Before The Rain … A Total Shower

I couldn’t be bothered with the 5th ODI. Perhaps I subconsciously knew what was about to happen. I put the TV on, watched the first ten overs or so, and thought “this is incredibly dull”. The pitch was incredibly flat, the batsmen were cashing in, and England hadn’t even bothered to pick their best side. The game had ‘dead-rubber’ written all over it.

Because I had no appetite whatsoever to watch the game live, I retreated to my home office to do some work – desperate times call for desperate measures I guess. However, I still followed the match on Cricinfo. And what happened wasn’t entirely unsurprising.

When this England team wins it tends to win big. And when it occasionally loses (which happens about one in very five games) it tends to lose even bigger. There’s no doubt this England team deserves it’s No.1 ranking, but on Tuesday they looked like the worst team in the world. And it’s hard to put one’s finger on why this keeps happening.

No doubt many fans will simply shrug their shoulders and say it doesn’t matter. The players, who like to spin a good yarn and gloss over their failures, will certainly do so. They’ll simply say “it was a bad day at the office” or some other cliche.

The problem, of course, is that England won’t win the World Cup, or any other international tournament for that matter, if they keep having an off day every fifth match. What happens is that you become the bookies favourite early on but then lose in the semis. Which is exactly what happened in last year’s Champions Trophy.

In order to win major trophies England can’t afford days like they had today. They’ll go on winning series 4-1 or 3-1 but the big prizes will elude them. The best case scenario is that we’re lucky enough to play like muppets in a group match – when there’s time to put things right. But even then it’s not that simple. Momentum will be lost and we’ll end up with a tougher draw. Run rates can also be affected negatively in a big way.

This England ODI side has been so enjoyable to watch in recent times that it feels churlish to put the boot in now. However, neither is it right to completely ignore what was, after all, the biggest defeat in our ODI history.

That’s right folks. Tuesday’s capitulation was England’s heaviest defeat (in terms of runs) ever. The small matter of 219 runs. The players should be thoroughly embarrassed. I can’t see world champions in other sports (take football for example) being so thoroughly humiliated. France would never lose 6-0 against a team near the bottom of the rankings; a team written off as no-hopers by many pundits.

Yes there were mitigating factors today. When the opposition posts a big score you have to gamble a bit in an attempt to keep up with the rate – and this, of course, can lead to lost wickets. But England simply didn’t attack sensibly today. It all looked a bit desperate. And therefore they never justified their favourites tag at online bookmakers like www.novibet.co.uk. They batted as if they were taking a punt with someone else’s money.

Although Tuesday was a dead rubber, Bairstow was injured, and Morgan and Woakes were rested, the number one team in the world simply shouldn’t lose this badly. Professional pride alone should forbid it. I know there’s little point in doing an MS Dhoni (merely batting out the overs when you suspect it’s a lost cause) but at the same time there’s no excuse for capitulating so weakly. What’s more, it’s worrying that the lower order struggled so much against spin.

But perhaps there’s one way to make sense of it all? With the ODI series already in the bag, maybe our batsmen had already started thinking about the upcoming test series? Perhaps they thought it was best to get into ‘pitiful collapse mode’ now. At least they’re preparing properly for matches ahead I suppose. Good thinking lads.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with Novibet

2018-10-24T09:45:19+00:00October 23rd, 2018|ODIs & T20, SL v Eng 2018|26 Comments


  1. Doug M October 23, 2018 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    I like ODI ‘s generally, but this has been a pointless boring waste of everybody’s time, and well a meaningless series scheduled by some numb skull in the monsoon season. It’s proved nothing. I do hope the Tests are better than any of these drenched “games” that have been on. Ugh..

    • Steve October 24, 2018 at 5:19 pm - Reply

      It’s very important to realise how important Morgan is to this team. He, not Root, is the glue that holds the team together. If he had come in at four down then we might probably have had an outside chance. No Morgan – No Result!

