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.