England assistant Carl Hopkinson insists Netherlands clash is no ‘dead rubber’

By Sports Desk November 07, 2023

England’s early exit from the World Cup is already guaranteed but assistant coach Carl Hopkinson insists their bottom-of-the-table clash against the Netherlands is no “dead rubber”.

As the tournament finally edges towards the business end, the defending champions have long since become an afterthought in the wider context of the competition.

They have lost six of their seven games and saw their last mathematical chance of a miracle wiped off the table by rivals Australia in Ahmedabad last week.

The best they can hope for now is avoiding a first ever ODI defeat to the Dutch, the only associate nation competing in India, and keep their prospects of reaching the 2025 Champions Trophy alive.

They need a top-eight finish to book their spot, meaning there is no leeway for wallowing in their dreadful form when they take the field in Pune on Wednesday.

The appearance of Hopkinson, a low-key member of the backroom team responsible primarily for fielding, suggested the squad were not keen on issuing their own public call to arms, but he has no qualms about their motivation.

“I don’t think there’s ever a dead rubber when you play for England, to be honest. I think the lads are completely up for it,” he said.

“We’ve got two games in which we need to win both to qualify for the Champions Trophy, so I think that’s there for everybody to see. The guys are going to be obviously up for it and I think we’ll be good.

“We need to win and win well to qualify for the Champions Trophy, which is what we need to do.”

On his unexpected role as carrier of the England message, he added: “I’m not quite sure why I’m the man to explain, (but) I’m an assistant coach with the England team and I’m more than happy to come out and speak about our campaign so far.”

England have named an unchanged side for the last three games, losing emphatically to Sri Lanka, India and Australia, and could belatedly mix things up.

Harry Brook is on hand to add ballast to a badly under-performing top six, but could be added in place of all-rounder Liam Livingstone rather than one of the specialist batters.

Livingstone adds an extra spin option but has not been able to carry his share of the run-scoring load, with just 60 runs in six innings.

Pace bowler Mark Wood, who has been managing a sore knee, could also miss out with Brydon Carse and Gus Atkinson snapping at his heels for a chance.

Wood is the fastest seamer in the squad by a distance, consistently clearing 90mph, but has struggled to keep a lid on his economy rate and has only six wickets at 58.16.

Carse and Atkinson are both likely to form part of England’s white-ball future, leaving captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott to decide whether now is the time to blood them in a game with live stakes.

Ben Stokes’ fitness was under observation on the eve of the match, with the Test captain carrying various niggles. He missed the first three games here with a hip problem and is set to undergo surgery on his long-standing left-knee injury when he gets back to England.

Former England quick Steve Harmison told the PA news agency this week that the team management should instruct Stokes to leave the camp and go home early in a bid to fast-track his recovery for the new-year Test series in India.

But Hopkinson suggested that idea was not under consideration.

“Knowing Ben, he’ll want to try and play the next game in front of him and try and win that for England,” he said.

“He’s about winning games of cricket for England, so I’d imagine that’s what he’ll be thinking about first and foremost.

“Once he’s obviously made that decision to have the operation, that’s obviously booked in and that’s what he’s going to do, but it’s not before this tournament finishes.”

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