  2. jennyah46 October 23, 2018 at 11:57 pm - Reply

    I wish you had a ‘like’ button James. Doug M is absolutely right.

  3. Comte October 24, 2018 at 9:20 am - Reply

    By the time I remembered that this game was taking place, it was as good as lost. Appalling team selection. Treating the game and supporters like this will not win world cups.

    • James Morgan October 24, 2018 at 9:48 am - Reply

      That’s a good point actually. Some fans would have paid a lot of money to go and watch the team. And then they turn in a performance (and selection) like that.

      I agree that this series seems pointless. There is too much white ball cricket and as we all know familiarity breeds contempt. It’s important to stage games in Sri Lanka to fill the coffers but it was quite telling that the crowd was sparse yesterday. Had it been a test match some would’ve argued that test cricket is dying.

  4. AB October 24, 2018 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Nothing amazes me more than people getting worked up over a batting collapse. Collapses are a statistical inevitability, they’re going to happen sooner or later. They happen at every level, in every format, although some circumstances – such as chasing a big score in a 50 over game, increase the probability as it forces the batsmen to go hard right from the off.

    Losing by 20 runs and losing by 100 runs is irrelevant, its still losing. Chasing 350 you have two options: option a) play sensibly and lose 100% of the time but only by 50 runs or so, and no-one says anything about it, or b) play aggressively and lose 50% of the time, but by a huge margin that gets you pilloried by bloggers. I’m massively impressed with the maturity and clear-sightedness of this England team that they consistently choose option B.

    • Doug M October 24, 2018 at 11:22 am - Reply

      And option b is exactly why they won’t win the World Cup in seamer friendly conditions here.

      • AB October 24, 2018 at 12:31 pm - Reply

        That makes no sense. If option A means you win 20% of games and option B means you win 80% of games, you think option A is better?

        There are two methods that win world cups:

        steady consistent batting + dominant bowling lineup that holds opposition to 250 all out on 80% of occasions

        steady, consistent bowling + dominant all-out attack batting lineup that rattles up 350+ on 80% of occasions

        England do NOT have the bowling talent to take the first option. They DO have the batting firepower to simply outscore their opponents for 5 games in a row.

  5. maggie October 24, 2018 at 10:12 am - Reply

    It was a bit more than just resting Morgan and Woakes. Root was injured in the SL innings and Stokes was on one leg for a lot of his. Hales hasn’t played a game (except 4th ODI) since August and there were four new bowlers in the team who had only been bowling in the nets. Buttler and those down the batting order have hardly faced in a ball in the previous ODIs due to the weather. Added to that that SL turned up and played brilliantly, it was always going to be a difficult one. Yes, you can argue that they shouldn’t have messed about with the team but looking at some of the comments online, you would think it was our best team that was out there collapsing woefully and it just wasn’t.

    • Jevans October 24, 2018 at 10:42 am - Reply

      Also, one of the big strengths of this side is the depth in both batting and bowling Stokes and Mo offer. 6 genuine bowlers + Root is more than enough, but with Mo at 7, and the likes of Woakes/Willey/Plunkett/Rashid/SCurran all very good 8/9s it isn’t unblanced. Effectively dropping Morgan for Plunkett did unbalance the batting order, and if you need 7 frontline bowlers things clearly aren’t going well.

      Increasingly I think Woakes staying fit is the key to England’s WC chances. Everyone else is somewhat replaceable (Vince, Malan and Billings aren’t even in the current squad, Dawson is a perfectly competent OD spinner) but Woakes is now so much better than any of our other ODI seam options, even if there are enough of them that we won’t miss any of the others individually.

