A Walk In The Park

This ODI series could get ugly for Pakistan. England won at an absolute canter at Lord’s on Saturday. The result was effectively decided before 10.45am when Pakistan opted to bat first and were reduced to 2-3. It reminded me of the bad old days when England used to get humiliated down under as a matter of course. You’d turn on the TV, see the figures 2-3, and then have a confusing moment when you tried to work out if we were two wickets down for three runs or vice versa. It was usually vice versa.

I thought it was a strange decision for Azhar to bat first. He obviously hasn’t watched too many NatWest or Gillette Cup finals over the years . Being inserted at Lord’s at 10.30 in the morning in late summer used to be a death sentence for any finalist’s aspirations. The likes of John Lewis would trundle in and reduce the opposition, often my team Worcestershire, to a very premature demise. It’s hard to come back from losing three early wickets whoever you are.

As it happened, Pakistan were able to recover to a vaguely respectable (but no better) 251 all out thanks to a brilliant century from the exciting Sarfraz. He’s a brilliant player to watch and thoroughly deserved the standing ovation he received. The bottom line, however, was that his team were still 50 short of par.

Although England lost Roy early on, and the increasingly forlorn looking Hales soon afterwards, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan batted beautifully to set up the win. Although Root had suffered a nasty looking injury to his ankle while fielding, he seemed relatively untroubled throughout his innings. He’s a pretty handy player – even on one leg. Meanwhile, the skipper batted better than he has for a while.

Morgan’s 68 was most welcome and should ease some of the pressure he’s under. There are so many excellent players banging on the door now that Eoin’s place was becoming pretty hard to justify. In my opinion, he needs a consistent run of scores to keep the likes of Duckett and Billings out of the side.

As I’ve written many times before, I used to rate Morgan extremely highly, but he doesn’t look the same player anymore. Whereas he used to strut to the crease and blast the ball to all parts, he now looks introspective and batting often looks a bit of a struggle for him. Let’s hope he takes some confidence from his half-century and starts to bully the bowling again soon.

Although Buttler was run out early – a shame for those who’d paid big money to be at Lord’s – a comfortable England win was always the likely outcome. The result was all but rubber-stamped by Ben Stokes’ rapid 42 from 30 balls. If only Eoin had half Ben’s confidence and gusto.

England are now 2-0 up in the series and a whitewash looks inevitable unless Amir, Wahab and Yasir can start taking more wickets. Root was named man of the match for his 89, but personally I would’ve chosen one of our bowlers. After all, Sarfraz played a better innings (and under more pressure too) than our golden boy.

Every single one of England’s attack bowled really well. Woakes and Wood were absolutely superb at the start – the latter bowled very quickly once again – and Plunkett also put in a good shift and bowled with good pace. Mo and Rashid also did well. Personally, I would’ve made Woakes or Wood man of the match, as it was their early bursts than shaped the entire match.

James Morgan


  • I see, yet again, you’re giving Morgan a hard time James. Despite being the most inspirational captain, who has virtually single handedly transformed this side into potential world beaters, you still want him out?
    Have you considered that his batting role in the side has changed? Once over he came in at 7 or 8 to try and save a game once Cook and Co had bollocksed it up, so had to bat out of his skin.
    With his IPL experience he knows how to pace a game, he now comes in at 4, and with Root it’s all about platform building, therefore his batting has to be a bit more circumspect? He was unbeaten in the first ODI, OK it rained, but batted very well in the 2nd. Would you be happy to ditch him and hope that Jo’s Buttler could inspire the team to World glory? Somehow I think not…Morgan will take his team’s there, of that, I am quite sure!

    • I didn’t say I want Morgan out of the side. I said he played beautifully and hopefully he’ll take some confidence from this and score plenty more. I still stand by what I’ve said recently though. He’s not the player he once was. He’s averaged 30 in the 2nd half of his career. He averaged over 40 in the first half. That’s not to say he’s a bad player now, I still think he’s useful, but it’s a fact of life that he’ll need to keep performing well to keep his place. The same goes for anyone in the top 6.

    • It’s an interesting narrative you put forward about Morgan’s batting role in the side, apart from the fact that he’s never batted at 8 for England, only once at 7 in 2009 and only about 20 times at 6, most of those early in his career. He averages little over 20 when batting 6 or below, so was hardly batting ‘out of his skin’ like you suggest.

