigree in the shorter forms of the game.

England look like a team playing it safe rather than taking the necessary risks needed to succeed. When they bat they look like they try to keep wickets in hand before upping the ante in the last 10 overs. Most of the other teams try to seize the initiative from the word go. When England bowl it looks like the plan is to contain rather than be aggressive and take wickets. It’s easy saying this from the sofa of course but it’s something I can relate to in my own game in my own sport. Playing it safe never gets you anywhere. I have learned this the hard way over the years. My natural inclination is also to play safe but you need to be bold and back yourself. You need to take calculated risks to succeed at the highest level. As the saying goes, ‘fortune favours the brave’.

In the meantime, England look like being left Worlds behind.