Australia do an England (again)

Remember the climax of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade? He finds a room full of goblets and an awful lot of cobwebs. An old knight, who’s allegedly two thousand years old, tells him to drink from one of them. If he’s choses the true Holy Grail then good old Indi gets to save the day and live out the rest of his days with his random love interest. But if he chooses poorly then he dies on the spot, horribly.

The Nazis who were hot on his heels go first. They choose the fanciest goblet in the room – the obvious choice – and die a horrible death. The knight turns to them (or what’s left of them) and says “you chose poorly”.

Indi goes next and decides to choose the humblest looking goblet. When he doesn’t suddenly die by ageing five hundred years in the space of a few seconds our decrepit friendly knight smiles and utters “you choose wisely”. Hooray! Everyone lives happily ever after and he even gets to save his Dad.

Why do I bring this up? Basically it’s all about choices. Or rather bad choices. And boy have I made a few when it comes to sport. All the teams I decided to support long ago are shit. Utterly shit in some cases. And therefore gut-wrenching, tear your hair out, puke up all over the floor, get kicked in the crotch type capitulations have been part and parcel of my life since was a whippersnapper.

As someone who grew up in the Midlands, the football team I support is Aston Villa. Enough said. Meanwhile, my rugby team is Worcester Warriors. They’re even worse. Think it’s impossible to lose a match when you’re ten points up with one minute left on the clock and you’ve got a scrum near halfway? I assure you from painful experience that it isn’t. There are no pits of despair deeper than the ones I’ve trodden.

However, no team has crushed my soul more over the years than the England cricket team. Remember when we couldn’t dismiss a young Steve Waugh until the third Test of an Ashes series? Remember when the Windies bowled us out for a measly 46? Remember when we lost to New Zealand at home and fell to the bottom of the world rankings?

The game that traumatised me most, however, was the World Cup encounter against the Aussies back in 2003. We batted first and made 208. Andy Bichel, who was the least heralded member of the Australian team took 7-20 in his ten overs. Yes, 7-20 FFS. However, despite our batting ineptitude, an inspired Andy Caddick took 4 early wickets and we reduced the Aussies to 114-7 and then 135-8. Surely victory was in the bag?

Wrong. Somehow the aforementioned Bichel managed to hang around with Michael Bevan and we lost by two wickets with two balls to spare. You couldn’t make it up. The Holy Grail of finally beating the best team in the world was right there for the taking but we still couldn’t finish the job. It was desperate. And it felt like someone with toe capped mining boots had kicked me square in the knackers.

You can imagine my mirth, therefore, at events in Manchester last night. There’s nothing quite like schadenfreude when the Aussies are the victims. And I thought their collapse in the first T20 was bad!

Yesterday England were staring down the barrel of losing their first meaningful home ODI series since becoming world champions. After being outplayed in the first game when we let a good position in the field slip, we were being outthought and outmanoeuvred again. Our old weakness of falling apart when batting conditions are less than perfect had bitten us in the bum again, and our one-paced seam attack (Jofra Archer excepted) couldn’t dislodge the exemplary Finch and Labuschagne. Oh how we were missing Mark Wood and Ben Stokes.

But then something remarkable happened. After reaching 144-2 in pursuit of England’s 231 (and with loads of overs in reserve) our canary yellow friends suddenly metamorphosed into the worst of Aston Villa and Worcester Warriors combined. In fact, they played remarkably like an England cricket team of the 1990s.

One wicket fell. And then another wicket fell. Suddenly the nerves set in. And the Aussies proceeded to collapse like a condemned building with several tonnes of detonated dynamite beneath it. It was hilarious. And Justin Langer looked like a bulldog chewing a queen bee.

The colours change but the face remains the same

The Aussies will be absolutely kicking themselves today. Beating England away from home would’ve been a huge achievement for the world’s 5th ranked ODI side – a team that’s had a few teething problems in its recent attempts to modernise their approach.

However, credit must go to England’s bowlers too. When I saw our line-up before the match I actually feared the worst. I don’t have a lot of faith in the Curran brothers (not yet anyway). I thought we could probably afford one of them but not two against a team that beat us handily a few days beforehand.

I needn’t have worried. Pace isn’t everything after all. Both Sam and Tom bowled fantastically well – especially as they were under extra pressure. England only had five bowling options in this game and Adil Rashid had bowled poorly. Captain Morgan really needed the Currans to step up and they did so magnificently.

Credit must also go to England’s ninth wicket pair, Rashid and Tom Curran, for doing a very respectable impression of Andy Bichel and Michael Bevan. At 149-8 it looked like game over; therefore their record partnership was absolutely vital. In the end 231 proved to be a competitive score.

So now it all comes down to the decider on Wednesday. Can the Aussies finally hold their nerve for once? I’ll believe it when I see it. But at least they do have a couple of things in their favour …

Ben Stokes won’t be playing again. Neither will Nathan Lyon. And at least Tim Paine won’t be there to waste their final DRS review.

I remember thinking at the time that Headlingley 2019 was probably a one-off. But these capitulations have become something of a habit for the Aussies.

Maybe it’s time for South Africa to hand over their ‘chokers of world cricket’ title to a more deserving candidate? ;-)

James Morgan


  • I think we have a real self belief since the World Cup win. Recently there’s usually someone who comes up trumps to get us over the line in what were always going to be relatively close affairs.
    Yesterday was hardly a classic 1-day wicket, slow with some variable bounce to keep all the bowlers interested and none the worse for that. Shame Roy got run out as he was just beginning to show some form. Liked the way he messed with Stark and Hazelwood, there aren’t many who could do that.
    We clearly have a deeper batting line up, but they have better front line seamers. Always felt the Aussies, once you get to Maxwell, are there for the taking, whereas everyone in our side can bat a bit.
    The big question is why was Stoinis, a bits a pieces man, batting at 3 when Smith was available.
    Stoinis, Maxwell and Marsh are the weak bowling links that means we’ll always have a chance.

  • I’d urge everyone to read Geoff Lemon’s account of the absolute mess CA have got themselves into (‘How Cricket Australia’s $1bn TV mirage has cost the game dear’ published on the 12th). Both CA and their broadcaster chums are driving the game there to disaster.

    Who cares? Well, we all should because you need someone to play against. Think Australia couldn’t go the way of WI or SA? The game there is on stronger foundations but I wouldn’t assume they are indestructible.

    Did Sky commentators suggest England should boycott them because the way they’re treating their citizens in Melbourne is totally unjustifiable and unacceptable? No? Keep politics out of sport? Yes, except when it’s officially promoted protest movements like BLM….

    • I think the government would like us to boycott england (indeed most of Europe and certainly the US) for letting 10s of thousands die unnecessarily.

  • I didn’t think Rashid bowled too badly, both Finch & laboosh played him well and milked him for singles. Carey was all at sea against him, couldn’t pick his googlies at all.


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