So what did you think? If you had a ticket for the Rose Bowl game I imagine you’re feeling as smug as Donald Trump when he puts his arm around Melania. You saw an absolute classic on Saturday and the result even went the right way too. Shame everyone else missed it because they were glued to the FA Cup final.
If you went to Lord’s, on the other hand, and splashed out £95 quid for England’s horror show, then I imagine you’re feeling as sick as a parrot with bird flu. I don’t really know how to describe England’s abject performance. There were far too many loose shots – I’ll hit the next person who excuses daft cricket by saying “that’s the way we play” – and we wasted the new ball too. England clearly had their minds elsewhere.
Overall though we should consider the series a success. South Africa are a very good side, with possibly four of the best six players on either side – De Villiers, Amla, De Kock and Rabada – and I sense that the Lord’s result might be the wakeup call all sides need from time to time.
My only real concern is that England bat well when the pitch is good for batting, but don’t engage their brains when the going is somewhat tougher. Yes Rabada and Parnell bowled very well at Lord’s, but there were too many loose drives for my liking. Sometimes you’ve got to play the situation and knuckle down for a bit. I doubt the pitches will be true and the skies blue all the time in the coming matches.
Although England’s batting line-up is excellent in white ball cricket, it does have its weaknesses. With the exception of Joe Root and possibly Ben Stokes, none of our batsmen have particularly good techniques.
Roy obviously has his flaws, and looks hopefully out of form, but Hales and Buttler can also struggle when exposed to quality fast bowling on spicy surfaces. And Morgan and Moeen aren’t exactly brilliant against the short ball. England might come unstuck if the pitches require a bit of application.
The first game at Headlingley was most notably for the skippers excellent 107. It was Eoin at his best – an innings reminiscent of the old Morgan (which was ironically the young Morgan)! I thought he looked balanced and confident at the crease – something that hasn’t always been the case over the last few years – and showed that he’s still a very talented guy.
I used to love the old Eoin Morgan. But I really disliked the one that crouched at the crease, looked hesitant, and couldn’t play spin for toffee. It’s good to see the Morgan I rated so highly return to the fold. He’s a world class player when he’s on song and I was wrong to doubt whether he’d ever recover his mojo.
The second game at The Rose Bowl, as I mentioned earlier, was awesome. Usually we associate brilliant finishes with sixes being whacked left right and centre (think Braithwaite versus Stokes) but it’s just as dramatic when a bowler turns the screw and the dot balls mount up.
Mark Wood’s performance at the death was sensational – you’ve got to love the bloke – and I think we might have finally found our second death bowler. This might make a huge difference in the coming weeks.
The real star of the show, however, was the world’s most expensive cricketer – Ben Stokes. He’s obviously grown in stature since the IPL and his 101 off 79 balls was destructive enough to live up to the considerable hype. Alongside his Virat-ness, Stokes is probably the most marketable cricket star in the world right now. Isn’t it great that he’s one of ours?!
I won’t dwell on the third game too much as I’ve complained enough above. The changes to England’s side suggested complacency and so it proved. The only real positive was Jonny Bairstow who showed, yet again, why England must find room for him in the side.
Although it’s difficult to find room for all of England’s match-winners, anyone with eyes – which I assume includes Trevor Bayliss and the selectors – can see that Jonny is the second best batsman in the country. And he occasionally looks just as composed and talented as Root.
Last year George Dobell wrote that Bairstow had probably become the most destructive batsman in county cricket since Graeme Hick. I scoffed at the time, mainly because Jonny hasn’t yet broken the records Hick amassed, but I’m beginning to reconsider my position now.
Jonny looks so comfortable in all conditions these days, and the uncomplicated way he whacks bowlers around the ground is certainly a little reminiscent of Hick in his heyday. There’s just something about the purity of his stroke-play. There are no unnecessary flourishes of the wrist; there’s just a simple swing of the bat and a glorious sound as the ball whistles away to the fence.
Because Jonny is one of the few players able to build an innings in different circumstances and adapt to the conditions, England need to be practical and pick him. The team wouldn’t have made three figures without him at Lord’s.
With the Champions Trophy about to commence, England are undoubtedly in a good spot – despite Monday’s debacle. With Woakes to come back in, and Wood providing some much needed fire-power, even the bowling looks better than it has for a while.
It probably won’t matter that Jake Ball looked a bit out of his depth at the Rose Bowl because he probably won’t play. Neither should Steve Finn nor David Willey (unless it’s going to swing around corners). An attack of Woakes, Wood, Plunkett, Stokes, Rashid and Ali is probably just about good enough for England to win the thing.
As for the batting, the only real concern is Jason Roy. He has so much talent but his technique looks terrible right now. Perhaps that’s why his domestic record is relatively modest too? Everyone else managed to get some runs and should feel pretty confident when the Bangladesh game comes. Moeen, Hales and Buttler all made impressive half-centuries over the course of the series.
Will England win the Champions Trophy? I rather fancy our chances if we play well. And the bookies make us favourites too.
So I guess that means we’re going out in the group stages.