What a weekend for English sport. The football team won 6-1 at the World Cup, the rugby team finally found a way to beat South Africa, and our ODI cricket side pinched a remarkable victory from the jaws of what would’ve been a completely inept defeat. And it was all thanks to the nation’s new favourite cricketer, Jos Buttler.
The game at Old Trafford was a bit surreal really. England bowled out the hapless Aussies for just 205 in 35 overs, and everyone simply assumed we’d win. Most people, including me, therefore turned over to watch the football. Imagine my surprise when I saw on social media that our cricketers were 27-4 chasing a modest total on a flat pitch against an average attack.
My immediate reaction to this was “who cares, we’re beating Panama, a team with canal-sized gaps in their defence, 5-0 at half-time”. But then I remembered that beating Australia 5-0 was also pretty important. If only because it’s some sort of payback (albeit slightly inadequate payback) for the two occasions they’ve whitewashed us in the Ashes.
When the score reached 50-5 and then 114-8, the chances of us securing a rare 5-0 win looked remote. We’d batted like complete numpties – as this team tends to do when it starts believing it’s own hype. “Here we go again” I thought. “This kind of performance is exactly why we’ll never win the world cup”. When England have a bad day they don’t just stink, they positively reek.
However, when I looked at the scorecard, and noticed that Buttler was still there, I knew there was a glimmer of hope. If Rashid can hang around, which he’s more than capable of doing, then we might yet turn this into a close game. And wouldn’t it be glorious if, having given the Aussies the illusion of victory, we snatched it away from them in the cruellest fashion.
And Jos made it so.
I’ve read plenty of articles praising Butter’s innings and there’s nothing I can add really. It was absolutely fantastic. It was the perfect example of a highly talented player at the peak of his powers playing with intelligence, skill, and composure. It was the kind of ODI innings I’ve seen before from the likes of Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, and Michael Bevan, but never before from an Englishman. It really doesn’t get any better.
The Canary Yellows must feel as sick as parrots. And although this ODI series really doesn’t mean a lot because Australia were missing so many key players, at least the Aussies now know how we used to feel in the 1990s. I can recall quite a few occasions when we finally had those great Australian sides on the rack, only for one individual to take the game away from us. Most of the time it was someone like Steve Waugh, but occasionally it was one of the less heralded players instead.
Does anyone remember Andy Bichel’s sensational performance against us in the 2002 World Cup? he took 7-20 with the ball, and then made a vital 34 not out with the bat. Australia were 135-8 chasing 205 for victory but managed to scrape over the line thanks to Bichel and, you guessed it, the aforementioned Michael Bevan. This game at Old Trafford seemed remarkably similar.
England now move on to their series against India – games which will provide a much better barometer for the team’s progress. India are No.2 in the ODI rankings and let’s not forget that they beat us 2-1 the last time we met in 50 over cricket. Although it’s painful having to wait until August for another test match, at least the India ODIs (and the T20s too), will have some meaning and should be a close contest. Just looking at the news on betting.com I see that most analysts make England slight favourites (and I stress only slight favourites) at this point.
So what are my overriding thoughts on Australia’s mini-tour? I don’t want to sound as miserable as Gareth Southgate, who said he didn’t think our footballers’ performance against Panama was particularly great, but I still would’ve preferred a third test against Pakistan. Unfortunately however, I sense I’m in the minority now.
Because England have won 5-0, and because the final game featured one of the all time great innings from an Englishman, this seemingly insignificant series now has some relevance. Buttler’s heroics will also ensure that these games (or at least the final one) will linger longer in the memory than most white ball contests.
Without Buttler the score would have been 4-1, everyone would have said “so what”, and those of us who are upset that England aren’t playing any test cricket in high summer this year would’ve had plenty of ammunition. Instead all the focus is on England’s glorious comeback in a game which, if we’re being honest, they should have won easily had the top order not batted so poorly.
Bloody hell the ECB must love Jos. He’s saving their bacon time and again. Now watch him get completely burned out like Joe Root.
Written in collaboration with betting.com