  6. James October 24, 2018 at 10:15 am - Reply

    I think this game showed the importance of Eoin Morgan to the overall team (as both batsman and captain). Other than that, I’m not sure what you want the ODI team to do. They collapse with far less regularity than the test team, and this clearly wasn’t a full strength team (though I’m baffled as to why Joe Denly wasn’t given a game: his leg breaks would have been useful too). I agree with Doug above about the series (I assume “numbskull” and “ECB official” are more or less interchangeable). It’s an utterly pointless “warm up” for the world cup (pointless because conditions are so different, apart from the monsoon part).

  7. David October 24, 2018 at 10:18 am - Reply

    I don’t read too much into this, with the series already won we tried something different and it didn’t work. Morgan was right to rest himself and a couple of others to get a look at some other players ahead of next year. We play a very attacking style and on occasions we’re going to put in a bad performance, but I wouldn’t let that one performance take away from the fact that this was our 9th series win in a row. Like Morgan said, he could get injured and so you need to see how Butler handles things, Woakes may not be fit, so how does Curran bowl in a tough environment. I agree this series was ill-advised due to the season, but despite their hardship recently…you have to remember that Sri Lanka are still professionals and they just happened to outperform us today on a day when we were unsettled. Nothing more, nothing less for me. Onto the T20 and then the tests, which are the games I really look forward to.

    • James Morgan October 24, 2018 at 11:39 am - Reply

      What I’m trying to get at in the article is that this isn’t a one-off. We’ve capitulated unexpectedly in many games in the recent past, even with a full strength side. It’s a strange quirk of what is otherwise a very good team.

      • James October 25, 2018 at 9:33 am - Reply

        But, James. The ODI team batting collapses occasionally; the test team batting collapses with monotonous regularity. All teams collapse from time to time. I’d rather fix the test batting than the ODI.

      • James October 26, 2018 at 9:01 am - Reply

        Bayliss is now saying he thought the attitude was poor and that it could cost world cup places.

  8. Simon H October 24, 2018 at 10:54 am - Reply

    “The game had ‘dead-rubber’ written all over it”.

    Dead rubber? What’s one of those? I am of course living in the post-MCG 2017/18 world where dead rubbers ceased to exist.

  9. Marce Evans October 24, 2018 at 11:37 am - Reply

    I don’t know whether it’s a generational thing but when I was starting out playing ‘serious’ cricket in the Birmingham League in the 70’s I can’t remember anyone fielding weakened sides for relatively meaningless games. The idea being that you ride the crest of a confidence wave and take great pleasure in grinding opponents into the dust whenever you can. This prolongs intensity and sends a message to opponents.
    In this series we had the opportunity, by fielding a full strength team, to keep the momentum going and further demoralise the Sri Lankan squad. Giving everyone a game is not what winning sides do. I profoundly disbelieve in the modern day sporting trend for squad systems, it waters down intensity. Nothing keeps a player in form better than game time.
    The reason Man Utd are so crap under Jose is he’s always tinkering with the line-up so he doesn’t know what his best team or system is, even after all the time and money he’s spent on them. All he does is knock his squad’s lack of quality. Look at his press conference after the Juventus game. Can you imagine the great Aussie team of the 80’s and 90’s dropping Steve Waugh to give him a rest and replacing him with an unproven youngster, or the Windies of the 70’s doing the same with Clive Lloyd.

    • James October 26, 2018 at 8:57 am - Reply

      The West Indies sides of the late 1970’s, 1980’s often rested their premier fast bowlers on Asian tours. The difference was that the back up talent at various times included the likes of Sylvester Clarke, a young Malcolm Marshall and Tony Gray.

      • Marc Evans October 27, 2018 at 9:16 am - Reply

        The main point I was trying to make was the long standing captain is the issue here. That’s why I mentioned Waugh and Lloyd. As you say dropping the odd quickie was never a big issue to the Windies of that era as they had decent replacements.
        The modern day obsession with squads rather than your best team depresses me as it gives cheap caps to players for the sake of experimentation. You should have to be more than promising to earn international call ups in any sport. Look at the recent glut of England footballers who earn caps when they can’t even get into their club side. It’s ludicrous. Cricket is not that bad yet but the tendency to try out any youngster who impresses for a few games just devalues caps and disrupts momentum.

