Monday, 23 February 2015

Caution is the winner

Monday, 23 February 2015
So England's first win of the World Cup came at last, a win by 119 runs over Scotland. It was what was expected, in spite of everyone's (justified) extreme pessimism over England's prospects and Scotland's hopes (rightly) being raised. It was the win that England desperately needed: runs for the openers and a few for the captain after the traumatic collapses of the past two games, and the wickets being spread among the bowlers after the battering they received at the hands of Brendon McCullum. Yet it was not a fluent, emphatic display despite what the margin of victory may tell you; it was more a case of caution and conservatism winning the day.

Moeen Ali's innings was brilliant to watch. 128 runs from 107 balls with twelve fours and five sixes, he gave England a fantastic start - and exactly the confidence boost they needed after such dismal displays against Australia and New Zealand. Ian Bell's was the other kind of innings. He got a good run out, a good chance to get some runs under his belt...but it was all too cautious really, too careful. I totally understand why he played like he did, yet against Scotland it really should have been something more attacking - aim for 350+ rather than 300. Bell however, with 54 from 85 deliveries, seemed to be stuck in that classic English mentality of 'if I bat the fifty overs, I will have 100 runs'. England needed to restore confidence, sure. Just maybe with a bit more adventure.

And as it does with England, a collapse did duly come. It wasn't so disastrous after an opening stand of 172 and compared to previous matches, this was a mild, miniature version; but it's still an example of England not taking advantage of a strong position they put themselves in. After Bell and Ali were dismissed, cameos from Morgan (46 from 42) and Buttler (24 from 14) helped carry England through to 300, and eight wickets fell in the last twenty overs. Ballance went for 10 (his fourth score of 10 in five ODIs, the sort of consistency you only dream of, if the score wasn't 10), Root for 1, Taylor 17 before being stumped. The batting powerplay hurt England again, and it had you wondering - why not take it when Bell and Ali were well established at the crease?

I don't know. On paper, it was a good win. They got 300 - the standard for ODI cricket these days, and what has been the standard for this World Cup in particular. And the bowlers finished off the job, and after the battering they've received, it was what they needed - especially for Steven Finn, the pick with figures of 3/26 from nine. The match was just what the doctor ordered. And yet we still wanted more. A bit of attack, a bit more invention. When you're 172 without loss, why not throw someone like Morgan, Buttler, Taylor up to number three, get creative and go on the attack? It's the kind of conservatism and caution we're used to seeing from England. The score was 303/8 - a good total, but it felt like it should have been greater.

Scotland put up a good fight, despite the constant focus on England's failings (myself included). The bowlers must take credit for putting the pressure back on England, and some of the fielding and catching was brilliant. The stumping of Taylor by Cross was a standout, his feet and hands so quick to get the ball to a stumps after a wide. Who knows how things might have been different had an early chance from Moeen Ali been taken, if the fielder had been a yard closer.

The associates have done a good job in this tournament, in spite of the best efforts of the ICC to push them out. Really, that's probably why they want them out - not because they're 'uncompetitive', but because they challenge the cosy club of teams like England. But I see it this way - it's a sport so many of us love, so why would you not want your flagship tournament to promote the game and encourage its spread? And there has to be a fight to keep them in. A petition has been set up, asking the ICC to reverse the decision to limit the next World Cup to ten teams, and I would encourage you to sign. Just click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Two Short Legs © 2014