Well you can’t win ’em all. Even when you’re No.1.
Our record breaking ODI team, which registered England’s highest ever chase in the 1st game of the series, returned to earth with a bump last night. It’s just one loss, so there’s no need to panic, but it shows there’s still work to do ahead of the World Cup. Those who expect us to lift the trophy on home soil shouldn’t count their chickens just yet.
In fact, just looking at England’s recent ODI results, I’m probably wrong to classify yesterday’s disappointing defeat as a ‘one-off’. Eoin Morgan’s team actually lose quite a few games. We win series, which is obviously important, but we tend to lose 1 game in every 3. And it’s hard to win tournaments with a knock-out stage if you’re prone to doing that.
Let’s just look at England’s recent record. It’s good but it’s hardly spectacular if one puts the headline-grabbing records to one side and looks at the bigger picture:
If we ignore the 5-0 win over Australia last summer – yes I know this is tampering with the sample size but its pretty apparently the Aussies were in complete disarray after the Smith and Warner suspensions – England’s record in the last 16 ODIs is as follows: won 9, lost 6, no result 1. And that includes a somewhat embarrassing loss to Scotland.
Yesterday’s defeat in Barbados was also concerning because it involved a pretty shocking batting collapse. It was as if our lads suddenly thought they were wearing whites and playing a test match. We were cruising at 222-4 and needed just another 68 runs to win at a run a ball. It should’ve been easy from there.
But we screwed it up big time. Stokes edged one behind, and unnecessarily burned our review in the process; Buttler was deceived by a slower ball and skied one to extra cover; Tom Curran got a terrible LBW decision; and the rest collapsed like the proverbial pack of cards. It was a shocking effort for a team many claim to be the world’s best.
Yes it was a bad day at the office, and all teams have occasion bad days at the office, but when this England team loses it tends to lose in a fashion that’s almost as spectacular as its record-breaking wins. It’s weird. And we can’t really put it down to inconsistency either. This pattern of performances has been very consistent.
I find it hard to fathom our ODI team sometimes. And I can’t decide if we should be favourites for the World Cup or not. The bowling worries me because we don’t have a single world class operator. We have lots of good bowlers – I thought Mark Wood did well yesterday – but there’s no Warne or McGrath who can conjure up a wicket at any time. If you were playing England which bowler would you fear? There’s nobody really.
Our batting, on the the other hand, contains plenty of match-winners. Root and Buttler are undoubtedly world class, and the likes of Roy, Morgan, and Stokes are also well respected and experienced players in this format. However, although we’re obviously a very strong batting side I also sense a streak of hubris. And that can be a dangerous thing.
In other news – and apologies for not having time to write a full article about this – the ECB have announced that The Hundred is definitely on! As if there was any doubt. They’ve also finally confirmed the playing conditions.
The big revelation, if one can call it that, is that The Hundred is basically T20 cricket but with five balls an over rather than 6. They’ve even copied other T20 franchise circuses by including a random 2 minute time-out – which seems a little odd when they’re ostensibly trying to speed up the action.
Why the ECB think that 5 balls an over is better than 6 is anyone’s guess. It’s almost as if they reckon Mums and kids are better at dividing things by slightly smaller numbers. Duh.
What’s more, their attempts to simplify the game are a complete farce. T20 involves bowling 6 balls (i.e. a traditional over) at one end followed by 6 balls at the other. Simple. In The Hundred they will bowl ten balls before changing ends. Five of these will be bowled by one bowler, and the next five by another. Unless, of course, the captain decides that the first bowler did so well that he’s going to carry on and bowl all ten. If these regulations are simpler than the current rules then my name is Andre Van Troost.
The other thing that would be funny if it wasn’t so inept is Tom Harrison’s recent revelation that India players probably won’t play in the tournament. That’s right folks, the shiny new Hundred which apparently wants to attract the world’s biggest starts, and tap into the UK’s minority communities, will not feature the most marketable cricketers on the planet! You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Of course in reality India were never likely to release their stars. They’re fiercely protective of the IPL and their players are probably over-worked as it is. If the ECB thought the BCCI’s stance would be any different then they’re more clueless than we thought. Especially after Virat Kohli, who unlike many other cricketers doesn’t need another big pay cheque, basically called The Hundred a load of old bollocks.
What this news does, however, is reaffirm that there simply isn’t space in the international or domestic calendar for Harrison’s Harebrained Have a Hit. Nor is it needed. The ECB could easily have reformed or sexed up The Blast. And if they’d done so they would’ve had the goodwill of all existing cricket fans. Plus they wouldn’t have needed to take such an irresponsible gamble on a completely untested form of the game.
T20 is a proven money-spinner. The Hundred is currently a laughing stock. It’s a vanity project. It’s a nonsensical concept that has flummoxed observers and ruffled feathers in equal measure.
If England do win the World Cup this summer then the players will deserve it. The long suffering and high paying supporters will also deserve it. But the bungling and disingenuous ECB will not. Absolutely nothing they do makes sense.
Never forget that once the World Cup is in the books, 50 over domestic cricket will immediately be undermined by The Hundred. This is because HHHH will take away its best players. What’s more, the ECB won’t allow overseas players to take part in 50 over cricket because they want all the marketable stars available for the 100 ball thing. That’s the price of scheduling the tournaments to run concurrently.
Only the ECB could sacrifice everything to win a 50-over World Cup but then immediately turn its back on the format. The Hundred will immediately handicap our ODI side by watering down the standard of domestic cricket and hindering the development of the next generation of 50 over stars.
But don’t worry folks. Our ODI team might be weaker (and our test team will certainly be weaker once all championship cricket is consigned to April, May and September) but English cricketers will excel in 100-ball cricket – a format that isn’t played anywhere else in the world. Sigh.