      He’s batted almost exclusively at 4 and 5 for England, and the only real change in his role is that he is now by far the most experienced member of the batting line up. His career has been one of magical purple patches interspersed with some extended lean periods e.g. last summer’s century and 6 50s against Australia and NZ was followed by just one 50 in 3 series against Pakistan, SA and SL, and was preceded by 30 matches where he scored 1 ton, 1 fifty and averaged 20.

      As for him single handedly turning England around, I think he’s been helped somewhat by Root averaging 61, Buttler 56 (SR over 130) and the openers hitting 7 tons between them in the last 12 months.

      Make no mistake, Morgan has been a massive influence on the ODI turnaround and it’s brilliant to see him back in the runs, because at his best he is exceptional, but let’s keep it a bit real about his performances.

  • I agree with you about the man of the match. Root did set up the win but Woakes and Wood were were very deserving. Sarfraz missed out by being on the losing side. It was a tight decision.

    I see that Morgan is reluctant to tour Bangladesh on the grounds of security. The man clearly has a lick of sense. I give him credit for having the courage to speak out against the hierarchy. Wether or not personal choice will turn out to be a reality could be debatable. I see Strauss as being an honest broker and I trust he will keep his word.

    As always James a very enjoyable read and a comprehensive review, hitting the spot. ?

  • I was disappointed we didn’t bowl them out for under 120.
    I know 250 is under par but boy did we let them off the hook.
    You can’t have a side at 12/3 and let them get 250.
    I posed the question of Broad being in the ODI side and got told he wasn’t in the top 15 white ball bowlers. And that they’d pick Anderson before him.

    Which poses the question, with the next to major championships in England , in late spring/early summer. Should we cast them aside?

    • If Broad isn’t in the top 15 white ball bowlers in the country, my name is Andre Van Troost. Who on earth did you ask, Neil? I politely suggest they need their head examined, or sectioned, or both! :-)

        • Volume of cricket watched and money spent on it does not guarantee he knows what the **** he’s talking about.

  • Perfectly legitimate to ask questions about Morgan’s place. I would persist with him as I think he leads well and brings a lot to the team but I do want to see more consistency with his batting.

    One possible observation on him is that he used to be the one truly destructive player, surrounded by the likes of Trott, Cook, Bell in ODIs his role was very much as an attacker and when he got going he was very difficult to stop. Now others can also fulfill that role perhaps it has affected the way he approaches his game with a greater focus on rotating the strike and providing stability. This has provided (some) benefits, but I wonder if it has come at the cost of his natural attacking tendencies.

    On the batting front, it’s hard to believe that Bairstow, Billings, and Duckett can’t get into the team at the moment but probably the right decision. I would be tempted to rest Root for the next ODIs and give one of them some game time. Additionally Hales’ test form seems to be affecting his ODI, so he is probably the most at risk.

    On the bowling front plenty of selection issues too. Broad is an interesting one but I think the attacking options look pretty settled with Willey to come back in so I probably wouldn’t play the former, as the latter has actually bowled very well for England and offers variety as well as batting prowess. Wood has looked very good since coming back and I think is worth keeping his place. England have enough batting prowess that they can (and should) pick their most effective bowlers.

    Whisper it, but Stokes in ODIs hasn’t entirely convinced based solely on his record, but I would retain him and would actually be interested in seeing him higher up the order.

    From a blank piece of paper, my view of the best XI moving forwards for the next twelve months would actually be something like (with a fluid batting line up depending on the game situation):

    Roy, Stokes, Root, Bairstow, Morgan, Buttler, Willey, Woakes, Rashid, Plunkett, Wood

    Lots of bowling options and plenty of batting with the likes of Hales, Ali, Duckett, Broad, Billings all pushing for places. The Stokes opening option would admittedly have to be a bit of an experiment but I would love to see it. If it failed, I would move him down and move him back to six and promote the rest of the order.

    The England limited overs teams seem to be in a very good place right now with plenty of selection headaches for the right, rather than wrong, reasons. Can’t quite understand why it isn’t reflected in their rankings but presumably they still take into account the dire pre-world cup results.

    • Just realised my team selection doesn’t necessarily tally with the comments previous! Nevermind…


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