Yesterday’s game at the Rose Bowl would’ve made the authorities purr. It was made to order. England batted first and registered a hefty 373-3 – with golden boy Jos Buttler scoring an extraordinary 110 off just 55 balls – and then Pakistan put up a very respectable fight but eventually fell 12 runs short.
Those in attendance witnessed a total of 734 runs in 100 overs. What a day! The only downside, of course, is they saw just 10 wickets. Is this a healthy balance between bat and ball? Hell no. But apparently this is what the public want.
Personally I think it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. If all football matches finished 8-8, and hat-tricks became as routine as centuries on featherbeds, then individual goals would be stimulating but less than orgasmic. And that’s my fear with modern white ball cricket. The more sixes disappear over the grandstands the less awe-inspiring the sight of a six disappearing over a grandstand becomes. But hey ho.
What cannot be denied, however, is that there’s no better exponent of a six over the grandstand than Jos Buttler. The bloke’s a freak. He’s certainly the best white ball player I’ve seen in England colours. I think only Kevin Pietersen comes close. Yes we’ve had some wonderful ODI technicians over the years like Neil Fairbrother, and let’s not forget how special Joe Root is in ODIs too, but nobody beats Buttler for sheer ‘f**k me that’s brilliant’ brilliance.
I remember the days when players might occasionally blast a 25 ball half-century. The efforts of Shahid Afridi in 2005 and 2007 were amazing. But the fact that Buttler can sustain this kind of assault for twice as long without getting out is remarkable.
Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give Jos is that I’m not at all surprised that he’s done something phenomenal yet again. But perhaps that’s a problem too (for cricket in general). If an innings of 110 off a paltry 55 balls doesn’t surprise anyone anymore then surely feats like this will eventually lose their lustre?
Anyway, back to game itself. Every single one of England’s batsmen impressed. Roy made 87, Bairstow 51, Root 40, and Morgan 71. All of them looked in good form although Roy seemed a tad rusty early on.
None of Pakistan’s bowlers impressed. Conditions were against them but I still find it strange that Mohammad Amir can’t get into this ODI side. Surely form is temporary but class is permanent?
England’s innings was put into perspective, however, when Pakistan batted. Fakhar Zaman made a superb 138, and for a period it looked like Buttler might score 110 off 55 balls and actually finish on the losing side.
It wasn’t to be though. England’s bowlers finally got their shit together and managed to restrict Pakistan at the death – thanks to some sound tactics (bowling full and wide of off-stump) and some lenient umpiring which let several balls close to the wide markers go unpunished.
Overall, however, it was a chastening day to be an England bowler. And another good day to be Jofra Archer. The Sussex paceman did well to miss this game on this pitch. It was one of those ironic situations where his omission made his longterm inclusion more likely.
England’s selectors might feel that the management missed a trick by resting him though. This was just the kind of occasion – flat pitch, no movement etc – when we might have seen if Archer’s extra pace and nasty yorkers would’ve made a difference. Indeed, if England wanted to find out if Archer really is the missing piece of the jigsaw then this was precisely the game he should’ve played in.
Predictably England’s attack suffered in his absence. It’s been the same story for years. We simply don’t possess a single world class bowler. Indeed, the attack looks very lightweight on paper if the spinners don’t perform. Although I thought David Willey did quite well yesterday, Woakes and Plunkett didn’t look particularly threatening at all. I’m glad I don’t have to decide which bowler England will ultimately leave out.
Before I sign off, I’d quickly like to mention a provocative article about Jofra Archer by Jonathan Liew in The Independent. It’s well worth a read, even if you don’t agree with its thesis. Basically Liew argues that those who either disagree with (or are sceptical about) Archer’s likely inclusion in the World Cup squad are displaying a nativist attitude. Why? Because they didn’t object when Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Boyd Rankin, or any of England’s past imports were parachuted into the side.
I wouldn’t normally touch debates like this with a fifty foot pole – as a blogger you’re bound to offend half your readers and the inexorable Twitter rows are too exhausting to contemplate. However, because I’ve written previously that the opposition to Archer’s inclusion seemed odd, I thought I’d hesitantly dip my toe into the water on this occasion.
Overall I think Liew makes a compelling case. I’m not sure I agree with him entirely but I do think it’s thought provoking. The crucial aspect for me is this: the main counter-argument put forward by Liew’s critics (i.e. that Archer’s inclusion is only controversial because he’s coming into a settled and successful side) is clearly flawed.
England’s batting order is settled and successful. England’s bowling attack is not. It’s settled but not very successful. In fact, we conceded more runs than any other major nation from the middle of 2017 to the middle of 2018 (i.e. the last time I looked).
The truth is that England’s recent success is almost entirely due to our explosive batting order. Consequently including Archer would be a necessary step to remedy a very obvious problem. As yesterday’s ODI clearly demonstrates.
England’s players and the media should therefore be welcoming Jofra with open arms. And the fact his inclusion has been questioned by some is bizarre. I’m not sure whether this is down to nativism, stupidity, or just the media desperately to find a story where there isn’t one, but I certainly think it’s worth exploring.
And even if you don’t particularly care, the reaction to the article has been fascinating and, dare I say it, quite entertaining too. Jonathan Agnew was apoplectic and ended up calling Liew all kinds of four letter words which I couldn’t possibly publish on this family blog ;-).
The whole furore surrounding Archer’s international future has been absolutely bonkers. Just as bonkers, in fact, as Buttler’s pyrotechnics at the Rose Bowl.