England succumbed to a four-wicket defeat in Barbados to lose their first series after a difficult 2-1 World Cup campaign.
The group, which included only four players with more than 10 ODIs, found themselves in strong positions in all three matches against a West Indies team that is going through a similar restart after failing to qualify for the World Cup.
“We haven’t played a full match yet, and that’s the frustration,” Moott, England’s coach, said immediately after the defeat. “We set ourselves up for a chance to win all three games and come away with back-to-back losses, so it’s not ideal.
“But there are definitely some really good signs that there’s a group of players that like to play with each other. They’re really good teammates and I think that will move the game forward.”
“Sam is definitely a player we really want to invest in,” said Mott, with Curran proving his skills on the ball in the second game as his hat-trick put England ahead. “He has a lot of qualities that we like and he has the ability to play really well.”
A point of Mott’s pride was the fight England showed to steal an almost unexpected victory from the final ODI. Suffering from the natural disadvantage of bowling at number two in a rain-affected match, England faced greasy conditions that made it difficult for spinners to catch the ball and easier for West Indies fielders to play seam. But thanks to an inspired Willjack performance with the ball, England reduced the West Indies to 135 for 6, with 53 runs still needed for victory.
“I think today we showed a lot of character and spirit to fight all day long,” Mott said. “You don’t want to make excuses, but hanging in there as a team and showing the fight they put in, throwing themselves in and almost grabbing someone was something we were looking for.”
After three months of almost exclusively focusing on ODIs, England’s attention now turns to the T20s, with the five-match series against the West Indies starting on Tuesday in Barbados.
“We’ve played really good T20 cricket over a period of time. It’s always good to lose a series to change the format,” Mott said, also confirming that Jos Buttler would return to open the batting after spending the New Zealand series in September demoted. “You’re progressing so quickly. It’s only a few days, and it won’t be any different. Obviously you’ve got a few new players with experience. But it’s really a lot.”
There are five changes to the England squad for the Caribbean, with Chris Woakes, Rashid, Moeen Ali, Reece Topley and Taimal Mills joining the squad for the T20 match. Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley, Matthew Potts, Tom Hartley and Braydon Carse will return home.
“It might be easier to come back,” Mott said. “T20, especially for the batting group, is very straightforward, you go out and get on with the game, there are not a lot of dead balls. And from the bowling group, you try to hit your variations as much as you can and we deny them scoring opportunities. So I think we’ll be fine. “We have a few days to work on that and we’re looking forward to it.”
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 traveling to Abu Dhabi with Graeme Swann as part of red-ball training for the England Lions. camp. It was a high-profile return to coaching for Flintoff, who has also been appointed as Northern Superchargers head coach for the 2024 edition of The Hundred.
Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameroonbonson