This new England ODI side never ceases to amaze me. Every time I try to lower expectations, and keep things in perspective, they pull their pants down and give me the big moon. How on earth is a cynical supporter, who has become accustomed to false dawns over the years, expected to interpret all this? It doesn’t compute.
England batted brilliantly today. The bowlers weren’t quite so hot, but they did enough. That’s all that matters. We’ve won another series and done it playing really effervescent cricket. I think I need a cold flannel and a lie down.
Before discussing England’s 355-5, let’s set the scene (I love a bit of context me). The average first innings score at Dubai before today was just over 220. Jos Buttler could’ve scored those on his own today. England played beautifully.
But let’s not forget Jason Roy. He’s played some excellent cameos in his short career thus far but never made that big score. Today was the day he finally arrived as a batsman of substance at the top level.
Normally Roy sets off like a train, thumps the ball to all parts robustly, then gives it away just as he’s starting to look like a million rand. This time he started off shakily but knuckled down, fought through a sticky patch, and cantered to a hundred in the middle-overs. I was hugely impressed – mainly because it was a different kind of innings for him.
It’s a little unlucky, in a way, that Roy’s maiden international ton was completely overshadowed by events at the end of the innings. Not that anyone’s complaining. Everyone who witnessed Jos Buttler’s innings today would have enjoyed it tremendously. Jos’ batting was an absolute joy.
Before I unleash the Buttler superlatives – and believe me there’s a few up my sleeve – I must admit I’m one of the people who’s been on Jos’ case as a test player. I still am in a way. I don’t think he’s currently got the defensive technique to score consistently against test class bowling. His first class average isn’t particularly good either. However, I never, ever, doubted his ability as a hitter in limited overs cricket. He’s our best player. It’s that simple.
Jos is a special, special talent. His eye, his hand speed, his calmness under pressure, and his ability to dissect the field with his rubber wrists is simply awesome. He was sensational today. He has now scored the three fastest ODI hundreds in England’s history. Today’s was the fastest of the lot (just 46 balls) and the seventh fastest in history. He basically won the game for England in half an hour.
I was always confident we’d defend our 355 runs – even if we have an inexperienced and somewhat one-paced attack. Sure, there were few butterflies at the start when Azhar Ali got off to a flyer, but batting isn’t Pakistan’s strength. There’s always a rash shot, or another calamitous run out, around the corner. And to think we’d see the last of these when Inzaman retired.
Although Babar Azam (which sounds like an off-shoot of Abracadabra to me) made a fine half-century, Pakistan lost wickets at regular intervals. Big chases require big hundreds from the top order. Pakistan’s specialist batsmen couldn’t deliver like Roy and Buttler. They just can’t seem to put it all together, despite their obvious talent.
A year ago, it was England’s batsmen who struggled to make hundreds in ODIs. The turnaround under Farbrace and Bayliss has been nothing short of incredible. One wonders what might have been if we’d removed Moores and Cook a little earlier. Perhaps the World Cup wouldn’t have been such a disaster?
Although England won the ODIs the last time they toured the UAE, I think this is a very significant series victory. I for one thought we’d struggle. My big fear was that England would be suffocated by spin when chasing competitive totals.
Because England have batted first in three of the four games, and Pakistan failed to make a good score on the other occasion, we’ve avoided these tricky scenarios. Credit to Captain Morgan and his crew for playing to well. We haven’t given Pakistan a sniff.
Nice to hear from you again, James. I was aware of your new site, but I hadn’t bookmarked it.
Stunning from Buttler, but Morgan (or management, or whoever) deserve credit too for actually having the flexibility to alter the batting order and send him early – well done!
I have the same doubts about Hales as a Test player as with Buttler – one-day, certainly, but has he the technique? Mind you, Compton is a step backwards. What has Vince done to blot his copbook?
Thanks mate. Welcome. There are a few familiar faces around here. Traffic hasn’t changed much from the old site (post hacking) so it’s encouraging.
It’s great to see England playing so well (and with flexibility). Makes you wonder what the new regime might have done with these players at the World Cup.
Re: the test side, we had a good debate about this yesterday. Here’s a link http://eatmysports.co.uk/2015/11/19/11194/
Indeed. What a breath of fresh air. I, and many others have been calling for this kind of flexibility for many years: in tests and one-day cricket. Did it ever happen under Cook/Flowers/Moores? I may be doing them all a disservice, but I can’t imagine it did.
Great to watch this and such a joyful thing as well. Shots of the Pakistan players in the pavilion showed them smiling and clapping as well and Root jumping ip and down. And all without the fell hand of Cook there. Great stuff.
I wonder how Cook feels about the ODI side now? He was clearly upset when they took the captaincy off him and dropped him from the ODI side, but it has clearly benefited both him and the ODI side as a whole. His test form has improved considerably now he’s focusing on one form of the game. Who knows, his test career might be over too had he persisted with the limited overs stuff. Instead he looks like there’s plenty left in the tank.
It’s this ability that convinces me that England should persevere with Buttler at Test level. They were right to drop him when they did but it seems like he’s got his head sorted now. Given the competition in SA is with Bairstow, who doesn’t seem to have done anything in 5 years to correct the technical flaws in his game, I’d start the series with Buttler. He’s has a rare, game-changing ability that warrants some indulgence. I’d bat him at 8 (Moeen at 7), but promote him in innings where England are in a strong position and looking to accelerate. One of the difficulties he’s faced recently is batting after Stokes, who is a poor starter and not really a number 6 (8 scores of 15 or less in his last 9 innings, excluding the Sharjah Test where he batted injured). So Buttler’s usually been coming in after the fall of 2 (or more) quick wickets, when playing freely hasn’t been appropriate. When playing more defensively, his lack of footwork has been exposed. Batting at 8 might offer a bit more freedom.
I think this would be the way I would go too. He clearly has a game changing ability which few players have; but also it would seem playing a “traditional” Test style hampers it somewhat.
Interesting to hear his comments after the match that he was no longer thinking about where the off stump was and just concentrating on the ball – this gave me the impression that he is best sticking to his style, however unconventional that it may be. Some players will never be textbook.
If he comes a bit lower in innings and he knows it’s his responsibility to take the strike and hit out, it’s probably best to let him play ODI style in most instances (unless for example there’s a need to bat out for a draw) as a quickfire 100 could take the game away from an opposition. Let him stick to his strengths.
Dave Richardson was interviewed on TMS during the last ODI and it is available as a podcast:
It will probably only be available until this Thursday. There’s also a discussion with John Etheridge and Vic Marks about the SA tour squad.