Matthew Mott calls for patience with England’s new-era white-ball team in West Indies

Matthew Mott has called for patience with England’s new-era white-ball team as a work in progress, stressing that they’ve only had three opportunities to play together.

England succumbed to a four-wicket defeat in Barbados to lose their first series following a difficult World Cup campaign 2-1.

A group which featured just four players to have played more than 10 ODIs, found themselves in strong positions in all three matches against a West Indies side going through a similar reboot having failed to qualify for the World Cup.

However, a late-innings onslaught from Shai Hope and Romario Shepherd in the opening match saw England slip to a four-wicket defeat in Antigua, before losing by the same margin at the Kensington Oval after a top-order collapse gave England a total of just 188 to defend in a rain-reduced game.

“We haven’t put a complete game together and that’s the frustration,” Mott, England’s head coach, said immediately after the defeat. “We put ourselves in a chance to win all three games and come away with a series loss, so that’s not ideal.

“But there are definitely some really good signs there that there’s a group of players who love playing with each other. They’re some really good mates in there and I think it’ll really take the game forward.”

In line for particular praise were Rehan Ahmed and Sam Curran. Rehan, described by Mott as a “revelation”, has been tasked with filling the almighty shoes of Adil Rashid and took five wickets across the series at an average of 23.40 and an economy of 4.33. On the other hand, Curran had a mixed series. In the opening ODI, he showed his class with the bat to save England’s innings from the perilous position of 239 for 7, before conceding the worst ever figures of an England player in ODIs as he was taken for 0 for 98.

“Sam’s definitely a player that we really want to invest in,” Mott said, with Curran proving his qualities with the ball in the second match where his triple-strike in the powerplay put England ahead of the game. “He’s got a lot of qualities that we like and he’s got the game to really play well.”

A point of pride for Mott was the fight England showed to almost steal an unlikely victory from the final ODI. Suffering from the natural disadvantage of bowling second in a rain-affected match, England were faced with greasy conditions that made it harder for their spinners to grip the ball and easier for the West Indies batters to play seam. But thanks to a Will Jacks-inspired performance with the ball, England reduced West Indies to 135 for 6, with 53 runs still required for victory.

“I thought today we showed a lot of character and spirit to fight all day,” Mott said. “You don’t want to make excuses, but to hang in there as a team and show the fight that they did, throwing themselves around and nearly snatching one was something that we’re looking for.”

After three months of almost exclusive ODI focus, England’s attention now turns to T20s, with the five-match series against West Indies starting on Tuesday in Barbados.

“We’ve played really good T20 cricket over a period of time. It’s always good when you lose a series to change the format,” Mott said, also confirming that Jos Buttler will return to opening the batting after spending the New Zealand series in September lower down the order. “You move on pretty quickly. It’s only a couple of days, it won’t be that different. Obviously you’ve got a few new players coming in with experience. But it’s much of a muchness really.”

There are five changes to England’s personnel in the Caribbean, with Chris Woakes, Rashid, Moeen Ali, Reece Topley and Tymal Mills joining the squad for the T20 leg. Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley, Matthew Potts, Tom Hartley and Brydon Carse will head home.

“It’s probably easier transitioning back,” Mott said. “T20 is, particularly for the batting group, pretty clear, you go out and take the game on, there’s not a lot of dead balls. And from the bowling group, you’re trying to hit your variations as much as you can and deny them hitting opportunities. So I think we’ll be fine. We’ve got a couple of days to work on it and looking forward to it.”

Also joining the England set-up is Andrew Flintoff, who will continue the first team mentoring role he took up in the summer as part of his first steps back into the public eye following his serious car crash whilst filming Top Gear.

Flintoff, whose role is now paid, was part of the backroom staff for both the New Zealand white-ball series and the home ODIs against Ireland before he flew to Abu Dhabi along with Graeme Swann as part of the England Lions’ red-ball training camp. It has been a high-profile return to coaching for Flintoff, who has also been hired as Northern Superchargers head coach for the 2024 edition of The Hundred.

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby

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