Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A brighter future

Tuesday, 9 June 2015
It is perhaps the greatest compliment of all to say that watching England in this ODI wasn't like watching England play an ODI. The team that looked so scared, so cautious at the World Cup, miles behind the rest of the pack, were almost unrecognisable today. The country that was humiliated by New Zealand in February, bowled out for a measly 123, racked up a mammoth 408 for a 210 run victory. The general consensus was that it must all be a dream, that none of this could possibly be real, or that at least something had to go wrong when the time came to bowl. But instead the 'new era' got off to a better start than could ever be hoped.

It's fair to say that England came into this match as massive underdogs. Whilst New Zealand reached the World Cup final, and have spent the past year setting the world alight with positive, attacking cricket and successes across all formats; England seem to have been lurching from ODI disaster to the next, failing to even reach the knockout stages of the World Cup after defeat to Bangladesh. A significant change in personnel has duly followed, with only four names remaining from the team who lost that early group game against New Zealand. Some have been rested (the Ashes looming on the horizon), some are injured, some may even be gone for good. And the call for a more positive mentality and more attacking cricket certainly looked to be answered. Finally a chance to see Jason Roy and Alex Hales opening the batting (Moeen Ali sent back to Worcestershire to find bowling form); Buttler up to six and Stokes up to five; Sam Billings on debut after a hugely impressive 2014; Adil Rashid returning to the side after six years, the abandoned game in Ireland aside. Already a statement was being made, conservatism not ruling the day.

The very first ball though still set the alarm bells ringing, Jason Roy dismissed for a duck, more of the same. But England were on top from then on. England were just scoring quickly, putting on the runs on the powerplay - and then not letting up afterwards, just waiting for the last 15 overs. Root (104) made it to a century - his fifth now in ODIs - before the halfway mark had even come. Coming from 71 balls, his hundred was England's third fastest in the format; but by the end of the match he'd slid down to third as Buttler (129) made his in just 66 - second only to himself on the list. Both were simply just brilliant innings - but just as important were the partnerships they formed. Morgan (50) found his form in a 121-run stand with Root, a partnership that then seemed tame in comparison to the 177 shared by Buttler and Rashid (69) in a mere 17.3 overs. England had found themselves in a potentially difficult position when the two came together, 202/6 with 20 overs still left, and it might have been expected for them to play safely and make it to the 300 mark. Instead they took the challenge on, from the top to the bottom of the batting order - even Liam Plunkett came out and hit two sixes in a three-ball innings at the end. England passed 400 for the first time, and records were tumbling all around.

Still there was a feeling that if any team would fail to defend this total, England would. With a batting lineup spearheaded by Brendon McCullum, New Zealand often look capable of just about anything, and only four months ago he took Steven Finn to the cleaners in that match at Wellington. But this time, Finn got his man, bowling him for just 10 to win that psychological battle. Steven Finn has gone through more ups and downs than most in the England set up, his obvious potential battling with those periods he becomes 'unselectable'. Today was certainly another up, taking four wickets and being the most economical bowler of the match in going at five an over - even bowling the only maiden of the game. At 26, he clearly still has a lot to offer the side, and England obviously see that too. It would have been easy to drop him, send him away after the World Cup, but instead he's been given a show of confidence, another chance to become a leader of the attack.

But the performance that might have made me happiest was that of Adil Rashid. After contributing to England's heroics with the bat, Rashid also delivered in his primary job with the ball. A lot of the time I've spent following Rashid's career has been in frustration at his handling by England - when younger taken on tours without playing when he really would have been better served bowling regularly, and with a similar pattern following on the recent tour of the West Indies when even more deserving of a place in the side. Legspinners can always go for runs, but they have that element of mystery - something Rashid delivered today, his googly utilised to good effect in taking four wickets. Over the past six years since his last involvement in the ODI side, he's matured a lot as a player and a person, and he really does have a lot to offer this team. His batting in the lower order will be more than handy, and with the ball in hand he can always provide a genuine wicket threat.

Of course, we shouldn't yet get ahead of ourselves - as exciting as this win was, it doesn't mean all problems are instantly solved. Right now, England are playing catch up, reaching the standard the rest of the world showed they can deliver. But it was definitely very, very exciting. It was the mentality that we've needed to see, the one they so badly lacked in the World Cup - there was just no let up, no sitting back with the bat, pushing on all the way through. The biggest performers were two who were part of the World Cup campaign - just going to show that the talent was to be found, it was the mindset that needed to change. England are starting to come out of their shells. If it's anything like this, it will sure be fun to watch.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Two Short Legs © 2014