  10. Jackie Litherland October 24, 2018 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    I watched the game on TV. Sri Lanka has improved game by game. Dickwella is a very talented batsman who has learned to play more tightly. I thought the first overs were very entertaining. Both batsmen were good to watch.
    No mention has been made of England’s poor fielding and dropped catches. I think the heat and humidity of Colombo affected them but that’s always been an issue for England and teams dealt with it in the past.
    I was struck by the attitude of the players who looked sulky and fed up – Stokes apart. Either they are becoming a little spoilt or the increasing pressure on some of them for places is making them resentful. I thought the hype around Olly Stone unhelpful to a player like Plunkett who had asked to miss a game for his wedding. After his ODI record on pitches so favourable to batsmen I thought it was appalling to say Stone threatened his place after one outing. Yes similar to Man U. Poor treatment of players doesn’t improve them.
    The batsmen have been given carte blanche to attack in every game with no consequences if they fail. This is a high risk strategy if it can be called strategy. It’s a gamble that aggressive batting will pile on the runs. It’s simple but can obviously tumble to inspired bowling. I’m not sure our team are psychologically prepared to deal with failure and how to respond well. This game should have been an exercise in just that. How to claw a game back. It’s easy to lose by 200 runs if you don’t fight for every run. This is the worry.

  11. Doug M October 26, 2018 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    Rest? Why did anyone need a rest? Every game had been hit by the rain, they can t possibly be tired. It’s one day cricket after all, or in this case half day and take your brolly.

    • Marc Evans October 28, 2018 at 1:29 am - Reply

      Good point Doug. Couldn’t agree more! Play your best team whatever the circumstances. Every game is there to be won and to be as competitive as possible. You owe it to the paying punters, without which there is no point to any professional sport, and to your opponents, to be the best you can.
      There is some rationality to the squad system in Rugby Union, where you get injuries because of the sheer physical exertion, but you have to say Rugby League doesn’t operate this way, so it’s still just a preference. Eddie Jones keeps going on about how Rugby is a 23 man game not a 15, so pretty much any man and his dog who is flavour of the month gets a call up.

      • d'Arthez October 28, 2018 at 7:12 am - Reply

        The paying punters are not the audiences. But the broadcasters (and to some extent the gamblers, but no one in a position of authority seems to care about corruption in cricket anyway). The last consideration is given to the actual paying audiences who attend the games. Because those money streams are least meaningful to the national board. In the case of England, I could cite ECB policies to support my point. The example of Durham should suffice.

        Entrance fees in Sri Lanka are reasonable, and won’t cover much of the cost of staging a game to begin with.

        That said, there is not much point to rotation or resting people for a one-off game. The one thing you might be interested in is trying a few different players, just in case an injury hits close to the World Cup. But don’t give those fringe players dead rubbers. Give them a full series.

        • Marc Evans October 29, 2018 at 2:08 am - Reply

          The paying punters are the audience as far as the players go. No one there can see the gamblers or the TV audience. Take the crowd away to play in front of empty stands and any professional sport is dead on its feet. It requires atmosphere to inspire the players. This is one of the main reasons test cricket is having problems in many parts of the world and county cricket is struggling. Merely throwing money at a sport is not enough to keep it healthy. Active partisan support is the lifeblood of any professional sport, not gambling, sponsorship or TV rights. They are key to covering operational costs, but irrelevant to what goes on on the field.
          Agree totally if you are going to give someone a trial make it clear it is for a whole series. Only in a truly competitive format can you tell whether a player has what it takes. The odd dead game tells you very little.

  12. Simon H October 29, 2018 at 9:53 am - Reply

    The criticism of CA heralds a new era of better cricket administration?….

    “The strong words of the review are likely to lead to calls for more lenient sentences for Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft”. (From the Guardian report).



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